Cargo and vehicle theft is increasing. Here’s how to prevent it.

Posted 25 Oct 2023

Across the US, theft of cargo is increasing. In 2023, CargoNet reported a 57% YOY increase in total thefts. The FBI estimates that these thefts cost trucking companies and retailers up to $30 billion a year. And it isn’t just the US that is affected. In the UK, it is estimated that freight crime costs the economy about £250 million a year. 

Of course, not all of that freight is stolen from vehicles. But plenty of it is. And we haven’t even considered the theft of vehicles themselves. Whilst theft of commercial vehicles is less common than personal vehicle theft, it still happens, and it still costs money to put right. Last (and, to be fair, probably least) is the issue of unauthorized use. Cargo theft is theft, whether employees are involved or not, but whilst unauthorized use of vehicles might be seen as less of a problem, it still costs your business money. 

So what be done to prevent theft?

Technology can help. And just as with any form of crime, security cameras can help. They are both a deterrent (the mere presence of cameras puts off the majority of potential criminals) and can help investigate crimes of fraud and theft after they happen. 

Of course, many commercial vehicles are already fitted with cameras. Unfortunately, however, these tend to be simple forward and driver-facing cameras designed to provide minimum compliance and minimum protection when it comes to fleet safety management. And whilst they do this job, to an extent, these solutions are almost useless when it comes to preventing fraud and theft.  

Connected 360° cameras

What is required, quite obviously, is a more sophisticated security camera system, specifically one that meets the following three criteria: 

  • It covers the areas of the vehicle, including internal areas, where incidents of theft or fraud normally take place. This can include the internal load area of a commercial vehicle, but also any side and rear doors that may be used. Cameras should also cover trailers, not just the vehicle itself. 
  • Security cameras are connected to a central platform to which data is uploaded automatically. Taking out a camera doesn’t take out the system, and incidents are automatically flagged when they occur – for retrieval, analysis, or indeed acting in the moment to prevent what is happening. 
  • Rather than having to run continuously (which often isn’t possible), cameras can be triggered based on events (such as doors opening, or simply motion), meaning they automatically capture what needs to be captured, rather than hours of footage of no interest. 

A system like this can’t eliminate all incidents of theft of course. But it can certainly help, and it will definitely improve a business’s chances of successfully prosecuting those thefts that do occur. It is also worth remembering that on that basis, it can also reduce insurance premiums. But cameras aren’t the whole story. 

The role of telematics

We’re used to thinking of telematics as a way to improve the efficiency of fleet operations. However, a telematics platform can also be used to prevent theft (of both vehicles and cargo) and stop unauthorized use of vehicles.  

Most obviously, the ability to track vehicles using GPS, and share that location with a central fleet management platform, gives your organization the ability to know precisely where your vehicles are at any moment in time – and where they have been. Unscheduled stops can be related to cargo theft (even theft you might otherwise find hard to detect, such as siphoning off oil, foam, etc) or simply represent unauthorized use of the vehicle. Either way, you are now empowered to take action and stop it from happening in the future. 

Going further, GPS geo-fencing can prevent the operation of vehicles outside of specific areas entirely. Again, this prevents both vehicle and cargo theft (whether it involves employees or outside agents), and used alongside a single fleet-management platform, it can immediately alert fleet managers when it appears that theft or unauthorized use has been attempted.  

One final word. An integrated camera and telematics platform is not just about preventing crime. Indeed, the benefits relating to fleet safety, accident prevention, and general operational efficiency almost certainly outweigh those we’ve talked about above. Many fleets will already have invested in this area, or be looking to do so. When you do – think about theft and fraud as well, and ensure you install a system that does every job you need it to do. 

Our team at CameraMatics would be happy to help of course. Drop us a line