As the United States’ economy rebounds, trucking companies are beginning to receive more orders to transport goods. Unfortunately this has resulted in an increase in cargo theft incidents. Cargo theft is becoming a serious threat to the economy, as well as national security. These crimes cost the U.S. about $30 billion annually, according to Kevin L. Perkins, assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Cargo is defined as any commercial shipment that is moved by trucks, planes, rail cars, ships, etc. If the goods are stolen at any time in between the point of origin and the final destination, it is considered cargo theft. Cargo theft has many victims, including employees who may be injured during an armed hijacking, retailers who lose valuable merchandise and consumers who pay more for products to make up for cargo theft losses.
Commercial trucks, also known as tractor-trailers, are one of the main targets for cargo-theft. There are several reasons for this including limited security (usually only one driver), the value of a semi-truck worth of product, low-quality locks on trailers, the low-traffic areas trucks may be forced to stop in to comply with hours of services laws and more.
Organized Criminal Groups Involved
The increased cargo theft activity is blamed on organized criminal groups. These groups may be acting on insider information obtained from truckers who have been paid off, but it goes even deeper than that. According to Mr. Perkins, cargo theft involves sophisticated criminal gangs from many places including Latin America, Asia and the Caribbean.
Retail cargo theft was once confined to the realm of well-organized shoplifting rings that would plan hits on stores. Recently, the thievery spread to activities outside the stores, where merchandise is packaged in pallets rather than units. This includes cargo in route to retail locations, as well as cargo awaiting shipment in warehouses. Organized crime groups have the resources to make these bigger plunders. The number of theft incidents involving multiple trailers stolen at a time increased by 50 percent from the spring of 2010 to 2011.
Not Just a Problem in the U.S.
In a recent statement, the Canadian Trucking Alliance says cargo theft is getting worse and costs the Canadian economy about $5 billion per year. In Canada there are reports of an increase in thefts from cargo trucks stocked with food shipments, because the product sells quickly and easily.
According to a Royal Canadian Mounted Police report, organized crime groups may also be using special compartments in trucks to smuggle illegal drugs across borders. These groups may even be deeply involved with the trucking companies, through layers of company ownership, name changes and business closures.
What Trucking Companies Can Do
Additional security measures can be taken by trucking companies to deter theft and keep employees safe. During peak theft times – holiday weekends and the two-month holiday season preceding Christmas – trucking companies can send two drivers on more dangerous routes. Trucking companies must be aware which routes are less safe, including those with fewer populated rest stops or stops that are secure, and especially bulk up security for drivers on those routes. Also, tougher locks can be used to secure the cargo. Each trucking company must outline safety procedures and ensure that all the drivers understand and implement them, so that truckers are able to safely perform their duties.
If you have been involved in a cargo theft that could have been prevented if your company had provided better security, contact the experienced trucking attorneys for a free consultation. We will discuss your experience and your legal rights and options for compensation.