As the U.S. supply chain struggles to keep up with the increasing demand for goods, cargo theft has become a growing concern across the country. According to experts, food and beverage products are currently at the top of the list of targeted items by freight thieves, contributing to the already elevated inflation environment and putting further pressure on consumers.
Scott Cornell, a transportation lead and crime and theft specialist at insurance provider Travelers, explained that during the financial downturn in 2008, there was a shift towards thefts of food and beverage products, which remained prevalent until the end of 2019. However, in 2020, with many people staying at home due to the pandemic, the target shifted towards household goods, and in 2021, electronic theft became more common due to shortages resulting from remote work and schooling.
To combat cargo theft, Travelers’ special investigations group has been working with law enforcement agencies since 2011. The group uses high-tech sting trailers equipped with hidden cameras and GPS tracking devices to capture thieves and has recovered over $85 million in stolen goods. However, Cornell explained that thieves are becoming more sophisticated, and with the rise of remote work and technology, it has become easier for them to assume the name of a trucking company and submit false paperwork to get assigned a load.
Freight thieves often monitor the movement of trucking companies around distribution centers and then pretend to be that company to pick up and disappear with the load. With the ability to conduct surveillance remotely, they can stay at arm’s length and avoid detection. This trend highlights the need for increased security measures across the supply chain and for trucking companies to be vigilant in verifying the identity of individuals picking up their loads.
Overall, the surge in cargo theft, particularly in the food and beverage sector, is a concerning development that is likely to continue until effective measures are put in place to combat it.