Drivers and companies that operate commercial vehicles are prioritizing vehicle and cargo safety. Yet trailer theft remains a rampant problem. Even as drivers and fleet safety managers make changes to prevent trailer theft, the thieves are regularly dreaming up new ways to target trailer cargo. After a quick overview of the current trailer theft environment, we share several trailer theft prevention solutions.

How trailer theft has skyrocketed

Trailer theft is an ongoing concern. Consider the latest available data from CargoNet:

  • There were 1,502 total theft events in 2020 compared with 1,106 in 2019 and 1,181 in 2018.
  • Thefts specific to cargo reached 1,059 total events in 2020 compared with 758 in 2019 and 797 in 2018.
  • Vehicle theft events reached 861 in 2020 compared to 676 in 2019 and 810 in 2018.
  • In Canada and the United States, the average cargo theft was worth $166,334 in 2020 (an increase of $27,045 from 2019).

Transport Topics reported some of the activity in 2020 was pandemic specific. Supply chain intelligence director Scott Martino said, “In the U.S., full truckload thefts increased in 2020 by 25%, as criminals targeted shipments of medical supplies and household supplies.” The Sensitech director noted cargo theft typically climbs during economic downturns.

The numbers have remained relatively stable into 2021 with CargoNet reporting a total of $16 million in cargo stolen across the United States and Canada in Q2 2021.

With that not-so-rosy picture in mind, let’s turn our focus to the best trailer theft prevention advice, devices, and the benefits of a digital technology solution.

What is the best way to secure a trailer from theft?

The best way to secure a trailer from theft is being aware of the risk and staying diligent in prevention efforts. There are many proactive steps to take to help prevent trailer theft such as:

  • Installing a ball mount with a hitch lock
  • Securing the latch with a coupler lock
  • Placing secure keys in a secure location
  • Installing straps or chains over the trailer
  • Driving directly to the destination before uncoupling the trailer
  • Locking the trailer where it’s parked
  • Removing the ball mount from the receiver hitch when the trailer is uncoupled
  • Using digital technology to draw a geofence around the trailer to alert you if it moves

Cargo theft prevention is also easier with technology to track vehicles and shipments. It’s also a good idea to carefully screen new employees and thoroughly vet your supply chain partners. Overall, establishing a safety culture can help with both trailer and cargo theft prevention.

Trailer theft prevention advice for drivers

In addition to knowing the best way to prevent trailer theft, it’s a good idea to share theft prevention advice with drivers. The key thing is to be mindful of threats.

According to CargoNet’s Q2 2021 data:

  • California, particularly Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Riverside county, is the top state for reported cargo theft.
  • Texas, Florida, and the Canadian province of Ontario are also high risk and especially demand a robust fleet risk management plan.
  • Thefts at truck stops were the most common (accounting for 17% of cargo thefts and more than $1.5 million in loss value) followed by parking lots (16%).
  • Thefts at warehouses decreased dramatically, from 64 thefts in Q2 2020 to just 30 thefts in Q2 2021.

Based on this data, drivers should know to be more wary in certain regions and locations when the vehicle is stopped. CargoNet also identified consumer electronics and household major appliances as commonly stolen items followed by paper goods, furniture, and small appliances.

Other trailer theft advice for drivers includes not making cargo an easy target for criminals. That means keeping trailers attached to the tractor and dropping off cargo only in secure, well-lit areas. At the same time drivers should avoid:

  • Leaving vehicles idling at stops or rest areas
  • Discussing details of their cargo
  • Revealing their route or destination

Check out our five-point checklist for more on how to combat cargo theft.

Along with changing their mindsets, drivers and fleet managers can help prevent trailer theft with both traditional anti-theft devices and new technologies.

Trailer theft prevention devices

There are many devices available to help prevent trailer theft. Common security devices to protect your trailer include:

  • Wheel clamps. Also used to keep a trailer in place on an incline, wheel clamps immobilize the trailer and serve as a visual deterrent and anti-theft device.
  • Hitch locks. Inserting a hitch lock into the fastener hole of the receiver tube keeps the trailer more secure.
  • Wheel locks. Immobilize the trailer’s wheels by replacing lug nuts with locking wheel nuts that can only be removed with a special key.
  • Security posts. Equipping a driver with a fold-down or removable post set in concrete can provide an anchor point for a trailer.

You can also support trailer hitch theft prevention with digital tools such as GPS trackers, geofencing, and other features we’ll discuss in the next section.

What to do when a trailer is stolen

Report it immediately. Fleet drivers will want to communicate quickly with their home office and involve law enforcement. You’ll want to be able to provide as much information as possible about the last known location and what’s missing.

You’ll also want to tap into the fleet network and ask other drivers to keep an eye out for your missing trailer on the road. Many local trucking associations also take postings of lost trailers. TruckPaper has a listing of stolen trailers online.

If you’re unable to locate the lost cargo or trailer, it’s time to call your insurance company and file a claim.

How to track trailers and assets with Motive’s Asset Gateway

One great way to prevent trailer theft? Know where your assets are at all times. All you need to do is attach a battery- or solar-powered device to the trailer that sends out a GPS tracking signal. Tracking software receives the signal and indicates where the trailer is on a map.

Motive’s Asset Gateway makes this easier by offering visibility into both live or historical trailer or equipment locations. Installed in less than 10 minutes without a mechanic, the Asset Gateway provides GPS location updates every one minute the trailer is in motion.

Set up trailer tracking

With trailer tracking enabled, you can eliminate yard hunts, track usage for mileage-based maintenance, and prevent theft or misuse. Data insights into where assets are located and which are sitting dormant can improve efficiency and increase profitability too.

With Motive’s Dormancy Alerts, users receive an email when a trailer has been idle for an extended period of time. The email includes the idle duration, asset ID, and location. Plus, from the Motive Fleet Dashboard, managers can run and download dormancy reports as a PDF or CSV file. GPS trailer tracking also streamlines operations and prevents theft while saving time on asset audits.

Learn more about how trailer tracking works.

Set geofencing alerts

The geofencing feature of Motive’s Asset Gateway lets you draw virtual boundaries around any geographical area. From a specific street address to an entire business region. If your asset crosses the geofence, you’ll get notified of unauthorized usage or potential theft and can act more quickly in response.

Users can set up email alerts for when a vehicle or trailer enters or exits a geofence. The email includes the time, date, geofence name, geofence category, and asset ID.

Tracking trailers, assets, and equipment also lets you strengthen customer relationships. Because you can track performance against delivery schedules and communicate with clients along the way.

Learn more ways fleet managers can use geofencing alerts and how geofencing can help improve productivity.

Stay connected with drivers

The tracking notifications can also keep fleet managers and safety personnel connected to drivers. GPS fleet tracking offers increased visibility into trailer locations, which makes drivers more accountable. Plus, managers can help keep drivers on the best routes and minimize unwanted stops without having to make phone calls back and forth.

Tracking assets makes trailer theft prevention easier while helping an organization expand operational insights. Plus, digital access to real-time data eliminates manual checkpoint calls and increases efficiency.

Learn more about the Motive Asset Gateway and request a free demo to see how it can help your business avoid trailer theft.