7 Latest Tactics of Cargo Theft and How to Prevent It

With the increase in online shopping, home deliveries, and overall work-from-home opportunities, more and more people have hopped on the bandwagon of having all their needs delivered straight to their doorstep.

This is seen as the right modern step in the world of consumerism, but it seems that more valuable items on the road mean increased cargo theft on delivery vehicles and shipments.

Let's tackle cargo theft and the solutions businesses practice to ensure items are safely delivered.

In this article, you will:

  • Understand why cargo theft is on the rise
  • Explore the 7 latest tactics employed by thieves
  • Discover effective prevention strategies to protect your fleet and cargo
  • Understand the latest events and hotspots in cargo theft
  • Discover which Cartrack features can help shield your cargo against theft

Why cargo theft is on the rise?

We get it, convenient shopping at the click of a button and the ring of a doorbell is hard to beat. And even more so with online shopping sparking a logistical frenzy with the e-commerce market expected to surpass $8 trillion by 2026. 

But this convenience comes with a hidden cost: increased cargo theft. More deliveries translate to more vehicles on the road, with more stops and longer dwell times for criminals to take advantage of.

When it comes to the types of cargo criminals target, they are not very picky. From high-value goods like electronics and pharmaceuticals to everyday essentials like groceries and household items, whatever you're transporting could be a criminal's next target.

Other factors behind the surge in cargo theft

  1. Shifting targets

    It seems criminals see that it's more profitable for them to target delivery vehicles, as targeting one truck can be a bigger payout for them than targeting civilians on the road.
  2. Vulnerable points in the supply chain

    Criminals have a bigger window of opportunity to steal from cargo vehicles. Cargo is often left vulnerable to theft throughout the many points in its journey, from warehouses to parking lots and unattended deliveries, not to mention the duration where vehicles are left with their doors open during loadings.
  3. Cyberattacks

    Recently, more criminals are using technologies to benefit them and target logistics systems to manipulate data, disable tracking, or reroute shipments, providing them with the perfect scene of hijacking a vehicle, stealing its cargo and not worrying about authorities.

The 7 latest tactics of cargo theft

Cargo theft remains a major concern for businesses globally, causing significant financial losses each year. Thieves are constantly evolving their methods, so to protect your fleet and the cargo it carries, businesses need to understand and stay updated on the latest cargo stealing trends and employ effective prevention measures.

Classic theft methods

  1. Smash and grab

    Thieves target delivery vehicles in vulnerable spots, like rest stops or traffic jams, swiftly grabbing accessible packages before making a quick getaway. If the vehicles are locked and secured, sometimes brute force is used to smash a window to open the door and get their hands on valuables inside.
  2. Inside partner

    Corrupt employees within delivery or warehouse companies share information and access to valuable shipments.
  3. Using tools

    Sometimes thieves have to physically break into trailers, containers, or vehicles using tools like bolt cutters or crowbars to cut wires or to break the lock. This method is simple yet effective, especially for less-secure targets.
  4. Robbery & hijacking

    Organised gangs go after entire trucks or containers, using violence or advanced tactics to overpower drivers and seize the cargo, often using weapons to intimidate the driver into abandoning the vehicle.
  5. Cyberattacks

    Criminals infiltrate logistics systems to manipulate data and exploit vulnerabilities in transportation. This is done by accessing shipment details, adding incorrect routes, and disabling tracking devices.
  6. Social engineering

    These are impersonation scams that use emotional manipulation to deceive drivers, warehouse staff, or other employees into gaining access to the area or getting sensitive information.
  7. GPS jamming

    Thieves disrupt tracking device signals, creating blind spots and hindering real-time monitoring with the illegal use of advanced technology, allowing them to operate under the radar. Unfortunately, they use technology to counter technology.

    While traditional methods still occur, modern tactics are becoming increasingly prevalent. Whatever method is used, the consequences are costly: stolen goods, disrupted deliveries, and reputational damage for businesses.

    But fear not, there are proactive measures to combat this growing threat.


Proactive measures to safeguard your cargo

Securing your cargo against theft is a top priority for any business involved in transportation and logistics. Rather than waiting for cargo stealing attempts to happen, it is better to take the proactive route and put measures in place in case of cargo theft.

Here are a few methods to mitigate the risk of cargo theft:

Real-time vehicle tracking and monitoring: Use advanced GPS solutions through vehicle tracking to keep a close eye on your vehicles and cargo at all times. This well-hidden unit can quickly identify and address any suspicious activity like road deviations or vehicle use after working hours.

Enhanced security measures: Invest in smart security cameras like dashcams. Apart from being used to enhance driver safety, these cameras can record hijacking incidents, prove your driver innocent of stolen cargo, and might have footage of the cargo thieves, assisting the authorities in swiftly finding the criminals.

Empowering drivers: Provide training to your employees on how to quickly recognise and respond to social engineering tactics commonly used by thieves to stop cargo vehicles. Educate them on security protocols, avoiding high-risk areas, being vigilant while on the road and encourage them to report any unusual activity immediately.

Another practical solution that shippers and carriers should adopt is a multi-layered security approach, like implementing sound policies and procedures.

These may include:

  • Avoid leaving loaded trailers unattended, especially in areas prone to cargo theft
  • Using high-security rear door locks and air cuff locks
  • If necessary to stage or drop a load, consider installing landing gear locks as an additional precaution

Recent event on in-transit theft

Now and again, you hear the latest news of cargo theft events and see the lengths that criminals are willing to go to ‘score big’. Across Asia, criminal groups have become more sophisticated and started targeting supply chains to commit in-transit theft. 

