From Hijacking to High-Tech Inside Jobs: The Diverse Arsenal of Cargo Theft Tactics

Blog banner image showing the title cargo theft tactics

Cargo theft haunts fleet managers whenever a loaded truck leaves the logistics facility. The fear of cargo theft is real since its probability is quite high across India. Not just in a developing nation like India, cargo theft is quite frequent in highly advanced nations like the United States, where it stands at a ten-year high! Don’t sweat it, we know how to deal with cargo theft tactics.

Before planning ways to overcome such thefts, it’s crucial to understand the different cargo theft tactics and practices prevalent across the country. After all, only when you know the challenge will you be able to overcome it. Therefore, in this instalment of our “Cargo Theft Series,” we will discuss all the possible ways of cargo theft in India. Let’s jump right into the content and wage our fight against cargo theft, shall we?

What is cargo theft in logistics?

Cargo theft is essentially an unlawful activity that involves the stealing of shipments or goods moving through the global supply chain. An inadequately monitored shipment in transit is vulnerable to planned or unplanned thefts.

Any cargo theft event, big or small, poses several challenges for fleet owners and managers. Cargo theft puts back the company by the total cost of stolen goods, the cost of replenishing stocks, the cost of expediting goods replacement, and the cost of additional labour and resources.

Let’s dive deeper to understand the different ways cargo theft can happen.

Different cargo theft tactics and practices in India

Image showing different cargo theft tactics and practices used by thieves in India

Here are the different cargo theft tactics and practices fleet managers experience throughout the supply chain.

1. Gunda Tax

Ever heard of the “Gunda Tax?” Well, it is when thieves force themselves and conduct robberies. This cargo theft tactic is quite common in India as it involves force and manpower. These generally happen during the distribution process, i.e., when the cargo-loaded vehicle is on the road or waiting at terminals.

In India, we call it the “Gunda Tax” because the robbers solicit money or cargo goods from the drivers in the name of “protection.” We suggest fleet managers vet the routes before creating trips and be prepared to take legal action with the help of video telematics.

2. Planned theft

There have been instances when the cargo was on the move, probably with the shippers, and theft occurred. In such cases, the thieves mostly target high-valued goods. Since the goods are highly valued, fleet owners should not deny the probability of staff or truck drivers’ involvement. These also involve suspicious cases where both the cargo and drivers go missing.

For example, three truck drivers in Bengaluru were involved in a planned cargo theft where they syphoned a consignment of 1,558 pairs of Nike shoes worth about Rs 1.1 crore.

In another case, a truck loaded with 11 tonnes of tomatoes went missing on its way from Kolar to Jaipur. The truck, with an in-built GPS tracking system installed, was unloaded at Ahmedabad instead, putting the parties involved back by Rs 21 Lakh.

Cargo theft method example of truck loot

Honestly speaking, cargo theft events happen when companies do not work closely with their partners and lack visibility throughout the supply chain.

3. Digital breach

Modern-day thieves use modern-day tools to conduct cargo theft. Such cargo thefts are executed by hackers that breach the company’s server and accrue shipment-related data.

What can they do with the data?

First, the hackers can manipulate the cargo data and make life difficult for fleet managers.

Second, the hackers can sell the data away to people who conduct planned cargo theft. This cargo theft practice is mostly due to weak cyber security.

4. Cargo hijacking

Can an in-transit loaded truck be hijacked? Absolutely. Thieves often look for an opportunity to get inside the trucks. So, hijacking is possible when the driver is away from the trucks, especially at a rest stop. Even drivers involve themselves in truck hijacking and claim innocence when inquired.

Recently, a truck on the Chennai-Kolkata route was hijacked when the driver stopped for refuelling at Debra. Reports claim that 1500 iPhones were looted from the truck, putting the retailers back by Rs 9.7 crores!

Cargo theft tactic example of shoes loot from truck

It’s simple — if a trailer is left unattended, there is a possibility for a hijack. Since hijacks are conducted by people outside your reach, we recommend using video telematics solutions to keep a close eye on any suspicious activities.

5. Undercover theft

Fleet managers beware! Leaving behind Frank Abagnale’s con artistry are Indian cargo thieves, who identify as a legitimate part of the supply chain to conduct cargo theft.

How do they do it? They pose as drivers or pick-up agents and conveniently steal your precious cargo away. They simply forge paperwork and make it seem legitimate.

Impressive, isn’t it?

6. Leakage or pilferage

Making the list is one of the most common cargo theft tactics — pilferage. Unlike other cargo theft tactics, leakage or pilferage is slow, making the theft hard to detect. This is because the thieves focus on stealing a small piece or part of the product.

At the same time, the idea is to steal small desirable products that are easily resalable. Where could pilferage happen? Well, fleet managers will have to guard their warehouse or cargo-handling areas.

For example, an oil tanker parked near Kankrola, Gurgaon was subject to pilferage, and the truck driver was charged for stealing 300 litres of petrol. We suggest tightening warehouse security and vetting employees before hiring.

example of fuel pilferage

7. Inside job (employee involvement)

Drivers and conductors in your fleet are subject to bribery. Employees in your organisation can bribe them to conduct theft in exchange for cash or favours.

The same employees can go as far as infiltrating the server data and downloading the shipment details. The details can then be shared with parties looking for cargo theft opportunities.

8. Good Ol’ Burglary

The moment thieves realise you have inadequate cargo theft prevention mechanisms in place, they will grow in confidence and steal goods by directly entering your facility or container. This cargo theft tactic is called burglary as criminals access goods stored in a place permitted to authorised personnel only.

What kind of products do they steal? Again, such “grab and run” cargo theft activities focus on small products that are easy to steal and sell. But, not all burglaries happen on stationary consignments.

Here’s an entertaining example — a mini truck on Umiam highway in Meghalaya was attacked by four people on motorbikes. The pillions jumped onto the truck from behind, robbed the truck, and tried to jump back on the bikes.

Movie Style theft Incident

9. Distract and steal

The last cargo theft tactic in the list falls off of Bollywood thrillers, where a person stops a moving vehicle and strikes up a conversation with the driver, while the other person in the team steals precious items.

Similarly, a team of cargo thieves can distract the fleet driver, and make the truck come to a complete halt at an unregulated stop. They might tell the driver something is wrong with the fleet vehicle or the route ahead — eventually taking control of the cargo truck.

Final Thoughts on Cargo Theft Tactics

The different cargo theft tactics mentioned above make one thing very clear — thieves in India are commendably (and viciously) creative. They manage to pull off extremely risky manoeuvres to steal in-transit cargo. What does that mean for fleet owners and managers reading this post?

Well, they have a huge task cut out for themselves. They need to figure out the impact of cargo theft and different cargo theft prevention strategies they can introduce throughout the supply chain to overcome the massive challenge. The best thing is that we will be discussing the same in our upcoming posts on cargo theft. Stay tuned as we cover cargo thefts in India in its entirety.

Leave a Reply