With Labor Day approaching, carriers should be on high alert for cargo thieves looking to take advantage of the extended holiday weekend.
Overhaul, an Austin, Texas-based supply chain risk management company, monitors and tracks cargo theft trends. Danny Ramon leads the company’s Intelligence and Response Team. He said that on his side of the logistics table, “cargo at rest is cargo at risk” is the mantra. With more cargo “at rest” this coming weekend, the company is expecting a spike in thefts over the next few days.
According to data from Overhaul, a total of 240 recorded cargo thefts occurred in the United States in the first six months of 2023, with an average loss north of $360,000. The states with the highest rates of theft were California, Texas and Georgia.
“We’re also seeing a pretty explosive growth in large-scale pilferage thefts,” Ramon told Land Line. “And these are not typically performed by what we consider career cargo thieves; the kind of folks who wake up every day strictly for the purpose of performing cargo theft, who typically travel multiple states in order to steal a full trailer. These are more local-level criminals who … may have seen a lot of the news stories over the past several years of the different chokepoints in the supply chain. Criminals in those areas know that those are now opportunities, and we’ve seen them start to engage in those types of thefts. And they’ve obviously been telling their friends they’ve been experiencing success, and that success has led to even more of these types of thefts.”
Ramon said this observed increase is true for all types of cargo thefts, but especially large-scale pilferages. To make matters worse, Ramon said these crews are getting better at it, using vans and box trucks to quickly abscond with a trailer-full of cargo.
“They’re basically bucket-brigading an entire 53-foot trailer empty in under 10 minutes,” he said. “They’re very bold. We’ve seen them perform these thefts in view of dozens of witnesses in broad daylight at truck stops.”
According to data from Overhaul, roughly a third of cargo thefts in 2023 have occurred between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
A couple of hot items that Ramon expects to see thieves target over the Labor Day weekend are solar panels and solar installation equipment, unfinished computer products – specifically graphics processing units (GPUs) – and alcoholic beverages.
When it comes to prevention, Ramon said the easiest way to safeguard against theft is to minimize the amount of time the freight is stationary. Additionally, drivers should never leave their truck running when stopped and should stop only in well-lit and -trafficked areas where the truck and trailer are visible. He also suggested backing up to a hard surface to deny thieves access to the trailer.
By minimizing the risk, drivers can avoid being the “low-hanging fruit,” Ramon said. He added that while taking those measures can prevent thieves from pilfering cargo, carriers also need to be cautious when it comes to giving out information about their loads.
“A lot of it is being targeted specifically by what’s being carried in the tracker. Even with this large-scale pilferage, as these folks have evolved, they’ve got tactics that they use and they can actually do counter-surveillance and intelligence gathering of their own so they know what’s in those trailers,” Ramon said. “So be smart about your load. Don’t tell people what’s in your load. Don’t necessarily tell people where you started and where you’re going. As a truck driver, I know that it’s one of the easy icebreakers, ‘Hey, what you carrying and where you going,’ but if you’ve got something that’s high-target, maybe just don’t talk about it. Don’t show other people your (bill of lading) … because a lot of it does happen through social engineering at truck stops, as well.” LL