The true scale of cargo crime in Germany has been something of a mystery for years, not helped

by what turns out to be massive underreporting of freight thefts for a wide variety of reasons.


In 2017, TAPA’s Incident Information Service (IIS) saw a 13.8% fall in the number of recorded incidents in Germany and losses with a value of just €5.4 million. New data from 13 business associations in Germany, led by TAPA EMEA, however, estimates the real figure to be over €1.3 billion every year with a new attack on a truck taking place, on average, every 20 minutes.

Now, this powerful group has captured the attention of government and law enforcement agencies, and is spearheading unprecedented collaboration between all supply chain security stakeholders…

The disparity between the actual level of cargo crime in countries across the EMEA region and the number of incidents reported to TAPA’s Incident Information Service (IIS) remains one of the Association’s biggest areas of focus, and greatest frustrations.

Anecdotely, as an association of supply chain security experts, TAPA knows the scale of the problem across the region is far, far greater than the current level of intelligence suggests. Despite the newly-published IIS Annual Report for the EMEA region showing a total of 2,880 cargo thefts in 2017, up 10.3% year-on-year, and a total loss of €105,081,153 for the 58.6% of these crimes reporting a value, this is almost certainly still a fraction of the true picture.

There are many well-known reasons why more cargo losses are not recorded in the IIS database, such as:

·        Law enforcement agencies are not allowed to share incident data with third parties

·        Police forces do not specificaly recognise or categorise cargo crime; thefts from trucks, for example, can fall within the much bigger and more diverse category of vehicle crime, and thefts from cargo facilities can be recorded under the broader range of thefts involving commercial properties

·        Companies are reluctant to admit they have suffered a loss

So, the big question for associations like TAPA is ‘what can we do?‘

It is a classic ‘chicken and egg‘ dilemma. In order to demonstrate the severity of cargo crime and to get politicians and police agencies to take the problem seriously, organisations like TAPA need a significant and accurate bank of data and intelligence to argue their case. The bodies that need to be convinced are often those that hold that intelligence and, for whatever reason, are not sharing it to help highlight or tackle the issue.

Germany is one of many countries in EMEA where the level of cargo crime reported to TAPA every year is considered to be only a tiny percentage of the actual losses taking place. While the main types of incidents, locations of crimes and modus operandi of cargo thieves operating in Germany are well-established by TAPA’s IIS, the rate of less than one freight loss a day – based on recorded incidents – hasn‘t been sufficient to make this a priority issue for the police nor politicians.

The same can be said of virtually every country in EMEA but, in Germany, this is finally starting to change. 

In 2014, TAPA helped to lead the establishment of the ‘Theft Prevention in Freight Transport and Logistics Working Group’. The following year, the group created the first version of its plan to begin addressing cargo theft in Germany for ‘counteracting thefts in the transport sector on public highways’. Since then, the participants have been meeting regularly and undertaking all the necessary behind-the-scenes activities that are essential building blocks in any successful public private partnership, such as meetings with Ministry representatives and nurturing law enforcement relationships.

Last September, this gained further momentum when Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transport & Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) published its Freight Transport & Logistics Action Plan to ensure a ‘sustainable and efficient future’ for one of the country’s most vital industries. Thanks largely to the proactive campaigning of the Working Group, listed within the five main priorities of the plan was a commitment to ‘Counter theft in the freight transport sector in the public street environment’ – a fundamental step forward for all concerned with reducing cargo crime.

The plan outlined the following actions for the 19th legislative period, which is beginning now:

·  Discuss possible improvements with the police authorities, which could lead to cooperation between several state police offices; the BMVI will ask the Conference of Transport Ministers to take the issue to the Conference of Interior Ministers to initiate further solutions;

·  Reports prepared by the Federal Office for Goods Transport to drive the first improvements and to be regularly updated and refined;

·  The results of the industry Working Group to form part of the consultation by BMVI’s working group focusing on security in logistics;

·  The European Commission’s DG MOVE and DG HOME to examine appropriate activities at a European level.


