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This post is the third in a series exploring the dynamics of the 2020 retail peak shipping season. To read all entries, please click here:

The 2020 holiday peak shipping season will be more complicated for retailers due to the impact of COVID-19 on consumer demand and the resulting surge in online shopping. Shoppers have turned to e-commerce for everything, from fresh groceries to educational materials and hobby supplies for the family.

Digital Commerce 360 reported that the Top 2000 North American e-commerce sites saw traffic grow 125% year over year, with high-value categories like electronics seeing a 37% traffic growth increase over the previous year. The shift has been challenging for brick and mortar retailers, with up to 25,000 stores from major retailers expected to close this year.

COVID-19 has not only impacted what consumers buy and how they shop but has also caused cargo thefts to spike in 2020. Sensiguard reported a 56% year-over-year increase in cargo theft activity, coupled with an 80% increase in volume, not including last-mile thefts from “porch pirates.”

CargoNet tracked a rise in thefts during the COVID-19 shutdowns. The week of March 16 saw a 140% boom in cargo thefts year-over-year, and in the month of April, cargo theft rates jumped 150% over the previous year. Loss Prevention Media reported that thieves targeted shipments of food and beverage products, medical supplies, and essential goods in the second quarter during the peak of COVID-19 shutdowns and economic hardship.

Past trends indicate that cargo theft increases when shipment volumes increase for the peak shipping season. It may be worse in 2020 as the peak-shipping season trends toward shipments supporting e-commerce. With the increase in cargo theft due to COVID-19 and the historical trend of cargo thefts during holiday peak shipping season, it’s critical that shippers understand cargo theft trends and develop a proactive prevention plan to protect their peak season shipments.

Cargo theft doesn’t take holidays off- especially during peak shipping season

While cargo theft is a year-round issue, it typically expands during holidays, with holiday peak shipping season seeing the largest increase in cargo thefts each year. Thieves target high-value commodities that can be resold, including food and beverages, household goods, and electronics. The average loss value for each incident is $151,699.

Each U.S. holiday has its own particular cargo theft trends:

  • 4th of July: CargoNet has tracked sophisticated, organized burglaries of high-value items from warehouses during the holiday. Cargo is particularly vulnerable when Independence Day falls on a weekend like it did in 2020. Warehouses may be more vulnerable when many workers are off the clock.
  • Labor Day weekend: As another three-day weekend holiday, Labor Day is a common target for cargo thieves. Assets such as trucks and trailers, as well as cargo, can be targeted, CargoNet found. Theft events usually peak on Fridays when unattended shipments and closed warehouses can be exploited.
  • 2019 winter holidays: December 23-January 2 from 2014 through 2018 saw 121 cargo thefts, with the busiest days being January 1 and December 24, according to CargoNet. Food and beverages, including meats and alcohol, were favorite targets.
  • 2019 Thanksgiving: Over the Thanksgiving period from Tuesday through Monday in 2014-2018, thieves grabbed $5.5 million in cargo and stole 72 semi-tractors and 65 trailers across 16 states, according to CargoNet. Warehouses and unsecured yards were the most common targets.

CargoNet reports that cargo thefts increase during the winter holiday seasons because cargo thieves steal more due to increased shipping volume and consumer demand for products.

Sensiguard data show that 2019 was particularly active, with 703 cargo thefts reported, with most of them occurring in the fourth quarter.

Organized retail crime, including cargo theft, is on the rise due to criminals adopting advanced theft techniques. Attacking the supply chain allows gangs to steal large quantities of merchandise at one time without facing store security. They often exchange stolen merchandise for gift cards, according to the National Retail Federation.

Experts predict cargo thefts during peak shipping season will only get worse in the coming years.

2019 saw an upward trend in cargo theft volume for the first time since 2011. Full truckloads were the most common target in 2019, accounting for 54% of cargo thefts. Nearly half of all cargo thefts took place in California, Texas, and Georgia (44%), perhaps reflecting their population and status as transportation hubs.

Defend Against Cargo Theft This Peak Shipping Season

Like many other types of security, you have to be diligent at all times, while the criminals only have to be right once in a while. The responsibility often falls to carriers, who can take basic steps to protect your cargo.

Ensure the carriers who drive your loads take the following safety measures:

  • Back the trailer against the wall
  • Lock the trailer doors and air cuffs
  • Avoid unnecessary stops
  • Check on the trailer daily or as often as possible, even if it’s parked for the holidays

Finally, partner with your 3PL to protect your high-value, high-risk (HV/HR) shipments.  You can protect your peak shipping season freight from cargo theft with a customized solution from GlobalTranz. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to protecting your freight. Managing the risks are as unique as your situation.

That’s why the GlobalTranz solutions team takes a consultative approach toward developing a solution to protect your peak season shipments from cargo theft.  Our multi-layered approach combines enhanced carrier compliance screening, proven processes, security devices, A+ rated insurance, and dedicated team members to help mitigate risk and enhance the safety of your freight throughout the year, not just peak season.

Request a GlobalTranz Solutions Consult Today

Guide to Peak Shipping Season Success