Is CARGO THEFT the most significant financial risk for road carriers?

by | Jun 26, 2022

cargo theft

Unfortunately, cargo theft is an increasingly common occurrence in the daily lives of carriers. Even just one such event could have significant negative consequences for transport companies. It is for these reasons that this article will focus on cases that are repeated many times in practice. We will also look at the useful preventive measures that can be taken to reduce the chance of these accidents.

According to statistics from various organizations (eg. TAPA EMEA), registered cases of theft and in particular, the total value of stolen goods amounts to billions of euros in just one year. The highest number of thefts have been registered in recent months in Western Europe: the United Kingdom, France, the Benelux and Germany.
Източник илюстрация: TAPA EMEA – report January 2019

Inseparable from any theft are the financial consequences for carriers. They may receive a claim for a missing item that exceeds the limit of liability set by the CMR Convention. In such situations, most companies rely on their own intuition and business acumen to solve the case. In this way, they tackle challenges that are extremely specific and contain many solutions. It is because of the importance of these situations that carriers need to have more control in order to achieve an optimal solution for all of their claims.

Here are the main types of theft of goods, according to the practice and the current trends in logistics:

  • Partial theft of the goods in front of a loading or an unloading address while waiting for loading / unloading, a ferry or during a night’s rest. It is most often the case that the carrier waits in line or for the unloading timeslot, and in many cases due to delays, the working hours of the receiving warehouse can expire. In such cases, it is sometimes too late to look for a parking space in the area, in which case, drivers most often decide to stay waiting in front of the address to unload in the morning. This is exactly what criminals are waiting for as they are concentrated in the logistics areas and are very well aware of the types of cargo that are loaded / unloaded near those places. The theft occurs at night, most often after gas intoxication of the driver who is sleeping in the cab, unable to react.
  • Theft during transit while the vehicle is parked at a gas station or a parking lot during a 45 minute break or at night. In these cases, criminals most often act by the method of “trial and error”, ie. they cut the tarpaulin of the cargo space, checking the goods that are being transported, and when they find an attractive product, they act. In case of theft, the carrier must call the police, obtain a report, as well as inform his insurer on “Carrier’s Liability (CMR);
  • Theft of the entire vehicle, together with the cargo. They are the result of an organized criminal scheme, in which criminals purposefully plan the “victim” and the place of the event, tracking it through a GPS device. Usually the goal is an attractive, expensive and fast-moving product. Criminals may act by force or weapon, or expect a convenient moment when the vehicle is left unattended. In the last few years, even in Bulgaria, there are a significant number of similar situations, such as cases in which the driver leaves an already loaded vehicle to pick up the documents for the goods, and then does not find the truck. Another example is the theft from a parking lot (paid or one, owned by the transport company), and the presence of lighting, fencing, video surveillance and security which are not an obstacle for criminals. In some cases, the vehicles themselves are subsequently found, naturally without goods in them.

After identifying the most common cases of theft, it is important to list the main recommendations for prevention and ways for carriers to avoid these situations:


  • Good advance planning of the carriage and the break spots, avoiding highway pockets, loading and unloading addresses or uninhabited places. You should choose the safest possible places, according to your experience and knowledge
  • Navigation only on the main planned route, without deviations
  • Use of electronic anti-theft security systems to be installed on the truck and trailer, and technical capability to locate the vehicle
  • Use of surveillance cameras in front of and around the truck and in the trailer
  • Use of special measures to lock the doors of the trailer
  • When transporting expensive goods (the driver should always be interested in what kind of goods he is transporting), ask for special instructions from your client and, if possible, perform the transport with a pair of drivers so that overnight stops can be minimized
  • Do not leave the vehicle unattended unless absolutely necessary
  • Always be vigilant and drivers should never share information about the goods, loading and unloading addresses

The arguments presented should serve as a guide for every transport company in dealing with thefts. It is impossible to summarize all possible options, but there are sustainable solutions that will improve the overall situation on a larger scale. These are the construction of more secure parking spaces, the availability of better security, as well as more efficient handling of cases. For their part, carriers must strive for higher levels of control over theft. In this way, they will be able to take active care for their business and will reduce losses in such incidents.

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