More technology may help thwart cargo theft

May 21, 2015

With cargo theft projected to increase this year, many believe more technological resources – especially the ability to frame location against theft data – need to be deployed by motor carriers to help lower their risk profile.

“We already have wide deployment of telematics systems throughout the industry, so we can already capture [truck and cargo] location information in real time,” Andy Souders, senior VP of products and strategy for Savi Technology, explained to Fleet Owner.

“Now we need couple that with historical theft data so [motor] carriers can shift from being reactive to proactive where cargo theft is concerned,” he stressed. “That data will allow a carrier to know if idle and/or dwell time is occurring in a safe place or not. Knowing where the ‘hotspots’ are in terms of cargo theft based on historical data can also help with route planning on the front end.”

Cargo thefts also increased in the first quarter this year, according to data compiled by FreightWatch International.

The firm said a total of 191 cargo thefts in the U.S. during the first three months of this year, with 65 occurring in January, 60 in February, and 66 in in March – a 1% jump compared to the same period in 2014.

FreightWatch added that the average loss value per incident reached $256,966 in the first quarter this year; up 26% compared to the same period last year and the “continuation of the trend” the firm identified late last year that organized cargo thieves are targeting more lucrative “high value” shipments such as pharmaceuticals.

Thefts of entire TL trailer loads remained the most common form of cargo theft in the U.S. during the first quarter, FreightWatch indicated though there’s been a sharp rise in “pilferage” where part of the load is stolen:

  • Theft of full TL shipments: 80%
  • Pilferage: 12%, up from a typical 5% to 8% rate
  • Facility theft: 4%, up from 1% in the fourth quarter last year
  • Fictitious pickup: 3%, down from 4% in the fourth quarter
  • Hijacking: 1%

Savi’s Souders stressed, however, that those figures all relate to thefts that are reported to authorities and don’t take into into account “lost” containers or items that “fell off the back of a truck.”

He added that FreightWatch’s data indicates that 90% of cargo thefts are linked to unattended trucks – another area where technology can play a wider role as a deterrent.

“With electronic sensors and seal in place, a carrier can literally ‘see’ when a truck stops and how many times it stops, helping to gauge the amount of time a truck may be unattended,” he said. “Sensors and seals can help indicate if freight in the trailer gets tilted, gets ‘shocked’ from being moved/dropped, or is subjected to a major temperature change, such as when a door is opened.”

At the end of the day, it’s all about lowering the risk profile for cargo in transit, Souders noted.

“The risk is no longer just whether or not freight arrives on time, delayed by weather, traffic or a breakdown,” he pointed out. “It can be whether the cargo arrives at all.”

About the Author

Sean Kilcarr | Editor in Chief

Sean previously reported and commented on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry. Also be sure to visit Sean's blog Trucks at Work where he offers analysis on a variety of different topics inside the trucking industry.

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