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Experts warn fleets to prepare for record-breaking cargo theft in 2024

Dec. 1, 2023
Freight security experts predict another sky-high year of cargo theft in 2024. Fleets must look at the past year's trends and prepare accordingly.

Cargo theft reports continue to rise across the country. After incidents jumped 59% year-over-year in the third quarter, freight security experts don't expect the problem to slow down in 2024. Theft-prevention specialists recommend fleets stay informed and prepare themselves if they don't want to become a statistic.

The past few years have seen strategic theft skyrocket—when criminals pose as legitimate carriers to steal cargo. This is not just happening in California and Texas's usual high-risk freight markets. The practice has spread across the heartland, with thieves sometimes even hauling stolen freight back to the coasts to be shipped abroad. As this trend continues, supply chain companies in smaller markets with traditionally fewer safeguards need to heighten awareness, Danny Ramon, Overhaul's intelligence and response manager, told FleetOwner.

Additionally, pilferage—the theft of pallets or partial truckloads—is increasing around ports. However, according to Ramon, these thieves are usually not criminal rings specializing in cargo theft but local criminals prone to be more violent.

See also: 'Pilferage' now the crime of choice among cargo thieves

"The use of violence in cargo theft will increase in proportion to newly-formed, large-scale pilferage crews," Ramon said. "As more large-scale pilferage crews form in areas of dense intermodal activity, these crews are often made up of local criminals who are already engaged in violent crime and are therefore unconcerned with the increased penalties that come with violence. This is a stark contrast to organized FTL cargo thieves who avoid violence and driver confrontation."

Thieves finding new ways to intercept cargo

Additionally, criminals will likely find new ways to infiltrate brokerage operations by hacking or manipulating data with the aim of stealing freight. Over the past year, the number of criminal carriers exploiting truck brokerage operations increased nearly 400% by some accounts, Ron Green, Overhaul VP of business development, told FleetOwner.

With the industry seeing at least a 50% increase in strategic theft from Q2 2022 to Q2 2023, with some lanes seeing a 200% increase, carriers must do their due diligence, according to Karl Fillhouer, VP of sales and operations at Circle Logistics.

"Bigger companies are getting better at spotting fraudulent activity, but it's the smaller mom-and-pop operators that need to be more vigilant," Fillhouer said. "The small one- to 10-truck carriers may not have sophisticated cybersecurity practices in place to catch this kind of activity. That's why they have to do their due diligence from where they're getting a load."

Establishing standard operating procedures such as multi-factor authentication is essential, Fillhouer told FleetOwner. This means businesses should confirm partners' information, such as email addresses and domains, phone numbers, addresses, and DOT numbers.

"Due diligence could be as simple as physically walking to the appropriate area to confirm the carrier picking up the load is the same as it appears on the bill of lading," Fillhouer said. "Companies need to realize that it's more beneficial and cost-effective to be proactive instead of reactive."

Overhaul's Ron Greene also predicted that management and the C-suite executives will spend more time assessing business risks in and around supply chain operations.

"The topic of supply chain risk is not a new concept, however, it will continue to focus more at the leadership levels of shippers and logistics providers," he told FleetOwner. "Managers will spend more time assessing business risks in and around supply chain and logistics operations."

Kevin Ledversis, VP of sales at Newcastle Systems, said logistics operations properly labeling products would go a long way to preventing theft. RFID chips can be embedded in pallets for asset tracking, for example.

"When times are tough, obviously people steal more," Ledversis told FleetOwner. He said carriers must pay attention to the market—especially in a downturn—and determine if the freight they're hauling is vulnerable. Platforms such as CargoNet can be used to check what lanes and freight are most targeted.

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Scott Keith

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