What You Need to Know About Cargo Theft

Posted by Sean Murphy on November 26, 2019

Companies pay a high price when they don't take steps to prevent cargo theft. The average cargo value per cargo theft was more than $150,000 according to CargoNet. That brings the estimated total of cargo stolen in the U.S. and Canada in the second quarter of 2019 to almost $23 million.

No industry, no North American location, and no commodity is safe from cargo theft. Just watch this.

In this video, three individuals wearing dark hoodies were wandering around a Toronto logistics facility looking into scrap metal bins late one night. One of Stealth’s trained security operators immediately contacted police and gave them a description of the suspects. Officers arrived at the property, located the three men and placed them under arrest.

A Closer Look at Cargo Theft

The TT Club pulled together eye-opening data on cargo theft. These are the highlights.

Cargo theft types:

  • Slash and grab
  • Theft from vehicle
  • Hijacking
  • Theft from facility
  • Theft of vehicle

Top stolen commodities:

  • Food and beverage
  • Alcohol and tobacco
  • Consumer products
  • Other (14 types)

Almost 40 percent fall in the other category, which consists of 14 major types of commodities. Hence, no business is safe. Moreover, 84 percent of the thefts involve a truck while 13 percent occur at a facility. CargoNet reports cargo theft is the most frequent in California followed by Florida and Texas.

What Are the Most Common Cargo Theft Tactics?

Every time businesses take steps to prevent cargo theft, thieves find new tactics to get around them. They know they can sell products on the black market for good money. Companies can protect themselves by knowing what tactics thieves use in cargo theft.

1. Straight cargo theft

This is one of the two most common methods of cargo theft. Simply put, straight cargo theft is stealing the items from where they are located. Thieves look for items to steal in areas left unattended and then sell them. Examples include parking lots, drop lots, and truck stops. Some watch for trucks with temperatures, which indicate they contain refrigeration. That means they may have pharmaceutical items or food.

In straight cargo theft, thieves may follow tractor-trailers to grab the goods. It can be as simple as opening the back doors or unloading boxes or pallets.

To help prevent straight cargo theft, put processes in place to keep from leaving trailers and cargo theft hotspots unattended. Drivers should always check their surroundings and do a walk-around of their tractor-trailer after they've been away from the vehicle.

One simple way to help deter cargo theft is to use high-security rear door locks and air cuff locks. These lock the dashboard brake valves to stop the unauthorized movement of the truck and trailer. Each time the driver leaves the truck, the he or she needs to do a thorough inspection upon return. In the inspection, the driver walks around to confirm all seals and locks remain intact.

If someone steals, it's unlikely the police will catch the culprit. This is where live video surveillance can help. You can't always have bodies in these areas. However, cameras can appear in all areas and one person can watch all of them. All footage is stored for later retrieval as needed.

Yes, you could put security guards in parking lots and truck stops, but the cost isn't feasible. The cost of surveillance video systems is a fraction of what it would cost to hire security guards.

2. Strategic cargo theft

Fictitious pick-up is the second most common type of cargo theft. Fictitious pickups involve criminals deceiving people by using fake IDs or setting up a fake business to divert and steal cargo. It requires more cleverness because it uses fraud and deception tactics to dupe carriers, brokers, and shippers into giving the thieves the cargo instead of the actual carrier. They accomplish this with identity theft, fictitious pick-ups, acting as carriers, and a combination of approaches.

These thieves try to take advantage of people as close to a deadline as possible — typically Friday afternoons or the end of the weekend — expecting workers to make mistakes as they rush to beat the approaching deadlines.

Western FarmPress states it can be days before companies realize a fictitious pick-up theft has occurred. Apparently, thieves can access information online to find out requests for trucks to ship loads, carrier information, permit numbers, and insurance information.

A company can help solve the problem by requiring trucking companies to provide specific information before pick-up. Any truck that arrives in fewer than 24 hours or without notice will not receive the shipment. The required information includes the name of driver and carrier, truck numbers, and insurance information.

Moreover, the company takes pictures of the truck, driver, and bill of lading. They also collect the driver's fingerprints.

