According to consulting firm FreightWatch, in the third quarter this year a total of 231 cargo occurred in the U.S. – 74 thefts in July, 76 in August and 81 in September – with the average loss per incident valued at $154,866. Compared to the same quarter in 212, these results are equal in volume and 15% lower in value, while they represent a 15% increase in volume and a 5% decrease in value as compared to the cargo thefts that occurred during the second quarter this year.
In terms of the most stolen types of products, FreightWatch food and beverages topped the list in the third quarter with 49 thefts, or 21% of all thefts from July through September, with the electronics industry experiencing 29 thefts (13%), primarily of televisions and computer components, and the Home/Garden category saw 25 thefts, or 11% of the total, largely targeting appliances and cleaning products.
“Since 2010 we’ve definitely seen the number of thefts increase,” Courtney DeMilio, LoJack’s VP of Commercial Services, told Fleet Owner.
She explained that 80% of LoJack’s commercial recovery service focuses on the heavy equipment market, with the remaining 20% on commercial vehicles – and 30% of that 20% share being comprised of tractor-trailers.
The rise in cost of new and used equipment of all types along with tighter access to credit is one reason thefts are increasing, as it provides a “low cost” way to acquire assets, she added.
“On top of that is the huge increase in the equipment rental market,” DeMilio said. “Many contractors sold their equipment in the downturn and now turn to rentals when they need to expand their operations. Since they rent it and don’t own it, often times its left more exposed than usual.”
She also pointed out that, unlike what occurs in the automotive market, most heavy equipment and commercial vehicles are left intact after being stolen. “It’s more valuable as a single unit, whereas with cars the parts are worth far more than the whole,” DiMilio explained. “That also helps us in terms of recovery efforts.”
Yet equipment thieves and their counterparts in the cargo theft world are getting savvier and that is requiring theft recovery providers such as LoJack and others to keep evolving their products and services.
“The real trick to our trade is the element of surprise and that means we’ve needed to improve how we hide our tracking systems as well as how we power them,” DeMilio said.
For example, in the past, the LoJack tracking device used to draw a small amount of power from the battery on a truck or piece of heavy equipment. No longer; now it’s independently powered with a long life battery. She added that LoJack’s devices are also now often hidden on a vehicle or piece of equipment while it’s on the production line – not only to create a wider set of options of hiding places but so even the owners of said equipment and their employees don’t know where the device is.
“It allows for better concealment of our device and less public awareness of where it might be concealed,” DeMilio explained. “That’s because we don’t just want to recovery equipment of a stolen load; we want to help law enforcement make an arrest. Because making an arrest is what truly stops the theft activity.”