How to Protect Your Supply Chain From Cargo Theft

Apr 12, 2023

The National Retail Federation (NRF) estimates organized retail crime to be a $100 billion per-year problem. With more than half of all cargo thefts occurring while shipments are in transit, ORC has emerged as a serious threat to everyday supply chain operations — regardless of industry or the size of your business.

Here’s what today’s leading logistics professionals are doing to reduce the risk of cargo theft.

Which Shipments Are Most At-Risk?

While no shipment is ever 100% free from all risk, some products and locations tend to result in higher theft rates:

  • Intermodal hubs are the top target for thieves. Products moving from truck to train or boat to truck see the most theft. California is considered the most dangerous state for intermodal losses with a staggering 41% increase in supply chain theft in 2022 (due in large part to its sheer number of ports involved in intermodal transit). The problem isn’t isolated to the west coast, of course — Georgia finds itself a hot target as well, reporting a 34% increase in the past year due to the busy Port of Savannah.
  • Household appliances and furniture were the most stolen products in 2022, followed by tools and toys, then electronics. California also noted increased theft of computer and green energy components in 2022, as it is the largest logistics hub for these items in the United States.
  • Food and beverage companies are seeing a particularly steep rise in cargo theft. The FBI recently reported losses of around $30 billion a year for the food and beverage industry.

The Rising Danger of Fictitious Pickups

You might hear more news in the months ahead concerning “fictitious pickups”, particularly around busy hubs near Chicago, South Florida, and Los Angeles. Fictitious pickups bring expensive losses to businesses, as they are a highly specialized form of cargo theft. Through a combination of document forgery and internet-based fraud, crime groups are able to store truckloads of goods for weeks at a time then sell them off safely without any notice.

Tips for Preventing Cargo Theft

Experts in security and logistics agree on the following best practices to ward off potential cargo theft:

  • Eliminate stops within 300 miles of origin sites. If drivers can eliminate unnecessary stops, they are less likely to experience theft while on the road.
  • Implement red zones. Similar to the above, instruct your drivers to avoid stray gravel parking lots that have low visibility or are unpopulated.
  • Increase human security in warehouses. Paying security guards to monitor warehouses 24/7 might seem like a high price to pay, but boosting a human security presence dramatically decreases the risk of theft — including theft from within your own organization.
  • Increase digital security. Use visibility technology to track cargo in real time. This helps prevent both internal theft as well as organized crime groups taking over cargo. Use geodata installed in trucks, trailers, and load alerts that trigger when a vehicle arrives or departs from a destination.
  • Use physical security devices. Use devices such as air cuff locks, landing gear locks on the trailer and locks on the rear door.
  • Be open about your security. While it’s not necessary, or even prudent, to make all the details of your security public, it is a good idea to let your employees and potential threats know shipments and storage spaces are being actively monitored.
  • Be vigilant on holidays. Major cities and transportation hubs see an increase in thefts over holidays. More thefts occur on Fourth of July weekend in In Texas, California, Florida and Tennessee than any other day of the year. Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving also tend to see a rise in thefts.
  • Work with a third-party logistics company. Choosing a 3PL with advanced security measures in place and experience dealing with the risk of cargo theft can alleviate the stresses surrounding cargo loss. Ask your 3PL provider what types of security they use, both physical and technological.

Choose a 3PL to Mitigate Cargo Theft

Learn more about the advanced security measures FCL employs to prevent cargo theft by contacting a First Call specialist today. We’d love to discuss how to better protect your business’ supply chain, both on the road and in the warehouse.

Simplify your Next Shipment with First Call Logistics

Building and managing cost-efficient supply chains is a full-time job. First Call’s rare combination of in-house assets, expert problem-solving and track record of stellar customer service makes us the 3PL of choice for business partners with a wide range of shipping needs.

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