How Truck Drivers can Prevent Cargo Theft

Phil Cohen

Being a trucker is already a dangerous job. Drivers face the road alone, often in harsh weather conditions, for weeks at a time. But a new trend is making things worse: cargo theft.

What is cargo theft?

Cargo theft is when merchandise being hauled by any commercial shipping method is stolen between its point of origin and its final destination.

While some considered cargo theft a trend, the FBI says it’s not going away any time soon– they report as much as $30 billion is lost every year. Data suggests cargo thieves go after loads that contain cigarettes, pharmaceuticals, computer or electronic products and fruits, vegetables and nuts. These products either fetch high prices on the black market or don’t have RFID numbers, making the stolen property hard to track.

The FBI is working to actively prevent cargo theft by adding police in high-activity areas, such as Miami, El Paso, Chicago, New York and Memphis. Cracking down on cargo crime not only cuts down on actual theft but helps prevent more serious crimes. Cargo thieves are more often than not involved in other sorts of illegal activity, such as money laundering and organized crime.

3 easy ways truckers can prevent cargo theft

1. Pay attention

The most important thing truck drivers can do to protect themselves from cargo theft is pay attention to their surroundings. It sounds obvious, but keeping your eyes peeled for odd things can save your life and your cargo.

If you’re on the road, keep a close eye on your mirrors. If you notice a car is following you, even after several nonsensical turns, call the police and your fleet. If you are near a gas station, police station or any other location that is well lit, pull in. Park where someone can see you and call for help.

Be aware while your truck is parked, too. There are several truck stops that have surveillance cameras pointed towards the parking lots – take advantage of that. Keep your truck in sights of the cameras. If something happens, the footage may be able to capture the license plate or face of the cargo thieves.

Invest in a padlock or other security measure to protect your load even more. It may cost you a few bucks, but its worth it to ensure your valuable contents make it to their destination – and that you get paid.

Even when you and your cargo make it to your destination, you still face a threat of cargo theft. Verify your drop-off time with the exact source. Don’t accept approval from someone who isn’t directly dealing with your transaction. Cargo thieves occasionally work within the shipping facility and will steal product from another employee’s deal.

2. Understand your load’s threat level

Another way to prevent cargo theft is by understanding the theft potential of different loads. If you’re carrying something that is considered high-risk (electronics, food and beverage) consider taking routes in which you can avoid high-crime areas.

If you work for a fleet, consider talking to management about placing tracking equipment on your high-value loads. If that’s something the company isn’t willing to purchase, ask them instead to provide you and the other drivers in your fleet with kingpins, locks and other security items.

3. Communicate

If you ever feel unsafe, communicate with those around you. Law enforcement is supposed to work with you. If you’re being followed, feel uncomfortable around certain areas or need to report something strange, call the police. Even if it turns out to be a false alarm, it’s better to have called them than taken the risk of not. Police are looking to truckers for help catching cargo thieves and identifying their work patterns.

If you work for a fleet and think they are not doing enough to prevent cargo theft, talk to upper management and try to adjust your protocol. Working with a company is supposed to provide you with benefits and opportunities working alone does not. There are a lot of low-cost ways your company can better protect the loads it carries and drivers who carry them.

If you are an owner-operator that works alone, make sure to speak frequently with family and law enforcement. Let them know where you are, what you have and where it is going. If something happens along the way, you have phone records to back up your claims.

Funding your safety

Buying technology or equipment to stay safe may be expensive at first, but in the long run, it saves your company money and gives drivers peace of mind.

If you or your company needs more working capital to purchase safety equipment, transportation factoring can help. Use the money for padlocks and tracking devices to make sure your cargo gets to its desired destinations. Use it to repair trucks so that they don’t break down on the road or in bad areas where cargo theft is prominent. Just pick the right truck factoring company to fit your needs and start funding your safety.

Preventing cargo theft does require some preparation. Taking these extra precautions may take some getting used to, but soon enough it will become second nature.

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Phil Cohen

Phil is the owner of PRN Funding and sister company Factor Finders. He has been an authority in the factoring industry for over 20 years, serving on the board of directors for several factoring associations.


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