U.S. Department of Justice Puts the Brakes on Cargo Theft Ring



During the week of July 6, 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted 8 people in a multi-state cargo theft ring in Southern Indiana. The thieves are accused of hijacking more than 11 full trailers of goods over several years with a total value of stolen product in excess of $17 million. The indictments were the result of the coordinated efforts of multiple federal and state agencies as well as two private organizations, CargoNet and the National Insurance Crime Bureau.  

The cargo thieves would target product filled trucks leaving large distribution centers and follow the unit until the driver stopped to rest or refuel the tractor. They would work together to steal the tractor once the driver stepped away from the vehicle. Often the thieves would abandon the tractor a short distance from the scene of the crime, paint over any markings on the trailer and pull it away with a tractor from their trucking company. They would then transport the merchandise to locations that included Kentucky, Florida, and New Jersey where the merchandise was sold.

There are a number of cautionary takeaways from this successful apprehension of accused cargo thieves:

  1. Cargo thieves target high traffic areas where goods are transferred. This includes major freight lanes, intermodal hubs and port cities.
  2. Where the product originates will most likely be the starting point for thieves to plan their hijacking. Cargo thieves will look for moments of weakness when striking. This includes leaving a truck in an open area where it is difficult to tell which driver is the operator of the vehicle.
  3. Thieves are becoming more sophisticated. They can quickly paint trailers and repower units with "legitimate" tractors.
  4. It takes multiple jurisdictions to apprehend cargo thieves.

Suggestions for cargo theft deterrence:

  1. Educate shippers and distribution center workers that freight information is not to be shared with people that do not have a stake in the load.
  2. Suspicious activity around trailers and distribution centers should be brought to the attention of law enforcement immediately.
  3. Drivers should always lock their tractor doors and remove the keys whenever they leave their units, even at the fuel islands.
  4. Have distinctive markings on your trailers that make them easy to spot and unattractive to thieves.
  5. Have a plan in place for dealing with cargo theft that includes knowing which law enforcement agency to contact for different types of shipments.
  6. Have a relationship with a cargo theft prevention/recovery service such as CargoNet, a HUB Transportation partner. 

Cargo thieves are diligent in their pursuit of your goods. It takes just as much diligence to fight against it. Read Leading Insights to Reduce Cargo Theft to find out practical ways to implement safety measures for your fleet.

Contact a HUB Transportation advisor