Why is high-value cargo targeted for theft?

A truck carrying high-value cargo with shipping containers nearby.

As 2024 continues, cargo theft trends are becoming more apparent, strategic, and dangerous. These trends often mimic and escalate patterns we’ve seen in previous years. In the case of the US, one such pattern involves the targeting of high-value loads. These loads are of special interest to criminals, who have much to gain from a successful theft.  

The appeal of high-value goods 

On the surface, targeting high-value goods might seem like an unwise undertaking for criminals. It involves high levels of planning and coordination and can come with big consequences should a thief be caught. However, these obstacles do little to deter criminals for the simple, unfortunate reason that criminals have much to gain. The higher the value, the higher the potential rewards. 

High-value goods such as electronics and pharmaceuticals can easily be sold on the black market for a sizable profit. Additionally, shippers often transport multiple high-value goods at once. This means the potential rewards are even greater via the theft of a single tractor-trailer. In other words, rather than risk stealing several less valuable loads, they’ll often choose to go after a single, more valuable one. 

What makes this situation even worse is that many shippers lack the cargo security features to help deter attacks. In these cases, they might assume that others will be targeted instead of them or that cargo theft is not as bad as it’s made out to be. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. In fact, statistics show that the situation for high-value loads may be getting even worse.  

The rise in high-value cargo theft  

Every quarter, Overhaul compiles data concerning cargo theft trends in the US and abroad. During Q1-2024, we recorded 11 cargo theft events in the US with a total value exceeding US $1,000,000. This represents a significant increase compared to Q1-2023, where only one event was recorded with cargo worth higher than US $1,000,000. The value of these 11 events accounted for 49% of the total loss value in Q1-2024.  

Electronics were the main product type targeted during this period, with seven events reported. The stolen products ranged from computers and monitors to specialized equipment such as cryptocurrency mining machines or telecommunications equipment. Pharmaceuticals were targeted in two events, one involving medicine and the other involving nutritional supplements.  

The thefts above all involved high-value, in demand goods. As mentioned before, this is unsurprising, as higher value means higher rewards. In the case of electronics, such targeting has become commonplace, which is why electronics was the most stolen product type in several other quarters as well. In comparison, pharmaceutical theft is rarer, but it’s recently been on the rise. 

These Q1-2024 theft events mainly took place in three states: California, Texas, and Arizona. These states are well-known for their commercial and logistics importance but also for the high number of cargo theft events. In the case of California, specifically, Overhaul recently helped recover a stolen load of electronics. Although this is a win for the industry, it also serves to highlight the growing threat and prevalence of these crimes. 

How supply chain security tools help reduce risk 

The trend of criminals targeting high-value cargo is a growing concern for shippers and logistics companies. The increase in the number of events with cargo values higher than US $1,000,000 recorded by Overhaul in Q2-2023 (5 events), Q3-2023 (7 events), and Q4-2023 (9 events) highlights the need for increased security measures to protect valuable cargo.  

Fortunately, companies can help prevent cargo theft throughout their transportation process with real time visibility and proactive intelligence. By working with providers like Overhaul, you’ll have the specialized support to spot threats in advance and take decisive action. 

Learn more about Q1-2024 US cargo theft patterns by downloading our infographic. If you’d like to know more about cargo theft trends, read our recent reports. 

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