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Cargo Theft: Causes, Solutions and Prevention Strategies

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    Last year, cargo theft increased by 20 percent, equalling losses of $223 million.

    Clearly, cargo theft is a severe global problem, and it can result in significant financial losses for businesses and individuals.

    Put simply, cargo theft is the act of stealing goods that have been transported from one place to another – usually via vehicle, cargo ship, or plane.

    Businesses can minimize the potential risk by understanding cargo theft, identifying possible causes, and adopting prevention measures. In this blog, we will discuss in detail the meaning of cargo theft, its causes, solutions, and prevention strategies.

    What Is Cargo Theft?

    According to the FBI, cargo theft involves the taking of “goods, chattels, money, or baggage” that make up a commercial freight shipment. The FBI also states that cargo theft can affect numerous facilities and vehicles, including the following:

    • Railroad cars
    • Motor trucks
    • Tanks and storage facilities
    • Station houses
    • Platforms
    • Depots
    • Aircraft
    • Aircraft terminals
    • Airports
    • Trailers
    • Freight stations
    • Warehouses
    • Freight distribution/consolidation facilities

    What Causes Cargo Theft?

    Cargo theft generally happens when merchandise is at rest (such as at stops on the way to distribution centers). Cargo thieves can use numerous strategies to carry out their crimes. These are some of the most well-known causes:

    • Leakage operations: A leakage operation involves thieves taking just a part of a shipment, which makes thefts harder to detect.
    • Fictitious pickup: During fictitious pickup operations, a thief will pretend to be a legitimate driver and then steal entire cargo loads from shipping facilities.
    • Hijackings: During a hijacking, a criminal will take the whole truck, often when the driver is away from the vehicle.
    • Coerced Stops: A coerced stop involves a criminal getting the driver’s attention and persuading them to stop, then stealing the truck after the driver has pulled over.
    • Grab and Run: In some cases, thieves simply follow a truck, wait for it to stop, and then break into the trailer and grab as much as they can before running away.
    • Burglaries: Burglaries often occur at trucking yards when thieves break into the containers and steal the merchandise.
    • Terminal Robberies: Terminal robberies typically happen at trucking yards, but thieves steal the whole rig rather than breaking into containers.
    • Employee Involvement: Sometimes, drivers, dock workers, security personnel, and other employees act as the “inside man” for cargo thieves. They leave doors unlocked, share shipping schedules, or identify the cargo in the trailers to give thieves easier access.

    Cargo Theft Solutions

    Nobody wants to experience cargo theft. The experience of being robbed, in and of itself, is terrifying, but it also comes with ongoing logistical and financial challenges. The good news is that there are several steps you can take to handle cargo theft, including those shared below:

    File a Police Report

    The first thing you should do when you realize you’ve been a victim of cargo theft is to call the police and file a police report. Do this right away so you can provide the most detailed, accurate description of events and increase the likelihood of the thieves being caught.

    Spread the Word

    Make sure everyone involved in the shipment knows about the theft — including the shipper, carrier, broker, etc. All parties need to be on the same page regarding what has happened so they can respond appropriately and correct the issue as quickly as possible.

    Contract Your Insurance Provider

    Check the load contract to see which party was responsible for the load when the theft occurred. Then, contact that party’s insurance provider to see if the theft is covered.

    Insurance companies might not always pay on the claim — for example, in cases of negligence — but it’s still worthwhile to reach out to them. Make sure you have a police report readily available, too, because they will ask for it.

    Cargo Theft Prevention

    It’s important to know what to do if cargo theft occurs, but it’s even more important to understand how to prevent these crimes from happening in the first place. These guidelines can help you avoid the theft of cargo to protect your business and your drivers:

    Ensure Drivers Don’t Share Drop-Off Locations

    During the employee training process, make sure drivers know the importance of never sharing drop-off locations except with other employees. The less frequently this information gets shared, the less likely it is to fall into the wrong hands.

    Use GPS Tracking Technology

    If you haven’t already, install GPS tracking technology on trucks and other shipping vehicles. Doing so allows you to figure out where stolen vehicles are sooner, which can help you recover them sooner as well.

    Identify Theft Hotspots

    Certain locations are more likely to be frequented by thieves than others. For example, California regularly ranks among the states with the most cargo thefts — the same goes for Texas, Florida, New Jersey, and Georgia. When traveling through these locations, drivers should know to be on guard.

    Screen Employees Appropriately

    Screening employees carefully before they’re hired helps to weed out potentially problematic characters — those who might be willing to share information with thieves or help others carry out cargo theft. The screening process should include background checks and criminal records checks.

    Use Video Surveillance Technology

    Increasing warehouse security will also help to deter thieves, ensure employee safety, and, in the event that theft occurs, empower you to address the issue sooner.

    One of the best and most cost-effective ways to increase security is by installing warehouse security cameras throughout the facility. Look for a video monitoring service that offers 24-7-365 surveillance, so you always know what’s happening, especially during the most vulnerable periods (overnight, weekends, etc.).

    Combat Cargo Theft with Mobile Video Guard

    Cargo theft creates serious problems throughout the entire supply chain. Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to address and prevent this issue, including those shared in this blog.

    Are you ready to invest in a video solution to prevent cargo theft? If so, Mobile Video Guard offers a variety of options for you to choose from. Check out our selection or get a quote today.


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