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Where is Your Cargo at Risk?

Cracking down on cargo theft

Cargo theft and security are topics that keep coming up in transportation conversations. The commodities most at risk and tips to reduce your risk of theft are subjects that have already been discussed here. The recently released white paper brief, Current Cargo Theft Trends, provides information about cargo theft at a high level. Using that information and further research, we’ll take a closer look at the locations where your cargo is vulnerable to attack.


When it comes to high theft risk, California, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, and Georgia rank at the top of the list. In 2012 however, the number of cargo thefts increased in states with normally low-level risk.1 One example is the state of Michigan, which has never before been in the top 20 states for high theft risk. Yet in 2012, Michigan jumped up to number eight with a significant increase of thefts, particularly violent incidents, in the Detroit area. Other states, like Michigan, are seeing more instances of theft, which indicates the commitment of criminals to travel farther to obtain their targeted cargo.


The specific locations where thefts occur can shed light on how to mitigate the risk of theft in the future. In the U.S., 85% of all recorded thefts were from stationary and unattended trailers and containers. Cargo is most at risk in unsecured parking areas, most notably truck stops, public parking areas, carrier lots, and drop lots.2 Bandits target these same types of locations consistently, probably waiting for the best opportunity for success before they strike.


The best defense is to create effective best practices within your company. Determine the best time to ship your cargo to avoid leaving trailers unattended if possible. Make sure drivers understand where they are most at risk so they can make better choices on the road. One final but often overlooked step is to report thefts—with all the details—to authorities. Sharing information is extremely important in the ongoing battle against cargo theft. Accurate reporting aids all companies in our industry, and helps law enforcement learn the behaviors of these criminals to help prevent similar thefts in the future. The states with the highest amount of cargo theft also have some of the most active regional security councils and law enforcement agencies focused on cargo theft activity. This explains why these same states actually saw a decrease in the number of thefts committed in 2012 compared to 2011.3 With all parties using proper due diligence, we take a step in the right direction, toward a future with lower risk of theft.


1 Freightwatch International. “2013 Global Cargo Theft Threat Assessment.” 2013.

2 Ibid

3 Supply Chain-Information Sharing and Analysis. “2012 Supply Chain ISAC Report of Cargo Theft Activity.”