A Thriving Black Market Keeps Cargo Thieves in Business


Cargo theft has been around for centuries, from robbers attacking merchants on trading roads to pirates seizing ships at sea to bandits on horseback robbing stagecoaches. Unfortunately, crime has evolved along with cargo transportation methods. Trucks have replaced horse-drawn carriages, and today's bandits are organized into international crime syndicates.


The global economic crisis has increased worldwide demand for black market goods. In the United States, where an estimated $30 billion in cargo is stolen annually, cargo thieves are sophisticated, organized, and, knowledgeable.


Food products such as meat and produce have become primary targets due to their ease of fencing and difficulty tracing.

Understanding the way cargo thieves plan and accomplish their attacks can help shippers protect themselves against such crimes. Methods vary in sophistication and execution, but here are some common strategies criminals use to attack truck shipments.


  • Cargo thieves target goods they can easily sell through a "fence," or a person who knowingly buys stolen property to resell. They gather information on packing and processing facilities where such items are shipped from, and then set up surveillance positions outside the facilities to monitor shipping operations, in particular the use of trucks.

  • In the most basic method of theft the thieves will steal a legitimate carriers’ identity, take a load from and unsuspecting shipper or broker, then send in their own truck to steal the load.

  • In a more sophisticated scenario, the thieves not only steal the identity of a legitimate carrier and then accept a load from a shipper or broker, but they also steal the identity of a legitimate broker and then broker the load to an unsuspecting legitimate carrier. After the load is picked by the unsuspecting carrier, the thieves re-route the carrier to warehouse to offload and sell the goods.


How to Prevent Cargo Theft

Companies can take a number of actions to improve facility and vehicle security. From implementing security devices and technologies, creating common-sense security practices, to choosing the right shipping partners.



Watch for signs that your facility's operation is under surveillance, such as vehicles parked outside or within view of the facility; individuals holding cameras or taking notes outside your facility; unauthorized personnel inside the facility or walking the perimeter; or vehicles (usually mini-vans or SUVs, especially those with two or more occupants) that appear to be following your drivers.



Cargo theft is often perpetrated with inside help. Rigorous pre-employment screening will help weed out those most likely to steal merchandise or work in tandem with others to defraud you.



GPS tracking tools can help determine a stolen vehicle's location, and geofencing solutions send a security alarm if a vehicle travels outside a prescribed route or enters high-risk areas.



Make sure you work with a broker that has a rigorous carrier selection process. Ask to see a copy, if they cannot provide you with one that’s a red flag. A good broker will also have gps and geofencing technology available upon request.
These technologies provide load specific security enabling both the broker and shipper visibility into the trucks movements, temperature, g force measurement due to sharp turns or quick deceleration, and real time alerts if a
truck moves out of route.


If you have experienced cargo theft in the past or are in a high-risk industry give us a call.  We can go over procedures and technologies we have implemented with many of our shippers to help reduce their risk for theft.




Managing Member

Columbia Fresh Transportation Services

Call now to find out what Columbia Fresh Transportation Services can do for your business


CALL 800-873-1236   FAX 503-477-6121   E-MAIL

ADDRESS Columbia Fresh Transportation Services, 4931 SW 76th Ave #368, Portland, OR 97225