Cargo theft is a multi-billion dollar problem for shippers and transportation carriers alike – and it’s on the rise this year.
Part of the problem is that cargo theft remains widely under-reported. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), cargo theft is estimated to cost the U.S. $15 billion to $30 billion a year, though the true measure may be even higher, since some businesses are reluctant to report thefts out of concern for their reputations or insurance premiums. That reluctance is understandable, since it is estimated that up to 80% of cargo thefts may be inside jobs, and reporting such losses can lead to increased insurance costs.
“No one wants to quantify their losses and how much has been stolen,” noted Erik Hoffer, president of CGM Security Solutions. “Reporting a stolen load to the insurance company can be like shooting themselves in the foot – recovering initial loss, but paying higher premiums in the end.”
According to statistics compiled by the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, consumer electronics, food and clothing are the three most stolen types of cargoes – and cargo thefts occur most often during the weekend. Chubb’s statistical study also indicates that truckstops and rest areas are the most targeted locations for cargo thefts – accounting for more than one-third of all incidents – followed by modal yards and unsecured locations, such as drop lots and motel and restaurant parking lots.
“Cargo thieves are opportunists, and these statistics indicate where, when and how they are likely to strike and the type of goods they are likely to target,” said Barry Tarnef, a marine loss control specialist for Chubb Marine Underwriters.
Of the 1,316 cargo theft incidents studied by Chubb over the last 3 ½ years, 52% occurred on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, said Tarnef. Truckstops and rest areas accounted for 39% of the thefts; modal yards owned, operated or managed by trucking companies, railroads or steamship lines 27%; and unsecured locations-drop lots, motel, restaurant and mall parking lots and on-street sites-were the locations for one-fourth of the thefts. Warehouse burglaries accounted for 6%, and hijackings represented 3%.
Consumer electronics--primarily televisions and DVD players-were stolen in more than 15.1% of the incidents, followed by food and food products (14%), clothing and footwear (10%), computers and related equipment (8%), metals (5%) and pharmaceuticals (5%).
Cargo theft is on the upswing of late. Florida, for example, reported 221 reported thefts totaling $37.4 million in vehicle and cargo loss in the first 10 months of the year – an increase of 40 thefts and $15 million more in vehicle and cargo value compared to the same period in 2007, said Florida Highway Patrol Lt. William Jackson, who coordinates a statewide cargo-theft task force.
Despite that increase, CGM’s Hoffer noted that carriers and shippers still remain reluctant to adequately address cargo security issues – largely due to perceived higher costs.
“People whose jobs it is to secure cargo and whose goals it is to have a successful cargo security initiative are not the same people,” he said. “The threat has never been higher for theft, tampering, smuggling or terrorism, yet the reluctance of most shippers remains consistently steadfast when it comes to the use of security tools at their expense … as they see such implementation as an added cost, which serves to reduce their profitability, creates delays in cargo flow and increases their workload.”