Pilfering is on the rise

The damage of cargo thefts often far exceeds the actual value of the goods – because they threaten delays in the supply chains. The approaches from country to country and continent to continent differ in the details, however the principle remains the same: Criminals who are after valuable truck cargo scout out suitable trucks at highway parking lots or truck stops. Then they strike at night, either quietly and in secret or with violence. In Germany for example, tarp slashers are frequently on the move: They drive a small truck with an open sliding side door up to the parked trucks, cut a small slit in the tarp and inspect – often using electronic endoscopes – the freight. If the haul looks worthwhile, the slit is enlarged, the stolen goods are unloaded lightning-quick, and taken away. The sleeping truckers usually don’t even realize that their cargo has been stolen – there’s simply too much noise at the highway rest stops. Whether committed in that fashion or differently, cargo thefts have been growing into an increasing problem for years for freight carriers, but also for the senders and recipients of the goods. In 2016 alone, the Transport Asset Protection Association (TAPA) documented 2,611 thefts of goods in transit in Europe, Africa, and Middle East. This is an increase of more than 70 percent compared with 2015. And that number only reflects the cases reported to TAPA – the real figure is likely to be significantly higher. Especially since the statistics have many sources of error – in some EU countries, the theft of truck cargo, for example, is not recorded as a separate category.

Nearly 70,000 euros’ worth of goods

Accordingly, the data recorded by TAPA are to be viewed with caution. Nevertheless, the fact is alarming that 90 percent of the cases are spread over six statistically and crucially leading countries: The United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Russia, and Italy. As far as what’s been recorded, the value of the stolen goods amounts to nearly 70,000 euros on average per theft. Last year there were 87 instances of violence of the threat of violence, or 3.4 percent of all cases. However, these methods are much more common in countries such as Mexico or the United States. Parked trucks are particularly at risk. In 40.7 percent of cases, the perpetrators stole the goods from trucks in unguarded parking lots. In 2016, the thieves mainly preferred food and beverages for their theft. At 10.6 percent of the cases, this group of goods makes up the largest portion of all thefts.

Supply chain disruption

“Germany and Britain are Europe’s leading nations in transportation theft,” says TAPA Europe Chairman Thorsten Neumann. However, as I said, it is important to be aware that data from many countries cannot be collected. Even given the inaccuracies, the damage, however, is great: Neumann puts the value of the goods that are made off with every year at 1.2 billion euros. “The real economic damage is five to eight times as high.” He is referring to indirect effects such as the fact that cargo theft disrupts the supply chain and at times can cause production losses for “just in time” strategies. To what extent the statistical problems can be remedied by improved data availability in the future, may remain undecided, however this much is true: Each cargo theft is one too many. One preventive measure, however, is for example the supply chain management platform Resilience360 from DHL, which is also available to external customers. “In our situation center, current reports are evaluated and trends in cargo theft are analyzed in terms of their geographical location and particularly in terms of the affected industries. Such an early warning system can help to better evaluate transport routes and minimize risks such as loss of goods or brand damage, says Mirko Woitzik, risk analyst at Resilience 360 from DHL.

Author: Michael Wayand

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