Over Memorial Day weekend, trucking security experts are recommending that shippers plan for a nationwide increase in cargo theft.
Holiday weekends can see thefts double, according to Overhaul, a supply chain visibility, security, and risk management provider. Distribution centers and warehouses will be targeted during this time, as the extended holiday often means limited or zero operations and minimal security staff.
CargoNet, a cargo theft prevention and recovery network under parent company Verisk, reviewed theft data from 2017 to 2021 for the Thursday prior to Memorial Day to the Wednesday after in order to help supply chain professionals mitigate theft. There were 144 events reported with an average of 29 events for holiday period per year.
Additionally, rates of theft have risen overall. Theft activity in the first quarter of 2022 was 5% greater than the fourth quarter of 2021 and over 15% higher than pre-pandemic levels, according to CargoNet. Last year, nearly 1,300 incidents of theft were reported to CargoNet in the U.S. and Canada, with about 50% of thefts occurring in California, Texas, and Florida.
“Last year, nearly $58 million worth of cargo was reported stolen to CargoNet across the United States and Canada, and they’re already seeing an uptick in incidents this year,” said Brian Heath, CEO of Drivewyze, who has teamed with Verisk to provide cargo theft alerts in its Safety+ service. “That scratches the surface. The problem is much bigger than that since cargo theft often goes unreported.”
Recommendations to protect against cargo theft:
- Arrange for same-day delivery of short-haul shipments.
- Embed covert tracking devices in the shipment.
- Use high-security locks on trailers.
- Drivers should adhere to the “red zone” rule and avoid stopping within 250 miles of pickup.
- Drivers should be aware of any vehicles that appear to be following them.
- Thoroughly vet all carriers and brokerage services.
- Compliance monitoring is crucial to detect noncompliance indicators of a theft in progress.
- Identify a path to effective law enforcement engagement.
- Confirm identification through multiple forms of ID of drivers who pick up loads, including driver picture and CDL picture, tractor number, VIN and license plate. Individuals wearing face masks should be asked to remove the mask for positive identification.
Danny Ramon, intelligence and response manager at Overhaul, said knowing risks beforehand is essential to theft prevention.
“Being aware in advance of receiving facilities’ holiday hours is necessary,” Ramon said. “We see spikes in thefts of shipments waiting outside destination facilities, especially big box stores.”
Shippers of targeted cargo should be especially alert. “No. 1 is anything selling on secondary higher than retail, anything with a shortage.”
Cost-dense food and beverage items were the most stolen, especially alcoholic beverages, seafood, meat and infant formula. High-end clothing and consumer electronics, particularly VR headsets, are also at risk. Electronics theft is expected to increase due to supply chain disruptions.
Drivers can also work to prevent theft by remaining aware on their routes. “What we always recommend for high-risk shipments is team drivers as to never leave the load unattended. If one is sleeping, if one is showering in the truck stop. We've seen tractor trailers stolen within being unattended for five minutes many times,” Ramon said.
Most cargo theft is planned, “but we are seeing a rise in opportunistic theft,” Ramon said.
If an individual driver must stop, “Stop in a secured area, preferably one with surveillance. Park directly under a light and back up against a solid surface so they don’t have access to the trailer doors.”
Cultivating relationships with law enforcement is essential for a rapid response to theft. Ramon recommends security experts drop what they’re doing and provide information to law enforcement as soon as they’re called upon.
Overhaul uses its Law Enforcement (LE) Connect platform to provide provides law enforcement cargo theft task forces from around the U.S. with instant access to data (real-time shipment information, location, and sensor data) to expedite theft recovery.