Holiday Cargo Theft Prevention

Over-the-Road Services


Did you know that holidays are a prime time for cargo theft? With fewer people in offices and warehouses, loads sitting unaccompanied  ̶  particularly near major supply chain hubs in Southern California, Dallas-Fort Worth, Chicago, Memphis, and Atlanta  ̶  can be targeted over the course of long holiday weekends.  

Fictitious pickups, where criminals pose as legitimate truck drivers to trick companies into turning over loads, are the main threat to watch out for, particularly in the following situations:  

•  Most frequently stolen commodities – Electronics, solar panels, energy drinks, and alcoholic beverages 
•  Most targeted states – California, Georgia, and Texas  
Top location targets – Warehouses/distribution centers and truck stops 


With extreme weather events occurring in the Southeast, also be aware of increased targeting of shipments of building materials such as shingles, lumber, and power tools.  

Shipment misdirection schemes, a kind of fictitious pickup, remain the most pervasive threat to domestic, over-the-road freight transportation. In these schemes, attackers impersonate a motor carrier to gain authorization to transport a shipment and then hire a motor carrier to deliver the shipment to a location they have access to so they can steal the shipment.  

Attackers often impersonate two or three different companies to disguise their identities and deceive their victims. These attacks target a wide variety of goods from every state in the continental United States, but attackers have shown a preference for stealing truckload shipments of solar panels, energy drinks, alcoholic beverages, motor oil, and consumer electronics.  

To mitigate these types of threats, BNSF Logistics emphasizes the use of enhanced security protocols for our customers. Shippers should consider recording information about the motor carrier, driver, and vehicles used to pick up a shipment for investigative follow-up in case a shipment is stolen. Shippers and transportation arrangers, meanwhile, should have programs in place to detect motor carrier identity theft, especially if a commodity has been frequently targeted. 

Communication is extremely important in reducing the risk of theft. Specific questions to your carrier contacts regarding their planned routes, stops, and schedules of transit will allow you to make recommendations for the shipment being safe and secure until final delivery.   

Knowing where and how the shipment is being monitored or secured during any idle time is a must in managing the risk associated with extended holiday weekends. Be aware of risk for not only theft, but also pilferage, seal integrities, and maintaining temperature controls for refrigerated shipments. 

To ensure shipments are safe and secure, we recommend the following precautions be taken:

•   Arranging for same-day delivery of short-haul shipments.
•  Embedding covert tracking devices in the shipment. 
•  Using high-security locks to prevent trailer burglaries.  
•  Drivers should be aware of the “red zone” rule and avoid stopping within 250 miles of pickup. 
•  Drivers should also be on the lookout for any vehicles that appear to be following them. 
Make sure you are accurately entering load details when tendering a shipment for an accurate assessment of a load’s risk. 
Suggest to your carrier and contacts that they work with local police agencies to make routine checks of their facilities or trailer yards during the holiday down time. 
Temperature-controlled loads should be checked on regularly for unit readings and ample fuel supply. 
Avoid having loaded trailers sit unattended when not in a secure area or security is not present. If loaded trailers do need to sit unattended, give instructions to have them parked in a secure manner. If possible, unattended trailers should be “buddied up” door-to-door with another trailer or backed into a stationary wall that would keep someone from opening the trailer doors.  
Make sure you have obtained and have accurate driver information, credentials, license plate, VIN, and descriptive information for tractors, trailers, containers, and container chassis. Police agencies will need this to open an investigation and broadcast this information in the event of an incident. If you experience a loss, confirm that a police report has been made and obtain the report or report number as soon as possible.  
•  Confirm with carrier contacts which tracking devices are being used and that they are in working condition. Confirm the tracking is still connected.  
When possible, request drivers secure all tractors with high-security locking devices, such as air-cuff and tractor steering joint locks. 
Secure all trailers with seals (making note of seal numbers) in combination with hardened padlocks. Utilize king pin locks for unattached trailers. Seals can help law enforcement in identifying and recovering trailers.  
Request drivers to remove keys, lock, and ensure both tractor and trailer are completely secured when unattended.   
Document and report all suspicious calls or requests that you may incur. This information can be critical to Cargo Claims/Risk Services departments, and law enforcement in the event of a cargo theft incident. 

By communicating clearly and using industry best practices for safeguarding shipments, BNSF Logistics can team with you to effectively prevent cargo theft, no matter the time of year.