If you want to keep your cargo safe, it’s best to keep it moving, Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) warns.
Linked to the involvement of organized crime, cargo theft is described as an “epidemic” in Canada, with a total loss of $181 million in stolen cargo and equipment between 2014 and 2017.
“Any loaded trailer with cargo in it that’s sitting is at risk,” says Wayne Hummel, a cargo and auto theft investigator for IBC. “My suggestion to anybody with a load, don’t leave it sitting. If you have to leave it sitting, have some kind of security on it, especially if it’s an expensive load. They will take anything, they can sell anything. They can move anything.”
Many heists occur when trucks and trailers are parked for the night in trucking yards, Hummel says. While unsecured yards can be “a free-for-all,” thefts can occur in secured yards, too.
Much of what gets stolen does not sit around for long.
“These loads move very quickly,” Hummel says. “We lose loads of meat on a monthly basis. Sometimes they are sold before they are stolen. Or as soon as they see it, they know where to get rid of it.”
To keep things moving, some companies use multiple drivers for the same trip. The drivers rotate or sleep in shifts so that they don’t have to park the truck over long-haul trips. “I can guarantee you, those people rarely lose loads, because they are not unattended,” Hummel says.
Another popular method of theft is to take advantage of a network of companies that bid on contracts to drive loads for clients – and then take off with the cargo.
“Fraud is becoming a bigger part of it — all the online brokerage stuff,” said Hummel. “The brokers put their loads out to be sub-brokered, and somebody will bid on that load. They end up winning the bid, they pick it up, they are a fictitious company, and your load’s just been stolen.”
One of the primary ways to combat cargo theft is to report it, Hummel says. IBC’s investigative services division has been operating the Cargo Theft Reporting program since 2014. Many occurrences of cargo crime go unreported by vendors, IBC notes, because transport companies do not want their insurance premiums to increase if they report a loss.
When cargo has been reported stolen, police have been able to recover the load with a fair degree of success, considering that organized crime rings are able to sell loads quickly, Hummel says.
In 2017, the IBC cargo unit issued 1,632 alerts of thefts to law enforcement. Of those, 445 involved cargo. The value assigned to the stolen merchandise was over $46 million. As for recoveries last year, law enforcement was able to recover 223 loads at a value of over $17 million.
Thieves aren’t discriminating about the loads they sell off, although organized criminals involved in cargo theft like to target grocery or food products. These are the easiest products to offer for resale quickly and efficiently.
That said, with non-perishable products such as brand-name products, the thieves can afford to keep the product stored somewhere and try and negotiate a better price for the load. If it’s a brand-name product, they know somebody is going to buy. “They can unload that trailer into a warehouse and they can keep that property,” Hummel says.
IBC’s Cargo Theft Reporting program is still relatively new, so it will take some time to establish enough baseline information about thefts to be able to identify whether there are any trends up or down.