Inside Disruption Blog

Trucking Cargo Theft Prevention Tips

Oscar Villanueva
July 29, 2020




Keep Yourself and Your Cargo Safe

By Oscar Villanueva

Managing Director of Security Services & Crisis Preparedness at R3 Continuum



The global trucking industry is essential to the success of commerce in every country and an indispensable supply chain for most companies. The success of the trucking industry means that truckers are often entrusted with valuable cargo of all types and as a result, truckers become a target of theft, often targeted by organized groups. The main purpose of cargo theft is resale of the items stolen, which is often a very profitable undertaking.


There are several ways cargo theft takes place, from minor incidents where a few items are taken to hijacking or outright theft of the entire rig. One of the most common ways cargo is stolen occurs in parking lots when trucks are left insecure. This occurs because of lack of secure parking areas at truck stops and overnight storage locations. There is also an insider threat component to this issue. Trucking company employees and others working within the supply chain can also participate in theft attacks with insider knowledge collaboration.


Unfortunately, there is no solid and consistent tracking of cargo theft from trucks. The statistics that do exist are often not representative of the entire industry and the scope of the problem. However, some news on this type of crime can illustrate the problem. A 2018 news report from the FBI in Indiana describes the dismantling of a very active and organized crime group with ties to the Cuban mob in Miami. This group was responsible for the theft of entire tractor-trailers full of cargo. A dozen defendants from this Kentucky-based group were convicted of more than $30 million in losses from 2012 to 2015. The thefts occurred all over the United States with the suspects following the vehicles for long distances and often committing the crimes at truck or rest stops along the route.



What you need to know to prevent cargo theft


 An October 2019 article by American Trucker on this issue includes several excellent ways to prevent cargo theft from trucks. These tips include:


  • Use high-security locks while cargo is staged. King pin locks and landing gear locks are recommended along with high-security locks on the cargo doors. When tractors are married to trailers, air cuff locks should be employed.
  • Communicate consistently with dispatch. Drivers should maintain communication with dispatch during stops at high-risk areas, such as truck stops and rest areas. They should inform dispatch of the address of the stop, duration of the stop, and how long they will be away from the truck/cargo. Drivers should always have their cell phones when away from the load.
  • Keep moving because cargo at rest is cargo at risk. Define limits on how long a loaded trailer/container can remain unattended. Be aware of high-theft areas that could be part of a route. Limit the need for weekend transits to minimize loads being staged for extended time periods while waiting for weekday delivery.
  • Know where thefts are occurring. Focus on the “hot spots” and “hot times” near busy ports and their surrounding areas, with the highest rate of theft in the United States occurring in California, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, Florida, and Georgia. Thefts spike around the holidays and are also more frequent on weekends (particularly Saturdays) and late in the afternoon when drivers stop for food and rest.
  • Park in secure locations. Park vehicles in well-lit spaces and be alert to danger signals such as signs that a vehicle may be following you or paying undo attention to you (e.g., facilities that appear to be under criminal surveillance). Consider employing a security company or utilizing a parking lot with a security guard to control incoming and exiting traffic.
  • Use covert tracking devices. For high value/high target loads, use covert tracking devices that will enable geofencing during stops and tracking in the event of a theft. Employ theft prevention devices to disable fuel, hydraulic, and/or electrical systems.


These tips can be followed anywhere in the world to keep trucks and drivers safe. An additional prevention tip is to conduct a logistics security assessment to find gaps in security throughout the process including the transportation of goods via a truck.



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Oscar Villanueva

Managing Director of Security Services & Crisis Preparedness, Oscar

As a former federal security and law enforcement agent and executive, and now security consultant, Mr. Villanueva has led large scale high-performing security, law enforcement and training consulting missions and operations in several large metropolitan areas worldwide including in the U.S.A., Europe, Latin America, Asia, the Caribbean, and Africa. Oscar is bilingual in English and Spanish.

Mr. Villanueva is currently a member of ASIS International and the organization’s Crime Prevention Council. Oscar has also worked in the ASIS Professional Development Council, where he served as immediate past Chair of the Council's mentoring program. Mr. Villanueva is a Member of the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals (ATAP), and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP).