Cargo Theft Trends Surge in Second Quarter of 2023

September 12, 2023

In a concerning trend, the second quarter of 2023 has witnessed a significant spike in cargo theft incidents across the United States and Canada, according to data reported by CargoNet. In comparison to the same period in 2022, there has been a staggering 57% increase in recorded cargo theft events, totaling 582 incidents.

One notable driver behind this surge is the prevalence of shipment misdirection attacks, a form of strategic cargo theft. In these attacks, perpetrators employ stolen motor carrier and logistics broker identities to divert freight from its intended destination, ultimately enabling them to steal it. This tactic has played a pivotal role in the rise of cargo theft.

During the second quarter of 2023, cargo thieves made off with over $44 million in stolen shipments, representing a considerable financial loss for the industry. Disturbingly, the average value of each theft event increased substantially, rising nearly $100,000 to reach an average of $260,703 per theft. This uptick in value reflects the tendency of cargo thieves to target high-value shipments.

Additionally, the theft of loaded conveyances, such as full trailers, experienced a 17% year-over-year increase during this period. These types of thefts were most prevalent in states like California, Texas, Florida, and Illinois.

Notably, the report highlights that regional activity around New York City and Philadelphia also exhibited significance in the context of cargo theft. Although burglary of loaded conveyances saw a slight year-over-year decrease, it remains a significant threat, especially for high-value shipments traveling along the I-40 corridor through Arizona, California, and New Mexico.

Extortion and theft by conversion schemes have witnessed notable growth, primarily driven by organized groups operating in Illinois and California. These groups focus on obtaining shipments from logistics brokers and subsequently impose additional and often exorbitant fees for various reasons. These fees may include overweight tickets or penalties supposedly charged to non-affiliated motor carriers. This complex and relatively rare form of criminal enforcement has emboldened these organized groups, making them a growing concern in cargo theft.

Furthermore, CargoNet reported an increase of 127 fictitious pickups year-over-year. These fraudulent pickups were most commonly reported in the Los Angeles Metro Area but were observed throughout the continental United States.

Several counties stood out due to their specific local industries, including Maricopa County, Arizona, Travis County, Texas, Chambers County, Texas, and DeKalb County, Georgia.

Fictitious pickup groups targeted shipments across 39 different product categories during the second quarter of 2023. Their primary focus, however, remained on a select group of freight types, including alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, solar power energy generation equipment, and various automobile supplies such as auto parts, fluids, oils, and tires.

Preventing fictitious cargo pickups necessitates vigilance on the part of logistics brokers and shippers. They can verify bids on shipments with the motor carrier through contact information on file with the FMCSA, ensuring that the motor carrier's name and driver match the shipment's intended recipient. Motor carriers should exercise caution when dealing with new customers requesting the transport of blind shipments to alternative addresses, particularly if those addresses are public warehouses or cross docks in California.

As cargo theft continues to evolve, industry stakeholders must remain vigilant and proactive in safeguarding their shipments against these growing threats.