Cargo theft spiked over 57% in 2023 vs. 2022, new data shows

Cargo theft incidents were up more than 57% in 2023 compared with the year prior, according to CargoNet, a Verisk company.

“I think we’re at an all-time high. I haven’t seen cargo theft at this level,” Scott Cornell, the national practice transportation lead at Travelers, told CNBC.

Nearly $130 million worth of goods was stolen in 2023, but since reporting cargo theft is not mandatory, the amount is likely higher than this, according to CargoNet.

“Back in 2014, we were taking in 100 or so [reports] a month,” Keith Lewis, vice president of operations at CargoNet, told CNBC. “Now, we’re probably taking in about 220 plus a month of cargo theft events.”

CargoNet’s analysis of fourth-quarter 2023 data showed a 68% year-over-year increase compared with 2022.

“In the first 20 weeks of 2023, we saw 41% increase compared to the 20 weeks before that. It’s definitely accelerating,” Uber Freight CEO Lior Ron told CNBC.

Cargo theft refers to goods being stolen at any point in the transportation journey and incidents have reached unprecedented levels.

“More criminals are turning from traditional crime, [and] the reason why they’re attracted to cargo theft is it’s very, very low risk and very, very high reward,” said Barry Conlon, founder and CEO of Overhaul, a supply chain integrity solutions company.

CargoNet ranks California, Texas and Florida as the top three hot spots in 2023, but the risk isn’t limited to the coasts. More incidents are being reported at inland logistics hubs, including Louisville, Kentucky.

Smart technology

Companies are investing in preventative measures and new technologies, including digitally locking systems as well as telematics and real-time tracking.

“It’s a decade in the making,” Ron said of Uber Freight’s investment and development of product-level tracking.

“You want to make sure that you have visibility on all the assets between GPS connectivity, skew-level and palette-level connectivity,” Ron said.

CNBC went to Louisville, Kentucky, to get a closer look at Overhaul’s new smart door seal and how it works to prevent cargo theft at a fulfillment facility operated by Arvato, a supply chain company.

Overhaul CEO and founder Barry Conlon talks about the company’s intelligent door seal as employee pairs it to a Bluetooth device.

“The Bluetooth seal can talk to a device hidden inside the cargo where you never find it,” Conlon told CNBC during a demonstration on a truck at the Overhaul warehouse.

Usually, trucks are locked with bolt seals and the common embeddable devices rely on light to detect when the doors open.

The problem is bolt seals can be easily bypassed by thieves and light detection is less effective if the criminals strike at nighttime.

Worker demonstrates Overhaul’s intelligent door seal that helps to prevent cargo theft with GPS and Bluetooth technology.

“We needed a guaranteed foolproof way of knowing when somebody is opening the door,” Conlon said.

The smart seals work within Overhaul’s risk-monitoring system, so if the seal is broken, an alert is instantly sent to the company’s command centers where shipments are monitored and data is analyzed.

A worker attaches Overhaul’s smart door seal to the back of a cargo truck. Using GPS and Bluetooth technologies, the seal connects to a hidden device inside the truck and will send Overhaul an alert is the wire is cut.

“Our job is to look at these different data streams [and] to layer on other data that might be relevant,” said Conlon. “Then, [we] make determinations about what is actually happening to that freight [and if] we need to intervene.”

Imperfect solutions

Even with new technologies and preventative measures, more solutions are needed.

“There’s a lot of push [and] pull on solving this problem,” Lewis said. “The folks on my side of the table are saying, ‘I can come up with the best solutions’… but then I hear back from the industry, ‘Well, how do we get that unit back to the [company]?’… Now, we’ve got to reverse logistics.”

The industry doesn’t want to stall deliveries as it has to keep up with demand and consumer expectations.

“The folks on the other side of the table saying, ‘You don’t understand, we got to get this freight moving,'” Lewis said.

Watch the video above to learn more about why more thieves are targeting trucks, what cargo theft looks like and how companies are fighting back.