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Cargo Theft: Useful Tips for Companies and Staff Behind the Wheel

Billions of dollars’ worth of goods are transported on Europe’s roads every day, and theft is commonplace. The direct damage to companies as well as the economic costs of delays and loss of production are significant. This makes intelligent solutions, truck anti-theft systems, and proactive theft protection all the more important.

What is Cargo Theft? The Most Common Methods

More and more thieves are specializing in stealing cargo. This is particularly common from parked trucks in parking lots, service stations, and truck stops on highways or in industrial areas. The most common method of theft is to cut the truck’s tarpaulin, in which case the load is first inspected and then stolen. Thefts typically occur more frequently at night and during the darker months of fall, winter, and spring.

While electronics are the most popular targets, criminals also steal metal parts, food, and automotive parts. Pharmaceuticals are also increasingly in demand. Sometimes the entire truck is taken, or the diesel tank is pumped empty.

In addition to cutting the tarpaulin, there are also fraudulent scams: for example, criminals pretend to be employees of the recipient company. They may intercept the truck just before it reaches its destination and claim that the delivery destination has changed or that the load needs to be transferred to another truck on the spot. In the worst case, criminals stop the truck on the road and threaten the driver with violence.

How Serious Is the Situation? Cargo Theft Statistics 2023

Given the lack of official statistics on cargo theft, the extent of the incidents and the damage caused in Europe must be estimated primarily based on information provided by transport insurers. The most reliable data comes from Germany, which is representative in terms of cargo theft. This is not only because it is the most important European transit country for road freight, but also because the number of reported thefts here is higher than in other European countries. In 2023, however, other countries are likely to have had incident and loss rates very similar to Germany, despite lower reported numbers.

One Theft Every 20 Minutes

In Germany, thieves steal cargo from around 26,000 trucks every year. Statistically, this means that every 20 minutes a truckload is stolen. In recent years, one in six truck drivers in Germany has been a victim of theft.

The direct damage caused by cargo theft is estimated at 1.3 billion euros per year. On average, 50,000 euros are lost per one theft. On top of that, another 900 million euros is wasted through contractual penalties for late deliveries, through repair costs, as well as sales and production losses in trade and industry. Germany’s share of the Eurozone’s GDP is a good 25 percent. Based on a rough estimate of total losses in Germany of 2.2 billion euros, the damage in the entire EU is likely to exceed 8 billion euros.

Truck and Cargo Theft Prevention: How to Reduce the Risk

The risk of becoming a victim of truck or cargo theft can be reduced by being aware of the dangers and by making use of special truck anti-theft devices.

Tips for Drivers

The staff in the driver’s cab can make a valuable contribution to the safety of the load:

  • Leave the vehicle unattended as little as possible.
  • For breaks, choose well-lit and, if possible, guarded parking areas.
  • Inspect the vehicle and load after each stop.
  • If there are any deviations from the route or delivery address, notify the transport company immediately.
  • Do not discuss the route, destination, or load with strangers to avoid giving away information.
  • Under no circumstances should you pick up hitchhikers.

Tips for Transport Companies

Proper and safety-conscious driver behavior is one thing – doing everything possible as a company to ensure that the people behind the wheel and the cargo are not put at risk in the first place is another.

Key actions include:

  • Use only appropriate vehicles and security systems depending on the load and route. (See below for more on anti-theft solutions.)
  • Protect confidential information within the company.
  • Provide driver training on safety standards and technology.
  • Ensure consistent compliance with safety standards, including subcontractors.

Even the best proactive security management cannot prevent losses due to cargo theft. To be prepared for the worst, it is advisable for transport service providers to take out transport insurance that also covers theft losses.

Cargo Theft Solutions for Road Freight

At DHL Freight, we rely on a variety of security solutions to protect our cargo from theft:

  • Permanent GPS monitoring
  • Geofencing solution to instantly detect deviations from the specified route
  • Special security locks (padlocks) to prevent access to the load
  • Data-driven risk assessment for route planning
  • Software solutions that identify, for example, safe truck parking locations, detect theft hotspots, and provide alternative routes

Depending on the risk assessment and customer requirements, additional security measures may be considered. These include:

  • Fixed cargo boxes or reinforced tarpaulins
  • Alarm system with radio transmission for cargo and personnel
  • Two drivers

The More Valuable the Goods, the Greater the Care.

DHL Freight has developed special security standards for its corporate customers from the technology sector, who typically dispatch valuable goods that are highly sought after by criminals. For example, stops during transport are only permitted at secure rest areas and there are always two drivers in the cab. In addition, only TAPA-TSR-certified subcontractors are considered for transport assignments serving this industry.

TAPA Certification: Independent Confirmation of Effective Anti-Theft Protection

TAPA certification is proof of a company’s high security standards. The Transported Asset Protection Association (TAPA) is a global association of over 600 companies from the manufacturing, logistics, law enforcement, and related industries. The common goal is to create standards that improve supply chain security and reduce vulnerability to theft.

There are different types of security certificates. For logistics companies, for instance, the TAPA TSR (Trucking Security Requirements) is significant. The TAPA PSR (Parking Security Requirements) applies to operators of parking facilities. Any transport company that takes security seriously should be certified by TAPA.

Conclusion: Better Safe than Sorry

Theft on the road is as old as road transportation itself and will continue to plague the road freight industry. The damage to the economy, to consignors, and to transport logistics providers is considerable, but can be effectively mitigated through advanced technologies and solutions. At DHL Freight, we do everything we can to ensure that your goods reach their destination quickly, sustainably and, of course, safely. To achieve this, we develop security concepts that are precisely tailored to the transport and the goods being carried. Feel free to contact us if you have special security requirements.

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