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Borderlands: Cargo theft down 26% across US during fourth quarter

Union Pacific recently reported a 160% spike in robberies on the railroad’s property in Los Angeles. The thefts involved trespassers climbing onto trains and breaking into cargo containers. (Photo: Shutterstock/Ringo Chiu)

Borderlands is a weekly rundown of developments in the world of United States-Mexico cross-border trucking and trade. This week: Cargo theft down 26% across US during fourth quarter; volumes through Mexican ports increased 11.3% in January; Samsara opens office in Mexico City; and Texas trucker convicted of transporting meth.

Cargo theft across US down 26% during fourth quarter

California, Texas and Florida were the most targeted states for cargo theft during the fourth quarter of 2021, with electronics, home appliances and pharmaceuticals the main focus of thieves.

CargoNet, a Verisk business, which tracks supply chain thefts, reported a total of 300 thefts in the fourth quarter, compared to 407 in the same period in 2020, a 26% year-over-year decline.

“We’re down from last year, which tells me supply chains are starting to normalize,” Keith Lewis, CargoNet’s vice president of operations, told FreightWaves. 

Lewis said one of the reasons cargo theft might be down in the fourth quarter is that brokerages aren’t being bombarded with the unprecedented volume of goods consumers were buying in 2020.

Instead of being under the gun to get 50 loads moved on a certain day, brokers are now getting 25 loads to move, Lewis said.

“The supply chains are kind of chugging along now, not moving at the lightspeed that it was [in 2020],” Lewis said. “On the brokerage side, when you’re moving at lightspeed, vetting carriers and things like that, take a back seat because we have got to get the load moving.”

California topped the list of states with the most reported cargo thefts in the fourth quarter with 63, followed by Texas with 34 and Florida at 30.

Electronics were the most stolen commodities during the fourth quarter and for all of 2021. The top locations for theft during the fourth quarter were parking lots and truck stops.

“Pilferage is up — we saw people leaving trucks in the shopping mall parking lot over the weekend or the big-box store over the weekend, or the parking lot across from a distribution center,” Lewis said. “Truck stops was No. 2, which tells me that we have a lot of pilferage at truck stops with people stealing off the trailer, not stealing the whole trailer.” 

While the numbers may be down, there is still a lot of freight at risk, said Ron Greene, vice president of business development at Overhaul, a real-time visibility and risk management platform based in Austin, Texas.

“Cargo theft in Southern California continues to be an ongoing issue,” Greene said. 

In December, Union Pacific reported a 160% spike in robberies on the railroad’s property in Los Angeles. The thefts involved trespassers climbing onto trains and breaking into cargo containers. 

In three months in the fall during intermodal peak season, UP said over 90 containers were compromised per day on average and over 100 arrests were made by local law enforcement and UP.

“What really has caused the rail services to see a spike in thefts are primarily the supply chain issues causing backlogs, causing freight and containers to sit idle and unsecured for longer periods of time making them more vulnerable,” Greene said.

In 2021, Overhaul helped one of its customers recover $1 million worth of electronics stolen in Tennessee. Overhaul also recovered $400,000 for a consumer electronics company in December.

“For the electronics company, we recorded a door opening event on a container, meaning that we have technology to monitor when the doors are open, or when the doors are closed in real time,” Greene said. “We were able to get law enforcement out to that specific container within a few minutes.”

Watch: FreightWaves NOW discusses how the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is affecting global supply chains.

Volumes through Mexican ports increased 11.3% in January

Mexican seaports handled a total of 650,854 twenty-foot equivalent units in January, an 11.3% increase compared to the same month in 2021.

Ports along Mexico’s Pacific coast handled 478,526 TEUs in January, an increase of 19.7% compared to 2021, while the country’s Gulf Coast ports handled 172,328 TEUs, representing a 6.8% decline, according to Mexico’s secretary of Navy.

The Port of Manzanillo was the top seaport during January, accounting for 269,185 TEUs, followed by the Port of Lázaro Cárdenas, which handled 172,849 TEUs, a 77% increase compared to 2021.

The Port of Veracruz reported an increase of 6.1% to 91,886 TEUs handled in January, while the Port of Altamira decreased 17.3% to 63,086 TEUs year-over-year in January.

Samsara opens offices in Mexico City and Amsterdam

Samsara Inc. (NYSE: IOT), a provider of connected operations cloud, recently opened offices in Mexico City and Amsterdam to accelerate the company’s international growth.

The expansion aims to support new and existing customers in Mexico and Europe, according to a release.

The Mexico City office will be Samsara’s first expansion in Mexico. The office is expected to grow to 100 employees by the end of the year across sales, operations and customer success roles.

“We’ve already seen tremendous impact for our local customers including Alianza Trayecto, Mexicana Logistics and Cruz Roja,” Santiago Padilla, Samsara’s director of sales and business operations, said in a statement. 

Samsara opened its first European location in London in 2018. The Amsterdam office will be its first in the Netherlands.

“The opening of our Amsterdam office to support the Benelux region furthers our ability to deliver world-class service to our customers,” Philip Van Der Wilt, vice president and general manager of Samsara EMEA, said in a statement. 

Texas trucker convicted of transporting meth

Truck driver Juan Jose Grande-Rivas has been convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

Grande-Rivas, of Channelview, Texas, pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Laredo.

The investigation began after authorities identified a refrigerated trailer carrying narcotics that had been taken to a trucking yard in Laredo. Grande-Rivas later arrived at the location, hitched up the trailer and departed.

Law enforcement maintained surveillance throughout Texas, Oklahoma and in a residential neighborhood in Kansas City, Kansas. Grande-Rivas parked the trailer at an empty lot and left.

Law enforcement took him into custody a few miles away. At the time of his arrest, he was in possession of $30,000. Grande-Rivas admitted to law officers he knew there were drugs in the trailer.  

Upon searching the vehicle, authorities found 703 kilograms of methamphetamine in the foam insulation of the trailer.  

A sentencing date will be set at a later date. Grande-Rivas faces a minimum of 10 years and up to life in prison.

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Noi Mahoney

Noi Mahoney is a Texas-based journalist who covers cross-border trade, logistics and supply chains for FreightWaves. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1998. Mahoney has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working for newspapers in Florida, Maryland and Texas. Contact [email protected]