Another way to deter cargo theft is to stay vigilant and implement processes to check identities and research contact and company information. You can verify information through Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) and the Internet. Better yet, contact your customers and partners.

If someone gets away with cargo theft, you can still help catch them if you implement a video surveillance system. That's because video surveillance with high-resolution cameras can identify the person even if everything else is fake.

Also, when you include recording and retain the footage for at least a month, you gain the ability to go back and review what the person did and have evidence of what happened.

3. Inside jobs

Inside jobs can involve employees or drivers. For instance, an employee may share shipping information with thieves in exchange for compensation. Drivers have staged hijackings by purposely leaving their trucks unattended at a set time. An accomplice comes in and steals the contents.

Conduct background checks and add checks and balances into the company's security processes and procedures to ensure no deliveries get derailed. Just like with strategic cargo theft, require trucking companies to provide information such as the driver's name, truck number, and insurance information at least 24 hours before pick-up.

Before releasing their loads, one company snaps pictures of the truck and driver, copies the bill of lading, and takes the driver's fingerprints. You could put GPS into pallets and containers to keep track of them. Unfortunately, some thieves use a GPS jammer to block the technology.

Use high-security rear door locks and air cuff locks. This prevents an outside partner from breaking in. Post surveillance cameras at all stations where trucks check in and at the loading docks. Ensure someone watches those cameras.

4. Using 3D Printers

Cargo thieves use 3D printing to create counterfeit copies of security devices. They can make an almost perfect copy of ISO 17712 high-security cargo seals and locks in just 10 minutes. What they do is tamper with the original seals and replace them with the 3D printed seal. This makes it look like no one has tampered with the cargo. It could be a long time before anyone notices the theft.

To combat 3D printing cargo theft, the article still recommends using GPS, installing motion-activated surveillance cameras in the trucks and trailers, and switching the colors of the seals randomly. Again, it goes back to having processes and procedures in place for managing deliveries.

How to Help Prevent Cargo Theft

The steps to prevent cargo theft are similar for the different types of tactics. Here are the most common and effective ways to deter cargo theft.

Make it mandatory for trucking companies to call at least 24 hours before pick-up. Every time they call, capture the following information:

  • Driver's name
  • Carrier's name
  • Truck and trailer numbers
  • Insurance

When the driver arrives, confirm all the information matches. Before releasing the load, do the following:

  • Snap pictures of the following:
    Bill of Lading
  • Take the driver's fingerprints

To fight replicas of security devices made with 3D printers, randomly change up the colors of the ISO 17712 seals. Although some thieves use GPS jammers, it still helps to add GPS to the cargo. Sometimes it pays off.

Most importantly, train employees on the processes and procedures especially for managing the high-security seals. It helps to review the processes and procedures at least once a year or more often to stay vigilant.

Use motion-activated surveillance cameras within the vehicles as well as on the loading docks, parking lot, and wherever the trucks may stop. It may be worth investigating long-range surveillance and license plate recognition. These technologies can capture identifying information such as the driver's face, license plates, and vehicle number.

Video surveillance systems allow companies to be proactive and help stop crime before it happens. They do more than deter crime. In one case, a truck driver in a company's fleet truck damaged a vehicle during daylight hours. No one on site saw it happen. Fortunately, the person watching the cameras caught it. The monitoring operator zoomed in on the truck to record the license plate, fleet number, and driver's face.

Stealth Monitoring offers various services including the following:

  • Video review: Search hours of footage for evidence.
  • Security Partnership: Work with the police and your staff to optimize security solution.
  • Remote maintenance: Identify, diagnose, and repair technical problems remotely.
  • Consulting and advisory services: Design a solution based on your needs.
  • IT services for remote support: Access IT staff on call 24/7.
  • Management reporting: Receive reports with the results of your video surveillance.

Video surveillance can identify bottlenecks and any breakdowns in processes and procedures. The technology pays for itself within months since the service costs less than the price of security guards or police officers.

These steps help deter cargo theft as they incorporate a layered approach to security. The more layers you have, the harder it is to steal. To learn more about cargo theft deterrents, please contact us.

Posted in: Crime Prevention, Video Security Systems, Security Guards & Savings, Arrests, Video Monitoring