Trucking industry officials say cargo theft leads to billions of dollars in losses per year for Canadian businesses-and for consumers
Photo Credit: Chuck Stoody-Canadian Press

“Huge” but little publicized problem of cargo theft

Cargo theft has been around since the moment goods were sent from one location to another, from pirates at sea, to bandits holding up coaches.

Large trucks however are now the most common method of shipping goods across the land, and are vulnerable to theft. Trucking is a 65-billion dollar industry in Canada

Recently a trailer with 18 tonnes of meat from a shipping yard in Ancaster, near Hamilton Ontario, was stolen.  This shows that its no longer just high value, easily re-sold goods such as electronics, that are targeted for theft.

It was also just the latest in what is an enormous problem.

Jennifer Fox, vice president, trade and security, of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, said it’s a “huge, huge” problem. “We had one insurer say it was a $5-billion problem in Canada. I actually think that’s an understatement of how prevalent the problem is.”

Additionally, Fox said, reporting on the phenomenon is inconsistent in Canada. Trucking companies often choose not to report suspected incidents of cargo theft because they fear a hike in their insurance premiums.

Moreover, trucking companies don’t want to make losses public as that would reduce client confidence and suggest that that the companies security measures are somehow inadequate.

FreightWatch International, a logistical security service which works to reduce cargo crime, recorded that theft incidents in Canada rose 18 percent between 2011 and 2012. Canadian cargo thefts are typically centred around metropolitan areas. Peel Region in Ontario is considered the cargo theft capital of North America.

Canadian cargo thefts are typically centred around metropolitan areas. Peel Region in Ontario is considered the cargo theft capital of North America.

The CTA and other stakeholders sponsored a study a couple of years ago which suggested that organized crime was behind most of the thefts.

She said usually this type of crime requires a network with lots of organizing and planning, with large places to hide the vehicles and buyers ready for the goods.

Hamilton police echoed that statement saying in many cases buyers are ready before the merchandise is stolen.

Cargo theft can occur in freight marshaling yards, carrier/terminal lots, truck stops, and warehouses.

Infiltrating companies through identity theft is a common method used. For example, a cargo thief will fraudulently assume the identity of a carrier and make what seems to be a legitimate pickup of cargo at a dock or shipyard; any suspicion of the theft is not raised until the load fails to arrive at its intended destination or the actual carrier arrives looking to pick up the load.

In combatting what is often perceived as a ‘victimless” crime, authorities are encouraging the increased use of technology to identify and track cargos and vehicles, and implementing stricter verification of drivers and credentials.

Police and those in the industry say that sales of stolen goods end up financing other illegal activities, and in the end it is the consumer who pays one way or another to make up for the losses, usually through increased prices for products.

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