Check out our new regional news and events section, and sign up for updates!

National Insurance Crime Bureau

Cargo Theft

Cargo Theft: A $15 to $35 Billion Problem

Cargo theft in the United States is a $15 to $35 billion industry. Depending on what’s inside the truck, thieves can walk away with thousands to millions of dollars. Unfortunately, this kind of crime, more often than not, does not lead to many arrests and convictions.

Cargo Theft

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, cargo is the “criminal taking of any cargo including, but not limited to, goods, chattels, money, or baggage that constitutes, in whole or in part, a commercial shipment of freight moving in commerce, from any pipeline system, railroad car, motor truck, or other vehicle, or from any tank or storage facility, station house, platform, or depot, or from any vessel or wharf, or from any aircraft, air terminal, airport, aircraft terminal or air navigation facility, or from any intermodal container, intermodal chassis, trailer, container freight station, warehouse, freight distribution facility, or freight consolidation facility.”

Data compiled by the NICB showed in 2017, there were 8,676 cargo vehicle thefts reported, or about 24 thefts every day. Most occur on weekdays, with Monday and Friday being the most significant days for these thefts, totaling 6,752. Saturdays and Sundays accounted for 1,924 such thefts.

While thefts occur in nearly every state, a few stand out as the biggest targets for cargo theft. The top 10 states are:

1.   California (1,770)                         6.   Georgia (438)
2.   Texas (1,255) 7.   Alabama (214)
3.   Florida (921) 8.   North Carolina (204)
4.   Illinois (712) 9.   Indiana (192)
5.   New Jersey (468) 10. Missouri (181)


Companies that lose product due to theft face the cost of the lost load and effort of recovery and increased insurance premiums and deductibles.

But the problem with cargo theft isn’t necessarily the amount of what is stolen, but what is stolen. Common targets include food, beverages, and pharmaceuticals. Unfortunately, those stealing such products don’t care about expiration dates. As a result, consumers could be getting expired food or drugs, both with potentially terminal impacts. 

In 2016, a theft of a truck carrying beef was intercepted on its way to a black-market sale to a restaurant in Dallas, Texas. Stolen food and drugs are often sold online to small “mom-and-pop” shops placing unsuspecting customers at risk. 

To limit the impact of such theft on your transportation company, the NICB recommends organizations to:

  1. Screen employees. Conduct a background check to screen all employees, including drivers, warehouse employees, and those with access to the shipping information.
  2. Train employees. Provide security training for all employees making certain to educate truck drivers in hijack awareness and prevention. Training safeguards the employee, trailer, tractor, cargo, and customers.  
  3. Be smart in selecting transportation partners. Check partners before hiring. Make certain they share your security philosophy, such as conducting background checks and employee training. 
  4. Implement in-transit security measures. Cargo theft can be pre-planned or opportunistic. It could also include an inside informant who follows the truck ultimately leading to organized crime or fence to quickly dispose of the goods on the truck. Thieves will often wait outside known shipping facilities waiting for drivers to stop. A good practice is to not stop within the first 200 miles and park in known secure locations and avoid hot spots. 
  5. Keep a vigilant eye. Include countersurveillance in the duties of your security guards. Trucks and cargo are most vulnerable to theft when sitting idle. 
  6. Take advantage of technology. Install alarm surveillance systems and respond to all alerts. Ensure the perimeter, entrances, building doors, and windows are well lit. Vehicle and cargo tracking, immobilizers, and advanced security seals are available. 
  7. Conduct audits. Conduct supply chain audits and look for gaps in shipment protection. Cargo criminals are always coming up with new ways to defeat security systems.


More Resources

Cargo Theft Brochure
National Commercial Vehicle and Cargo Theft Prevention Task Force

Report Fraud

If you suspect fraud activities, contact NICB.

  1. Call 800.TEL.NICB (800.835.6422)
  2. Submit a form online.