Stay On High Alert for Holiday Cargo Theft

Posted by Harriet Mills on Nov 19, 2014 11:24:21 AM

iStock_loadsFor those who have been living under a rock, the holiday season is rapidly approaching.  Cargo theft around the holidays statistically increases so we must do our part as freight brokers to stay informed on how to prevent these thefts from occurring.


Did you know that half of all cargo thefts occur on a Saturday, Sunday or Monday?  Logistics and transportation providers need to know that cargo thefts also increase by 61 percent around holidays; Labor Day, Thanksgiving and 4th of July have the highest numbers of thefts overall.  California, Florida, and New Jersey all have significantly more cargo thefts than other states.


New areas are constantly being targeted and one of the biggest areas of concern is the Northwest.  Washington State saw a record-breaking number of cargo thefts in the third quarter of this year along with new advanced tactics being used by thieves according to FreightWatch International.  In July 2014 FreightWatch said it was advised by the California Highway Patrol Cargo Theft Interdiction Program, when cargo theft levels in California declined during the second quarter of the year, that one probable cause was the relocation of an organized cargo theft ring that may be actively targeting high-value cargo in the Northwest U.S.


While the cargo theft numbers are still low for Washington State and the Northwest, there has been a definite surge in the typical theft volumes in this region.  FreightWatch also believes hotspots may emerge along I-5 and I-85, particularly near Portland, Ore., and Boise, Idaho, due to the concentration of truck stops and distance from the major shipping hub of Seattle. It also expects that deceptive pickups will become more common in the region, particularly in the Seattle and Salt Lake City areas.

Single semi truck at frozen goods warehouse


According to FreightWatch International, theft activity in the U.S. in 2013 was concentrated in the fourth quarter with a total of 242 incidents so historical data shows we have to be diligent during this fourth quarter.  In 2014, from May through July, FreightWatch recorded 179 thefts in the U.S., with 66 thefts in May, 53 in June and 60 in July. The average loss per value per incident during the period was $151,174. Compared with the previous quarter, thefts decreased 12 percent, while the average loss value decreased 35 percent. Food and drinks were the product types most often stolen with 37 thefts or 21 percent of all incidents during the three-month period.


According to a FreightWatch analyst, “Fictitious pickups continue to be a growing threat in our industry. The frequency of fictitious pickups increased sharply from 2011 to 2012, remained relatively constant in 2013, and have resumed a steep upward path during the first two quarters of 2014; 26 fictitious pickups have already been reported this year, totaling over $3.5 million in lost cargo.”  Forty percent of those incidents in 2014 targeted electronics and apparel, FreightWatch said. This low-risk, high-reward incidents continue to be relatively easy for the criminal to organize.

What can we do, and other 3PL companies do, to protect ourselves?  The most desirable commodities for cargo thieves are items that can be easily sold on the black market. The list includes: food and beverages, clothing, electronics, house wares, metals, pharmaceuticals, cigarettes and alcohol.  When we have loads that are shipping these goods we need to be aware they are primary targets.


We should be careful not to allow excessive transit time on targeted or high-value loads. If a shipping lane is 1,000 miles, that’s a 2-day point on a single driver. If you can avoid it, try not to ship that distance on a Friday for a Monday delivery appointment. It adds an extra day based on transit, and means the load will sit for approximately 24 hours longer than needed. And, in this example, the sitting time would be over a weekend when more thefts occur.


We should always be asking if weekend deliveries are possible and scheduling appointments for proper transit.  Unattended loads are the easiest targets for cargo thieves, especially if they are not in a secured area.


Having the driver’s contact information before a shipment over the weekend and ensuring all needed information is in the carrier’s hands is an important SOP that we need to be sure we are all following.  In addition, we should be checking out all carriers confirming numbers and addresses in Carrier 411 and if something doesn’t seem right trust your gut and let’s use the extensive resources we have to confirm that our customer and carriers are protected and the product arrives to destination safely.



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