Cargo theft remains a big problem for the trucking industry and the freight world as a whole – a problem the leads to losses of some $15 billion to $30 billion a year, according to figures compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), as you’ll see in the pages that follow.

And yet our nation’s top law enforcement agency believes that $15 billion to $30 billion figure may actually be too low, as cargo crime remains an under-reported and, yes, often unspoken affliction affecting the freight business.

Certainly, more communication and collaboration about the scope cargo theft is taking place between law enforcement, motor carriers, shippers, and, as need be, the general public.

Still, in the opinion of more than few experts in the cargo crime field, there remains too much silence surrounding this critical issue, which is leading in many cases to the inability to construct a complete picture of the severity and scope of the problem.

“I just don’t think anyone is tracking cargo theft accurately,” Scott Cornell, transportation business leader and crime/theft specialist for Travelers Insurance.

On top of that, the holidays are becoming notoriously opportune times for thieves to pinch cargo shipments.

For example, SensiGuard Supply Chain Intelligence Center (SCIC) data shows that cargo theft was 120% higher during the July 4 weekend in 2015 and 2016 compared to the rest of the calendar year.

The ideal solution would be to avoid leaving cargo unattended over the long holiday weekend, Cornell explained, but when that is not an option, he recommends a layered approach to better protect shipments:

  • Educating drivers and staff is a critical first step. Make sure they are aware of the threats related to cargo theft and understand the old adage, “Cargo at rest is cargo at risk.” A heightened awareness can promote better participation from your drivers and staff.
  • Whenever possible, stage loads at secure company yards. According to SensiGuard, 71% of reported cargo thefts occur in unsecured parking areas. This number tends to increase over long holiday weekends.
  • Use all available equipment to secure trailers while they are being staged, including a combination of landing gear or King Pin locks and rear door locks, as well as air cuff locks if the trailer is married to the tractor. Ideally, the tractor and trailer should remain locked and connected as long as they are left unattended, as this allows for an additional layer of security.
  • Consider installing covert tracking systems on all shipments and carefully monitor the location of loads left staged over the weekend. Most tracking devices will allow you to geofence the shipment and alert you if it begins to move. Some devices also offer open-door alerts and other types of notifications that can make you quickly aware of any issues or intrusion on your trailer.