In 2022, in Tambaram India, thieves stole an estimated $118,000 worth of pharmaceutical materials from a shipment bound for Germany. The sophisticated act was believed to involve a group of seven criminals working with container truck drivers to steal material over several months.

What made this case different was the level of planning the criminals put into this. They pressured and bribed truck drivers to use their vehicles, transported the trucks to Minjur to unscrew bolts from the container doors, rather than simply opening them, to avoid tampering with the security seal, and successfully sold off the stolen goods after taking the cargo and returning the trucks without any authorities or the business knowing. The business only realised what was happening once the cargo reached its destination, by then it was too late. 

The group is also responsible for stealing 4,800 pairs of shoes from Ambur, keyboards worth $62,700 from Thiruporur, and an additional 1,000 pairs of shoes from a factory in Tada, Andhra Pradesh.

2022 Cargo Theft Report 

In our sunny country, Statista reported 1,996 instances of truck hijackings in South Africa for 2023, marking a rise. In 2012, 821 cases were reported, showing that these incidents have more than doubled in the past 12 years.

Vulnerable hotspots for cargo theft

While cargo theft can realistically happen at any point in the trip, there are specific spots that attract thieves looking for opportunities. The hotspots for cargo theft can vary by region, and they are often located in major cities, along major transportation routes, and in non-secure parking areas.

Most thefts occur when trucks are parked overnight in non-secure parking areas, which are often unlit and less vulnerable to detection. Recognising these weak points enables businesses to put in place focused security measures and reduce the chances of theft.

Strengthening businesses against cargo theft

Although most cargo theft cases happen once the truck is already on the road, it's important to also practice safety at the warehouse. Getting to the route of cargo theft requires you to take a look at the bigger picture, from dispatch locations to delivery.

  1. Warehouse security: Robust access control, security cameras, and inventory management systems minimise internal threats.
  2. Cybersecurity awareness: Training employees on phishing scams and secure password practices to safeguard digital vulnerabilities.
  3. Route optimisation: Before sending your drivers off, have a secure route planned. Analysing routes for high-risk areas and optimising schedules can reduce dwell time in vulnerable locations.

Keep in mind that these are not foolproof, you have to take into consideration the size of your company, how many trucks you operate, working hours, routes you take, etc., and choose the fleet management system that has the right safety measures that would suit your business.


Use Cartrack’s features to combat cargo theft in your business

While Cartrack doesn't offer a magic bullet to completely prevent cargo theft, their advanced solutions can contribute significantly to your company’s defence, reducing your business's vulnerability and keeping your drivers, vehicles and cargo safe.

Here's how Cartrack's various industry-leading features can help:

  1. Delivery route optimisation

    This feature is beneficial to optimise your delivery routes and avoid deviations by providing you with the quickest route to take. Minimising drive time, making you less vulnerable and lowering your chances of being a victim.
  2. Smart cameras

    Our AI-powered cameras offer features such as live streaming, real-time driver behaviour alerts and recording, and even night vision capabilities. During cargo theft attempts, the cameras can capture footage, providing valuable evidence for investigations and insurance claims and allowing fleet managers to respond to cargo theft and other security threats swiftly.
  3. Specialised cargo door sensor

    Instantly alerts fleet managers the moment cargo holding doors open and close, notifying managers that someone has had access to cargo, which can then be monitored through our cameras.

    Smart cameras, coupled with cargo door sensors, can alert fleet managers as soon as there’s access to cargo. This can also act as an advance warning for drivers and managers in cases where thieves attempt to open the cargo doors while the truck is on the move.
  4. Geofencing

    Create virtual boundaries around any areas like warehouses and receive alerts if your vehicles leave or enter these zones. Allows for increased fleet visibility and swift action if vehicles are found in no-go or high-risk geofenced areas or if you haven’t received a geofenced alert on a location where your vehicle should be, possibly indicating hijacking.

Mr Build case study: Improving fleet and cargo visibility

Mr Build is a hardware store specialising in woodworking, timber, cement, plumbing, and home decor. They operate a fleet of about 40 vehicles for delivering building and DIY materials.

Their main challenge was keeping track of the whereabouts of their drivers and vehicles during deliveries. The lack of visibility made it difficult to manage delays effectively without knowing whether the cause was a tyre burst or possible cargo theft.

Cartrack's vehicle tracking system provided Mr Build with real-time visibility of their fleet's location and trip history. This eliminated the need for manual tracking and enabled better route planning.

“Cartrack helps us monitor the fleet much better. I always know where all the vehicles are. There's no part of the day where I have to look for a vehicle or driver."

These features work together seamlessly to provide comprehensive protection for your fleet and cargo, giving you peace of mind while your drivers are on the road.

Tackle cargo theft head-on with Cartrack USA

Embrace Cartrack’s industry-leading fleet solutions to ensure that the convenience experienced by your customers doesn't come at the cost of your business’s security. 

Let us help you reap the full benefits in a thriving delivery-centric era without falling victim to its shadows. Contact Cartrack for a free quote now.

 7 Latest Tactics of Cargo Theft and How to Prevent It

Safeguard your cargo! Learn how businesses can protect against rising theft targeting delivery vehicles and shipments amidst increased home deliveries.