Strategic cargo theft: a growing threat in North America

Website Images Highlighting Risk Jan 24

In this edition, we dive into the key risks faced by the industry, specifically the uptick in strategic cargo theft across North America.

What is strategic cargo theft?

Strategic cargo theft differs from traditional theft in that the cargo is stolen before it even leaves the point of origin. Josh Finch, a logistics risk manager, explains, "The theft is in progress before the cargo leaves its shipping point. Because the cargo has already been targeted, there's already a strategy in place to spirit it away almost immediately after it leaves the dock."

Manipulating systems: The Tactics used by criminal organisations

Guillermo Cancio, a senior claims executive, describes how criminal organisations manipulate systems like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) SAFER database to impersonate legitimate motor carriers and trick cargo brokers into giving them loads. "They're being turned, pivoted, and used against businesses, motor carriers, and property brokers," he says.

Industry response and collaboration

The industry has sprung into action by increasing discussions and collaboration among shippers, brokers, trucking companies, insurance companies, private investigators, and law enforcement agencies. Events like the Miami-Dade Cargo Theft Symposium provide a platform for sharing knowledge and experiences.

Government efforts and legislation

The U.S. government is addressing the issue through law enforcement efforts like Operation Boiling Point by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and proposed legislation in Congress to address organised retail crime. Additionally, the FMCSA has recently changed rules to increase documentation requirements for brokers, aiming to make it more difficult for criminal groups to fake paperwork.

Challenges and advice

Despite these efforts, cargo theft task forces in some states have been reduced or eliminated due to budget constraints, highlighting the need for a more concerted law enforcement response. Guillermo Cancio advises industry actors to critically review their processes, increase internal communication about risk management, and engage with local governments and customers to address the risks posed by organised crime to the supply chain.


Strategic cargo theft is a growing threat in North America, requiring increased vigilance, collaboration, and a comprehensive approach from industry, government, and law enforcement to combat the sophisticated tactics employed by criminal organisations.

Josh Finch

TT Club