There is good news and bad news when it comes to cargo theft. The good news is that in 2014, the total number of incidents of cargo theft in the U.S. was down 12 percent from 2013, according to research from FreightWatch International. The bad news is that the average loss value per incident rose 36 percent in 2014.


FreightWatch tracks supply chain information and cargo thefts around the world. The firm recently released its 2014 report on cargo theft activity in the U.S.


There are several interesting points in the report. For instance, while violent cargo hijackings take place in other parts of the world, including areas of Europe, they are almost unheard of in the U.S. Instead, FreightWatch’s research shows that in the U.S., 90 percent of all cargo thefts in 2014 took place when trucks were stationary and unattended in unsecured parking areas. The most frequently targeted unsecured parking areas were truck stops (42 percent of the cargo theft), public parking (where 23 percent of the thefts took place) and roadsides (where 15 percent of the thefts took place).


“The reported severity of this is evident when compared to other similar western countries (such as in the UK or Germany) where a comparative number would be 20 percent,” FreightWatch notes. “U.S. criminals haven’t had to resort to escalating their tactics as a target-rich environment of unsecured opportunities continues to be present.”


Also of note, according to the report, 2014 saw a “refocus” on major urban areas, particularly those with major transportation networks. FreightWatch also forecasts that cargo theft in the U.S. is likely to increase in 2015.


“This is due, in part, to the continued increase in the level of organization and sophistication of criminal groups focusing on cargo, and the relatively minor penalties often associated with cargo crime,” the report explains. “In addition, the unsuccessful use of GPS and cellular jamming equipment has been observed in relation to cargo theft for the first time, illustrating the lengths that cargo thieves are willing to go to obtain their targeted merchandise.”


Finally, FreightWatch’s 2014 data shows that U.S. cargo thieves increasingly targeted shipments of electronics. Indeed, high-value electronics theft incidents tripled from 2013 to 2014, with the category seeing a 43 percent surge in the total average loss value of all electronics thefts, at $568,664. The report also notes that certain types or subtypes of products have “very strong state-specific trends,” such as automobiles and auto parts in Texas—where nearly one-quarter of all such verified product thefts occurred.


As the report notes, there is a growing need for companies to strengthen their supply chains by identifying and ensuring that drivers use secured parking whenever possible. What’s perhaps more troubling though, is that organized criminals now conduct surveillance on intended targets. Secondly, although thieves have not been successful using signal interference devices (jammers) to disable tracking technology used to protect against potential theft, it does present a new threat which must be addressed.


What are your thoughts on cargo theft? Does your supply chain have plans to address any of the emerging threats?