Trucking Grapples With Evolving Cargo Theft Risks in Q3

CargoNet Report Says Thefts Increased in Every Category It Tracks, With Strategic Events Rising 430% Year-Over-Year
Criminal with laptop and phone
“What we’re seeing is identity theft, hacking of systems, whether it be a load board or a federal government database,” said Keith Lewis, vice president of operations for CargoNet. (artoleshko/Getty Images)

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Trucking continued to deal with a high number of cargo thefts during the third quarter as criminals take advantage of the tighter economy.

Verisk AnalyticsCargoNet found in its third-quarter report Nov. 9 that “supply chain risk events” increased 59% year-over-year, with 692 reported incidents across North America. This accounted for over $31.1 million in stolen shipments. The report noted that much of the increase is due to shipment misdirection attacks, which also drove a spike in the second quarter.

“Instead of striking one load, they’re going after three or four loads at one time,” said Keith Lewis, vice president of operations at CargoNet. “They’re getting bolder; they’re getting more brazen. I wouldn’t say they’re getting desperate, but the value of these goods on the open market is driving up the risk of theft.”

The CargoNet report noted that thefts increased in every category it tracks, with strategic events climbing 430% year-over-year and theft of a loaded conveyance increasing 4%.

Keith Lewis


“What we’re seeing is identity theft, hacking of systems, whether it be a load board or a federal government database,” Lewis said. “They’re using the vulnerabilities in our supply chain, which is moving at a rapid pace. Anytime you’re moving something at a rapid pace, there’s obviously more opportunities to attack it.”

Lewis noted the criminals have long taken advantage of known industry practices to steal cargo but now they appear to be combining tactics to improve their attacks.

“We’re definitely seeing the continued spread and evolution of strategic thefts — the fictitious pickups, the fraudulent thefts,” said Danny Ramon, intelligence and response manager at Overhaul.

Ramon noted that criminals evolve the specific methods they deploy to counteract efforts to deter them in what he describes as a “constant cat-and-mouse” game. He also pointed out that theft activity continued to spread into new regions, and he has been seeing more reports of violence.

“When these thieves aren’t able to obtain it, when there’s nobody around, they will resort occasionally to violence,” Ramon said. “We are tracking at least one crew right now that has resorted to violence in California. We’ve seen some violence over-the-road regarding pilferages in Arizona as well.”

Danny Ramon


Ramon also warned that the issue goes beyond trucking with rail freight also seeing an increase in thefts across a growing geographical scope, with incidents of violence as well. But the data on that front has been scarce since rail companies don’t usually report thefts.

“We’re continuing to see this trend in the same direction that we’ve seen since third and fourth quarter of 2022,” said Scott Cornell, transportation lead and crime and theft specialist at Travelers. “The strategic thefts in particular [are] continuing to be a constant issue. When you look at the techniques that they’re using, the methods that they’re using repetitively, we’re seeing the industry really try to scramble to respond.”

Cornell also is vice chairman for the Transported Asset Protection Association Americas, which is preparing to release standards for freight brokers to improve safety. He stressed the importance of preventive methods to reduce risk.

“I don’t see anything to indicate that this is going to slow down,” Cornell said. “When you look at some of the predictions that are out there from an economic standpoint, specifically to the trucking industry, to the transportation industry, cargo thieves seize on those moments. The tougher the industry has it, the more they will try and take advantage of that.”

Person breaking into a trailer

Ramon says some criminals will resort to violence. “We are tracking at least one crew right now that has resorted to violence in California. We’ve seen some violence over-the-road regarding pilferages in Arizona as well," he said. (Gregory DUBUS via Getty Images)

Cornell noted the economy has an impact on how cargo thieves operate. They will follow market trends to steal goods based on demand and price. But supply chain disruptions and slowdowns can also cause market shifts that criminals can take advantage of. “When things get desperate, we don’t pay as much attention to the details,” said Brent Hutto, chief relationship officer at Truckstop. “So you’ve got an industry that’s not as profitable today in freight as it was a year ago, and maybe a year and a half ago, cause all this started happening last October; we’re over a year into it.”

Brent Hutto


Hutto views the industry as going through a technical revolution in which data is being automated at a fast pace to maximize efficiency. But he warned that the industry increasingly automating processes provides criminals more opportunities to attack. He also noted that the industry being so varied makes the issue worse since it precludes a uniform approach to technology security.

“The bad actors go in and attack where systems are weakest,” Hutto said. “They’ll go after certain segments of the market where they know that those types of players don’t have the technology to fight.”

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