top of page
September 4, 2020

Protecting Cargo from Thieves this Labor Day Weekend

Cargo theft typically increases over Labor Day weekend because thieves see an opportunity, says Scott Cornell of Travelers Insurance. He recently shared insights on how truckers can keep their freight and assets safe this holiday weekend. 

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have brought new challenges to the supply chain, and the protection of cargo assets has become an even greater necessity for the trucking industry. Scott Cornell, transportation lead, crime and theft specialist at Travelers Insurance, shares insight on how to protect assets during Labor Day Weekend.

According to Cornell, cargo theft typically increases over Labor Day weekend because thieves see an opportunity: They have an extra day or two to disappear with stolen freight before people return to work and realize the loss.

“We anticipate that some big factors this year will be the struggling economy; recent natural disasters, including Hurricane Laura and the wildfires in the Western U.S.; and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” stated Cornell. “It is difficult to determine, however, how these factors will impact the amount of cargo theft, the types of things that are stolen, or both.

“What we do know is that Labor Day weekend falls at the beginning of what we consider the fourth-quarter bump – another time when cargo theft generally increases,” Cornell added. “Although September falls within the third quarter, it is a time when Christmas cargo is moving to warehouses and distribution centers – one of the reasons we see electronics in the top spot for theft during the Labor Day week, according to CargoNet’s latest trend report.”

CargoNet, a network that uses case management and analytic functions that enhance the effectiveness of cargo theft task forces, analyzed theft trends from the Thursday before Labor Day to the Wednesday after Labor Day from 2014 to 2019.

CargoNet recorded 161 theft events across the United States and Canada between 2014-2019. There were 202 trucks, trailers, chassis, and containers stolen. While theft events were highest in California, Texas, and New Jersey; but theft events occurred in 28 states and provinces. According to CargoNet, theft activity most occurred on the Friday before Labor Day. Labor Day 2014 had the most activity in this analysis period, with 34 thefts while Labor Day 2019 also reported above-average levels of activity, with 31 thefts.

Electronics such as computers and televisions were the most stolen items, but cargo thieves follow market demands. This year, CargoNet's analysts expect targeting of food and beverage commodities like meat products and beer, as well as medical supplies like gloves and masks.

“That said,” Cornell added. “The recent weather events will likely drive demand for building materials and household goods, too. Memorial Day and the Fourth of July this year played out as we expected them to because whenever there is an economic downturn, cargo theft for food and beverage tends to spike. CargoNet’s second-quarter report found that to be the case; food and beverage shipments were targeted most often, followed by household goods and electronics.”

CargoNet calculated the collective theft amounts from previous Labor Day weekends:

  • $5,700,000 in cell phones from a warehouse in New Castle, Del.

  • $1,500,000 in Airsoft equipment from a warehouse in Irwindale, Calif. (recovered)

  • $1,000,000 in silver from a port in Montreal, Qué.

  • $800,000 in cell phones from a truck stop in Jackson, Tenn.

  • $560,000 in laptops from a secured yard in Ontario, Calif. (recovered)

What actions can be taken to mitigate theft risks? Cornell recommends a three-tiered approach to guarding against cargo theft, whether it’s Labor Day or any other day of the year.

“First, educate drivers, shippers and freight brokers to better recognize threats – especially when drivers are hauling highly targeted commodities like food and beverage, electronics, building materials and household goods,” Cornell said. “Make sure they know the procedures to guard against areas of vulnerability, such as protecting the seals on the back doors of trucks.”

Secondly, Cornell suggests using hard-locking devices for security to protect the rear doors, but don’t consider that enough.

“Thieves are savvy, which brings us to the third tactic: adding technology,” Cornell added. “This could include covert tracking to recover a stolen load and digital seals with built-in locks for an extra layer of protection. These tools may have been cost-prohibitive in the past, but they are becoming more affordable as the technologies advance.”

With the holiday weekend right around the corner, Cornell added an extra piece of advice:

“One thing I would add is to stress our usual advice of limiting – or, better yet, eliminating – staged loads,” Cornell said. “Staging makes cargo particularly vulnerable. If you must stage a load, secure it as much as you possibly can.” 

Source: American Trucker

bottom of page