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Cargo theft prevention tips for 2024

Jan. 24, 2024
Cargo theft is on the rise. Here are some ways to stave of thieves, and trends to watch out for in 2024.

Cargo theft continues to plague freight haulers across the U.S., with thieves preying more on the trucking industry over the past five years, particularly around the holidays, according to the most recent CargoNet report. Just from Dec. 23, 2023 to Jan. 2, 2024, more than $7.5 million in goods were pilfered.

There are many things fleets and truck drivers can do to protect themselves from cargo theft, according to Scott Cornell of Travelers Inland Marine

They include:

Driver awareness

To prevent cargo theft, there needs to be awareness of cargo theft on all levels, from fleet executives to risk managers to, most importantly, truck drivers. “If you make the drivers aware… I think you'll find that your best frontline prevention method is the driver themselves,” Cornell said.

Instituting theft processes and procedures

According to Cornell, it’s essential to have good processes and procedures in place regarding cargo theft. For prevention, everyone in a fleet should know what to do and why they should do it. There should also be steps in place for when cargo theft does occur. You don’t want to have to figure out how to handle cargo theft after it happens; you should already know exactly what steps must be taken. 

Installing anti-theft equipment and technology

Fleets can use hard locking devices, rear door locks to prevent access, and cameras on the trailer and in the yard are another obvious method to catch a thief.

Even sensors tasked with simple jobs can also do the trick. For example, door sensors can trigger an alert. Certain fleet telematics and analytics platforms, such as Phillips' Connect1, can also alert fleets to rapid tire deflation, a sign of tire theft.

Read more: How to prevent cargo theft with cameras

Educating all employees

To be more informed on the latest cargo theft trends, fleets can attend cargo theft conferences and webinars for additional training. One annual cargo theft conference is the Cargo Theft and Transportation Summit. There are also nonprofits devoted to preventing cargo theft that fleets can join and learn from, such as the Transported Asset Protection Association.

Theft trends for 2024

As logistics companies get wise to these crimes, the criminals have also evolved. According to CargoNet, this means more strategic cargo theft. This includes when thieves trick targets into giving them cargo through methods such as identity theft, fictitious pickup, and double brokering, according to Cornell. Strategic cargo theft is less risky for thieves than straight cargo theft because it doesn’t require the culprits to be physically present. Because of this reduced risk, Cornell believes strategic cargo theft will continue to be a problem in 2024. 

When it comes to stolen commodities, CargoNet reports that cargo thieves prefer shipments including “energy drinks, sodas, liquor, hard seltzers, motor oils, tires, and solar panels.” But CargoNet also notes a broader range of commodities have recently been targeted, including “footwear, clothing, beauty products, ATVs, and construction equipment.” According to Cornell, the economy drives what commodities are targeted for cargo theft; however, food and beverages are always targets because they’re consumable. 

Cornell noted that while areas such as Southern California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Memphis, and Chicago are cargo theft hotspots, there are also increasing thefts in areas across the U.S. that didn’t see thefts previously. 

“Over the last 18 months, we've noticed cargo theft spreading into non-traditional areas of the country,” Cornell said. “Because if I'm stealing virtually, and I don't have to care about where it sits, I can target a load of meat coming out of Iowa instead of a load of meat coming out of Texas. As a thief, my thought process is going to be: ‘People in North Dakota don't think about cargo theft. So I'm going to target some loads coming out of North Dakota.’”

About the Author

Jenna Hume | Digital Editor

Digital Editor Jenna Hume previously worked as a writer in the gaming industry. She has a bachelor of fine arts degree in creative writing from Truman State University and a master of fine arts degree in writing from Lindenwood University. She is currently based in Missouri.