FreightWatch says cargo theft incidents on the rise but loss values dipping

By Land Line staff | 5/17/2016

Reported incidents of cargo theft were up, but the average loss value of stolen merchandise fell dramatically compared to the same time frame in 2015, according to the latest report from FreightWatch International.

From January to March, the company recorded 221 incidents of cargo theft in the U.S., with an average loss value per incident of $112,467, according to a report issued on Tuesday. Those numbers represent an 8 percent increase in volume and 56 percent decrease in value compared to the same quarter in 2015. The numbers also represent a 13 percent spike in thefts but a 13 percent dip in loss values compared to October-December 2015.

FreightWatch, which specializes in tracking supply chain information and cargo thefts around the globe, also publishes quarterly reports in addition to an annual report on cargo theft. The report notes that delays in incident reporting typically cause measurable increases in theft volumes in the weeks following the quarterly reports, and that totals from the most recent quarter are expected to rise. FreightWatch’s practice is to use updated theft numbers from past quarters when comparing them to current three-month totals.

Food and Beverages dominated in terms of theft by product, accounting for one in every five loads reported stolen. Home and Garden loads represented 14 percent of all reported thefts, and Building and Industrial loads represented 13 percent.

The report notes that several product types experienced elevated theft volume during the most recent quarter when compared to last year, including industrial loads and equipment.

“As the oil and gas industry continues to suffer its deepest downturn since the 1990s, profits and earnings continue to fall causing companies to decommission heavy construction vehicles resulting in a plethora of associated industrial equipment and supplies to stand idle and vulnerable to theft,” the report stated.

California remains the top state for cargo theft, with 21 percent of all reported thefts occurring in the Golden state. Texas came in second with 15 percent of total reported thefts, followed by Florida (14 percent), New Jersey (13 percent) and Georgia (7 percent).

Theft of full truckload remains the most prevalent method of cargo theft, accounting for 83 percent of all reported thefts. The report states that the most prevalent location for cargo thefts continues to be unsecured parking, identified in 89 percent of all incidents in which a location was declared.

Each report also spotlights a key segment or trend in cargo theft. In the latest report, FreightWatch focuses on nut theft, using data compiled from 2014 and 2015. Within the Food and Beverage category, nuts have the highest average loss value at $183,749 per load, and accounted for 9 percent of the total thefts of that category over the last two years. The report also notes that fictitious pickup scams account for nearly half of the reported nut thefts, suggesting that organized criminal elements may be targeting the loads, due to their value.

FreightWatch says factors like high requirements for insurance or team drivers, coupled with the unique geography of nut producers make it easier for thieves to identify and target the loads.

The rash of tree nut thefts spurred California lawmakers into action. In April, Land Line reported on a bill in the California Assembly that would create a task force to set up a program to combat tree nut industry theft.

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