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An Update on Red Zone truckload thefts

According to a new report from the industry trade group FreightWatch International, there were a total of 208 cargo thefts during the third quarter of 2014. While this represents a 20 percent decline from the same period last year, the average loss per cargo theft incident has skyrocketed 100 percent.

The Raw Data

Although the report lists eleven freight types, a full half of all stolen freight can be accounted for in just three:

  • Food / Drinks
  • Electronics
  • Home Garden

Of the three food and drink remained the most stolen item in the quarter with 35 thefts. Products that were targeted in this category included nuts, canned and dry goods.


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Electronics comprised the second most-stolen category with 33 thefts. Thieves targeted televisions, projectors, cell phones and accessories.

Home and garden came in third with 28 incidents. More than half of the thefts in this category were for home appliances.

Continuing a trend, four states accounted for over 60 percent of all reported thefts: California, Florida, Texas and New Jersey. California held the top spot with 42 thefts, representing over 21 percent of the total for all 50 states. Florida and Texas both had 33 thefts apiece and New Jersey came in last with 20 thefts.

The vast majority of incidents, 85 percent and 164 total, were for theft of trailer or container. Deceptive pickup and facility burglary tied for second with nine thefts each. Pharmaceutical loads (medication) carried the highest average value per stolen load, followed by electronics and alcohol and tobacco.

Red Zones

In the past three weeks there have been three “red zone” truckload thefts, according to FreightWatch. These incidents come in the wake of what FW says is an “unusually high rate of violations of best practices for in-transit security.”

Cargo defined as being within the red zone would be within 200 miles of the load’s origin.  The majority of thefts, including the three recent cases, occur within this zone.

The best way to safely avoid the red zone is to ensure that there is adequate time on the 14-hour clock and enough fuel to drive beyond it. If stops do need to be made within the red zone, there should be constant communication between the driver and over-watch service.

New Dangers

The dramatic increase in high-value theft can be directly attributed to new strategies and tools that thieves are using to carry out their crimes. Two recent studies point to potential trends.

On July 22 a tractor and trailer were stolen from a truck stop in Georgia, but were equipped with tracking devices. Evidence in the case reveals that the hijackers used two different jamming devices to interrupt the signal coming from the tracking devices.

This incident came just after another in Florida where two suspects were in possession of jamming equipment. These new jamming technologies present “a potential challenge to the theft recovery process and should be taken seriously,” FreightWatch says.

Though the increasing use of these devices may point to a trend, this technology is nothing new. There are ways to effectively mitigate the risk of theft.

Preventing Cargo Theft

By employing proven techniques and sound technologies the risk of cargo theft can be greatly reduced. Try utilizing such strategies as:

  • Park in well-lit heavily traveled areas
  • Avoid long-term parking at rest stops or highway shoulders
  • Don’t leave a load unattended at home
  • Limit talking about the load
  • Equip brake locks or fuel cut-offs
  • Employ the use of tracking devices

Remember to maintain near-constant situational awareness, whether the truck is at rest or not. With tailing drivers becoming an increasingly common concern, being able to recognize and respond to being followed is a crucial skill.

If one suspects they are being followed, remember these steps:

  1. Contact the home office
  2. Change speeds (slow down)
  3. Take the next exit
  4. Find a safe and secure location to park

If theft does occur, always try to report it within two hours of the incident. Statistics show that if the theft is reported within that timeframe the odds of recovery are better than 50 percent. Outside of two hours the odds drop to 25 percent.

Perhaps the most important thing a driver can do to prevent cargo theft is stay vigilant. One should always be cognizant of suspicious activity and employ proven techniques to safeguard the load. By always being alert and aware of the situation, the odds of safe passage for crew and cargo can be virtually guaranteed.

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