Guidance for Safeguarding Against Cargo Theft

Jun 12, 2020
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), nationwide losses to cargo theft range from $15 - $30 billion a year and the latest FBI statistics suggest less than 20% of merchandise is recovered. ISRI members are not immune to this crime and in today’s tight business climate, caution must be taken. 

Extra steps to safeguard loads can be difficult for longstanding members used to conducting business with a handshake, phone call, or email. Unfortunately, this is the world we live in. The guidance offered below is meant to safeguard against two types of cargo theft related to domestic shipping by truck; straight cargo theft and strategic cargo theft.

Straight cargo theft is defined as the physical theft of, or from, loads while in transit. This can occur when trailers are left unattended at truck stops, parking lots, or roadside rests areas, to name a few. Hijacking could also be considered straight cargo theft.

Strategic cargo theft involves deception and fraud. Using today’s technology, sophisticated thieves can create forgeries of order forms and other documents used by legitimate companies. What might appear to be letterhead from a longstanding customer could in fact be fake and involve fraudulent carriers used to ship goods to unintended locations without any intention of payment. Phishing email scams or computer viruses can be used to intercept legitimate orders and alter shipping instructions.

Best Practices 

  1. Consider vetting employees with background checks, especially drivers and those with access to shipping logistics and other sensitive information.
    1. Contract carriers should also be vetted by checking references, safety records, and training.
    2. Confirm driver and truck identification information. Pay extra attention to any last minute changes or driver substitutions.
  2. Provide training for company drivers on theft and hijacking prevention.
    1. Secure sensitive information such as travel routes and schedules.
    2. Resources such as insurance companies recommend drivers should avoid stopping within the first 200 miles in the event they were tracked from the member’s yard.
    3. Ensure drivers park in secure lighted areas and lock unattended vehicles.
  3. Confirm orders from buyers or brokers by calling known numbers prior to shipping. Even when dealing with longstanding customers, reach out to a known contact. Double check numbers found on letterhead or order forms.
  4. GPS tracking devices, vehicle immobilizers, container seals and locks, and cameras can help deter theft or track cargo should a theft occur.
  5. Maintaining cyber security is a must in order to prevent intrusion into company computers. Review information the company website makes available to the general public. Financial records and other sensitive information should be password protected.

Below are excellent resources for more information on safeguarding against cargo theft and current theft trends. These sites can also offer assistance in the event of a theft.

Brady Mills is director of law enforcement outreach for ISRI.

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