Filed Under:Markets, E&S/Specialty

July 4th brings increased opportunities for cargo theft

Long holiday weekends give cargo thieves significantly more lead times and greater opportunities to strike.
Long holiday weekends give cargo thieves significantly more lead times and greater opportunities to strike.

The July 4th holiday celebrates the spirit this country was founded upon.

Unfortunately, while many Americans spend the day barbecuing and watching fireworks, there are some who spend it worrying about the safety of their company’s cargo.

Historically, the Independence Day holiday period has shown cargo is exceptionally vulnerable to theft because of reduced security or, in some cases, no security at all.  

While cargo theft occurs across the  United States and Canada year-round, long holiday weekends afford thieves significantly longer lead times and greater opportunity to strike, which can create challenges for law enforcement. According to CargoNet, a division of Jersey City, New Jersey-based Verisk Analytics, 34 thefts were reported between July 2 and July 9 last year, and in 2014, 26 thefts were reported for the same period.

Related: Infographic: July 4 Cargo Theft Trends

How can businesses reduce these statistics and help avoid becoming one? The effort begins with understanding their risks and vulnerabilities. Once they know what to look for, they can invest in educating employees on common theft strategies, prevention measures, and recovery protocols.

What follows are some best practices for protecting cargo over the July 4th holiday, and tips on post-theft response:

Semi trucks

(Photo: iStock)

Keep the freight moving

Cargo thieves follow drivers with loaded trailers for several hundred miles and wait for them to stop to eat or rest and then jump at the chance to steal the loaded trailer. It’s vital to keep freight moving, especially on a holiday. That can be accomplished through driver relays or an educated driver team. If drivers must park, then they should find a predetermined, vetted, secure yard prior to original departure.

Semi truck

(Photo: iStock)

Make sure vehicle information is accurate

Security managers and drivers should have correct license plate, vehicle identification number, and descriptive information for tractors, trailers, containers and container chassis. Police agencies will need that information to open an investigation in the event of a theft incident.

Semi truck

(Photo: iStock)

Prepare drivers and carriers

Ensure drivers have been informed to arrive at the point of pick-up rested, showered, fed and with a full tank of fuel.

Cargo technology

(Photo: iStock)

Combating technology with technology

With the evolution of emerging technologies, cargo thieves are finding new ways to track and steal cargo. For instance, cargo thieves are now creating fake identities with the use of the Internet and voice-over IP phones. Some thieves even go as far as creating fake websites and legal documents, such as bills of lading and insurance certificates.

With limited information sharing it’s difficult to prevent supply chain identity theft; however, the use of telematics can increase the chances of recovery significantly. For example, telematics providers have begun developing covert tracking devices that can be embedded in cargo to help companies detect the location of a stolen load.

Many thieves will disconnect tractors from their trailers, move cargo to a different trailer, and pull it with a different tractor to avoid getting caught. Carriers also are moving toward remote locking devices and immobilizers, which allow security personnel to stop a stolen vehicle in motion by slowly letting air out of the air brakes until the vehicle comes to a complete stop.

Empty cargo container

(Photo: iStock)

Post-theft responses

While businesses must take even more preventative measures than ever before to reduce the chance of theft, preparing a course of action to take in the event of a theft is just as critical.

When cargo is stolen, victims are often handicapped because they may not know whom to contact first; cannot immediately identify necessary information about the stolen cargo; and can have unrealistic expectations of law enforcement officials, who may have limited resources to invest in working to recover stolen cargo.

To increase the chances of theft recovery, it’s crucial that businesses educate their employees on the initial steps that should be taken after a theft has been detected:

  • The victim should immediately call 911 to file a police report and be prepared with the intelligence needed to identify the stolen cargo, such as the tractor or trailer type, color, make model, vehicle indentification number and license plate.
  • Next, the company should begin collecting secondary data about the product shipment, including serial numbers, lot numbers, stock keeping unit numbers, and shipment count and values, by communicating with supply chain partners and law enforcement.

Law enforcement often has limited resources for cargo theft. Therefore, the more a company can do, the better. A cautious and controlled approach to safeguarding cargo can mean the difference between having to put out cargo theft-related fires and enjoying the fireworks over the Fourth of July.

Related: Thieves use July 4th fireworks as cover for bank robbery


Infographic: July 4 Cargo Theft Trends

CargoNet, a division of Verisk Crime Analytics, details the rise in reported theft by state, day, commodity, location and theft...

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