Europe’s Stolen Goods Problem

Photo: zoetnet

Stealing a truckload of goods in Sweden is apparently as easy as waiting for the driver to go on his lunch break. Each year, billions of euros worth of goods are stolen while in transit across Europe, but no one seems to be doing much about it. Dr Luca Urciuoli, a researcher in engineering logistics at Lund University has studied the problem and finds a transportation system ripe for criminal exploitation. From Science Daily:

Luca Urciuoli’s research shows that many haulage companies do not make any security investments at all, even though it is fairly easy to find security measures such as theft-proof doors or windows, truck alarms, track and trace systems and mechanical locks on the market.

“In Sweden, criminals often have time to attack cargo when the driver leaves the lorry for lunch, or while he is sleeping in the cab or delivering the goods to the customer,” says Luca Urciuoli, who adds that cargo theft is a growing problem in Europe.

Luca Urciuoli’s explanation as to why Swedish transport companies are doing so little to enhance security is that they often do not find it worthwhile to tackle such a problem. Today, companies rarely bother to report thefts to the police, arguing that “they won’t do anything anyway….” Neither are they reporting the problem to the insurance companies because this would lead to their premiums and excesses being raised.

This lack of reporting and statistics collection means the problem is underestimated. Consequently, relevant stakeholders — police, customs, courts of justice, insurance companies, certification bodies, security companies, transport companies, shippers and cargo owners — put less effort into fighting cargo crime than they should.

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  1. X says:

    What kind of explanation is that? How is it not worthwhile to add security? If it’s not being covered by insurance, surely somebody’s missing those billions being lost to theft…

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  2. Mayuresh Gaikwad says:

    It would be interesting to know what kind of Cargo is stolen from the truck. Is it goods with a low (value/mass) ratio? I think that is most likely. In this case, even if the thief runs away with a box, it is not worth the hassle to report it to the police or claim insurance and have your premiums increased. Say I am transporting a truck-load of cereal cartons. In many cases, the truck would itself be much more valuable than the cereal.
    Also, my guess is that the drivers would have to operate in a strict timeline, having to reach their destinations at/before the specified time which would have been determined aggressively, with a prohibitive penalty in place for missing the timeline, but not such a prohibitive penalty for losing some of the goods.
    So long as the thief runs away with a carton or two of cereal and does not steal the entire truck along with the cereal, the truckers would have very few incentives to report the crime.
    Let us see a truck carrying something valuable (like Gold / Diamond jewelry). If a theft occurs on that truck, will the driver call the Police / insurance? I am willing to bet a significant amount of money that he would call the police
    I am puzzled however as to why would the trucker not put a simple lock on the cargo compartment. Or is it the case that these locks can be easily picked and the thieves are experts.

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  3. Spencer4Hire says:

    Sounds like a case of the shipping companies dipping into their own cargo for profit, especially if this type of crime seems to be tolerated by the shippers.

    Maybe competitors who use better security will be able to take a larger share of the market if this continues.

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  4. Megan says:

    Seems to me if so little effort is put in to preventing theft the truck drivers may be better off stealing it themselves.

    If they aren’t reporting it, where is the data coming from? And how do we know this is really a problem.

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  5. *daniel says:

    Perhaps they realise that the medicine is worse than the disease. The detection, capture, prosecution, and imprisonment of the individuals stealing all this cargo might transform their societies in ways they might not like, and cost more than the problem to boot.

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  6. jonathan says:

    Huh? Unless the companies are fools who can’t read a ledger and don’t know their own margins, then something is wrong in this report. Companies tolerate crime if it costs more to fight it than the loss. Maybe that could be different if there is evidence one company can bear the crime loss easily and competitors can’t, but even then the other companies can surely act to protect themselves and thus force more crime on the other.

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  7. James says:

    marginal cost = marginal benefit holds yet again

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  8. Mike says:

    Sounds like it just isn’t that valuable of cargo. If it were insurance would be claimed. Otherwise it seems like good business to just ignore it. Obviously over time this becomes an issue (low cost of crime, means more criminals), but in the interim I guess it is cheaper to ignore.

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