Road Cargo Theft

Cargo theft can be defined as a theft of shipment committed at any point between the point of origin of the goods and their final destination, regardless of the method of transport used, whether it is road, rail, maritime, or air transport. Instances of cargo theft have been detected on highways, road freight stops, storage facilities, warehouses, terminals, and wharfs.

EUROPOL, the European Union law enforcement agency, has identified several different types of road cargo theft incidents. These include:

  • Hijacks – occasions where force, violence or threats are used against the driver and the vehicle is stolen with its load;
  • Thefts of – where an unattended vehicle and/or trailer are stolen with the load;
  • Thefts from – thefts of load from stationary vehicles (e.g. by curtain slashing) or from delivery vehicles left unlocked / unattended;
  • Deceptions / diversions – relates to deceptions where drivers / companies are deceived into delivering to a different destination than the intended one;
  • Warehouse thefts – burglaries of commercial premises which form part of the supply chain.

Most often goods that are easily disposed of, but still have a high black market value, are subject to cargo thefts; for example, alcohol, computers, entertainment equipment, name brand clothing, cigarettes and prescription drugs. Lately, increasingly more incidents have been noted where metal of varying types, from scrap to processed goods, has been stolen.

Hotspots for cargo theft in Europe have not changed very much. The UK and France still experience the largest share of incidents. However, new threats have been developing in countries that were previously thought of as being relatively safe.

Cargo theft is not simply a criminal problem, but an economic one as well. Many billions of Euros are lost each year due to stolen shipments. Cargo theft continues to be a low risk / high reward crime with links to other serious organised criminal activity. In recent years, cargo theft incidents have become increasingly violent and endanger the safety of the driver. It has been difficult to track all incidents and losses incurred, as companies and drivers often fail to report the crimes that have been committed. There is also no common method across the EU of recording incidents or measuring the economic impact. Therefore no reliable statistics on cargo theft currently exist at EU level.

The enlargement of the European Union has seen new supply chains develop. As more manufacturers relocate towards the East of Europe and goods are distributed across a larger European Union, supply chains extend and become more vulnerable. Cargo theft thus also undermines one of the key principles of the European Union – the free movement of goods, people and services. A coordinated approach involving both public and private bodies across the EU is necessary to tackle cargo theft effectively.

To this end and at the initiative of the EU Commission (DG MOVE, Land Transport Security), CORTE has been leading the Road Cargo Theft project. So far three workshops have taken place - in December 2014, February 2015, and April 2015. These workshops are supported by the EU Commission (DG MOVE).