The Texas Legislature has reached agreement on a bill to stiffen punishment for truck, rail or container cargo thieves.
Senate lawmakers voted 29-2 to sign off on changes to a bill to establish cargo theft as a specific offense and impose escalating fines and punishment based on the value of goods. The House previously approved SB1828 by unanimous consent. As a result, the bill now moves to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.
Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, has said that cargo theft by organized crime rings has become a very serious problem in the state, as well as nationwide. She put the losses to the state at $23 million between 2012 and 2014.
“Cargo theft is a growing problem nationwide accounting for an estimated loss of $10 billion to $25 billion per year nationwide,” Zaffirini said during recent discussion on the Senate floor. “Because we have one of the busiest ports of entry in the country, Texas is especially vulnerable to this growing problem.”
According to FreightWatch International, in 2013 Texas ranked behind only California in the number of cargo thefts. Florida, Georgia and Illinois rounded out the top five.
Offenders would face felony charges that range from six months behind bars for loads valued at a minimum of $1,500 to as much as life in prison for loads valued at more than $200,000. Any damage to the truck or trailer would also be included in the value of the load.
The bill defines offenders as anyone who “knowingly or intentionally conducts, promotes, or facilitates an activity” involving the receipt, possession, concealment, storage, barter, sale, abandonment or disposal of stolen cargo.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association supports the bill.
Mike Matousek, OOIDA director of state legislative affairs, has said cargo theft is a significant problem for everyone involved in the movement of goods, including owner-operators.
“When an owner-operator becomes the victim of cargo theft, which can also include the theft of their tractor and trailer, it can be financially and emotionally devastating,” Matousek said.
He also points out that not only is cargo theft bad for truckers, it is bad for consumers and the economy.
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