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Though cargo theft is a year-round problem for trucking, it is more of a concern around the July Fourth holiday, according to a report by CargoNet.
The report, released June 29, shows that over the past five years $5.9 million in cargo has been stolen.
CargoNet, based in Jersey City, N.J., features a national database and information-sharing system managed by crime analysts and subject-matter experts.
The average heist is worth $128,415, according to the firm. Food and beverage items, household goods and building materials are the most likely items to be stolen.
“The Fourth of July weekend, much like a lot of the extended weekends, becomes a bit more problematic for cargo theft,” Scott Cornell, transportation business lead, crime and theft specialist with Travelers, told Transport Topics. “Consistently, cargo theft goes up.”
Cornell said there is a simple reason why more cargo is stolen during the holidays: “There will be an increase in the targeting of cargo because thieves have a longer time to get away with it. They have an extended weekend, where they feel there are fewer eyes on it and an extra day before people will start looking for the missing cargo.”
Highly populated Texas, California and Florida lead the list of where cargo is likely to be stolen.
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Cargo theft is most likely to occur in parking lots, unsecured yards and truck stops. The report specifies two types of thefts: stealing the entire truck, often done by organized crime rings; or breaking into the back of the trailer when the driver is asleep in the berth, or has stepped away from the truck.
“Most cargo theft, when you are specifically talking about full truckload theft, tends to be organized groups,” said Cornell. “They do sophisticated surveillance at distribution centers, warehouses to watch trucks come and go, watch loads come and go so that they can follow the loads out. They tend to be smaller groups.”
Cornell said either way the criminals are very brazen in their acts.
“When you talk about breaking into the rear doors, you might be surprised to hear a lot of drivers say they can’t feel that when that happens. A lot are sleeping with the tractor running, especially if they are trying to stay warm or they’re in a cold area, or they are accustomed to sleeping with the tractor running or all of the noise from the truck stop, and they’re sleeping in the cab,” Cornell said. “Don’t forget, you’re more than 50 feet away from the rear doors when you take into account the length of the tractor and the trailer. It’s much harder to hear that or feel that. They may not feel the trailer shifting when that happens.”
CargoNet and Travelers said the crime rings are very efficient, even infiltrating trucking companies to gain information.
“A lot of times they’re pretending to be a good guy. They’ll plant somebody from their group to get inside information. They’ll operate as a driver with the intent to get intelligence, where things are moving, where are they going,” said Cornell. “You’re not talking about the average, hard-working truck driver; you’re talking about somebody who is nefariously operating with the intent of gathering intel to conduct a theft.”
The report gives some tips that drivers, brokers and others in the trucking industry should follow to avoid cargo theft:
- Ask local police agencies to make routine checks of facilities during holiday downtime.
- Make sure that both security managers and drivers have an accurate license plate, VIN and descriptive information for tractors, trailers, containers and container chassis.
- Secure all trailers, loaded and unloaded.
- Secure all tractors with high-security locking devices, such as air-cuff and steering column locks. Remind drivers to arrive at the point of pickup well-rested, showered and fed and with a full tank of fuel.
- Avoid having loaded trailers sit unattended when employees are not present.
- Never treat any alarm signal as a false alarm. When targeting warehouse locations, cargo thieves tend to trip facility alarm systems multiple times before a break-in to give law enforcement and facility managers the impression that the alarm system is broken.
- Encourage documentation and reporting of all suspicious activity that occurs in and around a facility to security personnel and the CargoNet command center. This information can be critical to law enforcement in the event of a cargo theft incident.
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