According to the latest BSI & TT Club Cargo Theft Report 2021, in 2020, cargo theft in North America occurred mainly in three countries: Mexico, the United States, and Canada, maintaining the historic trend of the region.
However, while these three countries may share the commonality of a high rate of cargo theft as well as the frequent theft of food and beverage and general consumer goods, how thieves operate in the United States and Canada differs vastly from those methods used by thieves in Mexico.
In general, thieves in the United States and Canada tend to most frequently steal shipments of goods by targeting cargo trucks parked in insecure locations. Thefts in these two countries tend to take the form of either pilferage or break-ins of trailers or thefts of entire vehicles or containers.
Occasionally, thieves in the United States and Canada will carry out thefts of facilities, but in general, cargo truck thefts account for most incidents.
In the United States specifically, cargo truck hijackings are extremely rare; however, criminals will carry out hijacking-style thefts of last- mile couriers that tend to impact the pharmaceutical industry most.
Thieves in Mexico, on the other hand, are not opposed to carrying out armed hijackings of in-transit cargo trucks, a tactic, and modality that represents the bulk of incidents that occur in the country.
Cargo thieves in Mexico often use violence or the threat of violence during cargo thefts and tend to be knowledgeable and capable of overcoming typical security measures, particularly GPS tracking devices.
Other types of security countermeasures, including the use of security escorts, have at times proven incapable of preventing hijackings in Mexico.
But in multiple cases, well-armed hijackers outmatched security escorts and steal shipments of goods anyway, highlighting the extent to which thieves will go to successfully carry out a cargo theft while also underscoring the severity of the problem.
Beyond the typical trends in cargo theft seen in North America, several other issues present a cross-over risk for cargo losses in North America, including high rates of illegal drug and stowaway smuggling, which can at a minimum delay the progress of shipments through the supply chain and at a maximum result in a total loss of goods due to the breach of shipment integrity.
But it is the risk of social unrest, particularly in Mexico, that arguably impacted the risk of cargo loss most last year.
Social protests over a myriad of issues led to significant disruption to the Mexican rail freight industry in 2020, with protesters setting up blockades on train tracks that halted and created a backup of cargo across the country.
Not only did this disruption led to losses of close to US$4.4 billion in economic losses, according to industry representatives, the blockade of railways also resulted in two major impacts that increased the vulnerability of cargo in the country: a backup of goods in storage facilities and freight trains stuck on tracks and an attempt by the industry to switch to cargo trucks.