Industry Market Trends

How the Supply Chain Fought Cargo Theft in 2010

Feb 08, 2011

There were 899 cargo theft incidents reported last year. As a result, more companies are turning to technological solutions such as RFID and GPS to track shipments and prevent cargo theft throughout the supply chain.

As global shipping grows more complex, so does cargo theft, which takes a significant portion of potential revenue out of the supply chain each year. To combat the threat of cargo-related crimes and help tighten security measures, more companies are adopting sophisticated technological solutions such as radio frequency identification (RFID) devices and global positioning systems (GPS).

According to a report from FreightWatch International last month, cargo theft in the United States rose by 4.1 percent in 2010, with 899 reported theft incidents, the highest number on record. Last year, theft occurred at an average of 75 incidents per month, and the supply chain industry suffered full truckload or container losses at a rate of 2.5 each day. Of the total number of incidents reported, 81 percent involved full truckload or container thefts, 3.4 percent were warehouse burglaries and 1.3 percent involved some type of violence.

"After a significant spike in cargo theft activity in 2009, we expected theft rates to level out somewhat in 2010," Ron Greene, the general manager of FreightWatch International, U.S.A., said in an announcement of a separate 2010 report. "What we are witnessing, however, is a more targeted approach by cargo thieves, seeking multi-trailer thefts and large-scale warehouse burglaries, including the largest loss on record."

The security-solutions provider's year-end report found that 28 thefts in 2010 were valued at more than $1 million each, including three that were valued at over $10 million. In March, a pharmaceutical warehouse burglary was valued at $76 million, the largest on record. The average loss per incident last year was $471,200, down 17 percent from the $572,800 average in 2009.

Although the number of incidents continues to climb each year, the average amount lost per theft is declining. However, some markets are being hit harder than others. Last year, 21 percent of cargo thefts targeted the food and drink industry, followed by 19 percent targeting electronics (with televisions as the most stolen product for the second consecutive year); 11 percent targeting shoes and apparel; and 10 percent targeting building and industrial supplies.

On a regional level, the U.S. states most commonly hit by cargo theft last year were California, New Jersey, Florida and Texas. While California, Florida and Texas all experienced modest annual declines in the rate of theft, New Jersey experienced a dramatic 142 percent increase in the number of incidents, recording 121 cargo thefts in 2010 compared with 50 in 2009.

Locations were identified for 497 of the 899 total theft incidents, with 316 occurring in unsecured parking lots alone, including truck stops (149), public access parking (36), roadsides (25) and unsecured terminals or lots (106). Meanwhile, 124 thefts occurred in secured parking facilities.

To combat these troubling incidents of cargo theft, many companies are turning to RFID technologies to improve shipments and product monitoring.

"Pfizer, for instance, has begun bottling its popular Viagra drug with RFID tags, which allows it to combat not only theft, but also counterfeiting," IndustryWeek reports. "EarthSearch Communications, meanwhile, has begun developing a product predicated on wireless communication between a GPS and RFID for tracking cargo shipments through its LogiBoxx system."

RFID devices allow shippers to track the whereabouts of cargo anywhere within the supply chain and, when working in coordination with GPS, can provide real-time alerts to businesses about any anomalies in the shipping process, such as containers being tampered with.

"This real-time technology gives shippers the ability to track and guarantee cargo shipments are moving where they need to be, and are not being accessed by any unauthorized persons or personal, all monitored from a central command or on the spot locations throughout the logistical chain," Wall Street Newscast explains. "As international shipping increases, and global economic activity improves in 2011, the need to secure and monitor [...] the global supply chain will become even more important for shippers wishing to carry their goods to the final point of delivery, safe and undisturbed."

The global RFID market is expected to grow by roughly 16 percent in 2011, reaching a total of $5.3 billion by the end of the year, according to a recent report from market intelligence firm ABI Research. Among the key factors driving this growth are asset tracking and management applications, which "continue to gain momentum in verticals including health care, manufacturing (particularly the aerospace and defense sector), transportation and logistics."


Cargo Theft Rate Climbed in 2009

RFID Market Projected to Grow in 2010


FreightWatch Annual Report — U.S. Cargo Theft: 2010

FreightWatch International, Jan. 18, 2011

Cargo Theft Losses on the Rise in 2010

FreightWatch International, July 22, 2010

Tapping Technology to Protect the Supply Chain

by Peter Alpern

IndustryWeek, Feb. 3, 2011

RFID Solutions as Cargo Theft Hits New High in 2010

by Tom Bustamente

Wall Street Newscast, Jan. 30, 2011

Massive Retail Deployment Helps Spur 2011 RFID Systems Revenue Growth of More than 16%

ABI Research, Nov. 19, 2010