Other possible initiatives could include:

·  Motivating vehicle manufacturers to provide appropriate safety measures

·  Working with the Inland Transport Committee of the UNECE and the International Transport  Forum to look at cross-border transport and logistics operators’ challenges in the EU, and consider appropriate measures to counter cargo crime

To increase this momentum at the start of the 19th legislative period, the 13 business associations participating in the ‘Theft Prevention in Freight Transport and Logistics Working Group’ issued a statement calling for greater support and action by law enforcement agencies in Germany. 

The statement highlighted the group’s key cargo crime findings:

·        Cargo thefts in Germany now result in product losses valued at €1.3 billion a year

·        Physical cargo carried onboard almost 26,000 trucks is stolen annually

·        On average a truck is targeted by thieves in Germany every 20 minutes

·        Further damages of €900 million are caused every year by penalties for delivery delays, the cost of replacing stolen products and repairing damage to vehicles targeted by cargo thieves. 

Not surprisingly, one of the biggest challenges identified by the group is the continued low level of reporting and recording of cargo thefts in Germany, which follows a similar trend seen across Europe, and the fact that many of the incidents of thefts from vehicles in Germany involve trucks which are registered and insured in other European countries. Understanding the true causes and impact of cargo crime in Germany is also further complicated by the fact that German law enforcement agencies do not keep their own cargo crime statistics.   

The Working Group stated: “The business associations supporting this initiative are doing so because of the scale of cargo thefts and their impact on businesses in Germany. The ‘Theft Prevention in Freight Transport and Logistics Working Group’ aims to increase the safety of transport logistics by, among other things, means of higher safety standards and investments in locating technology, anti-theft alarm systems, immobilizers and secured parking spaces. We are urging the authorities to provide more support through increased search pressure on internationally active criminal organisations.

“The police authorities also need to be more present at highway service stations, and specialist police units and law enforcement agencies should help to streamline transnational law enforcement. In order to take targeted preventive and repressive measures, the investigating authorities must improve recording of ‘cargo theft’ offences and create the conditions for nationwide uniform reporting of cargo crime. Lack of staff, poor networking and low specialisation only serve to delay investigations. This situation has to be addressed as quickly as possible.”

Thorsten Neumann, Chairman of TAPA EMEA, is an active participant in the group on behalf of the Association and is confident that the new focus on cargo crime and shared objectives by businesses, associations, law enforcement and the Federal Ministry will finally lead to a breakthrough in both cargo crime reporting and prevention.

He said: “For the first time, the 13 business associations working together have determined a figure for the true cost of cargo crime in Germany. That is a significant step forward and is helping to focus the attention of all stakeholders. In terms of what else TAPA EMEA can do to support this initiative, it is important for all members to report incidents in Germany and to cooperate with law enforcement agencies in their investigations. Going forward, if we achieve success here, it can provide a benchmark for the approach needed in other countries in our region. The more successful the outcome is in Germany, the more leverage we will have with politicians and police agencies elsewhere. There is still a great deal of work to be done but all of the most relevant stakeholders are now on the same side and working for the same outcome.”  

In support of the Working Group’s objectives to reduce cargo thefts in Germany, TAPA will also be encouraging companies across the country to increase their adoption of its three industry standards for supply chain security: Facility Security Requirements (FSR), Trucking Security Requirements (TSR) and the new Parking Security Requirements (PSR).  

The association members of the Theft Prevention in Freight Transport and Logistics Working Group are:

• ASW Bundesverband - Allianz für Sicherheit in der Wirtschaft Ev
• Alliance for Security in Business North Germany (ASWN)
• BDGW Bundesvereinigung Deutscher Geld- und Wertdienste Ev
• Federal Association of Road Haulage Logistics and Waste Management (BGL) Ev
• Bundesverband Paket und Expresslogistik e. V. (BIEK),
• Federal Association for the Economy, Transport and Logistics (BWVL) e.V.
• German Forwarding and Logistics Association e. V. (DSLV)
• Gesamtverband der Deutschen Versicherungswirtschaft e.V. (GDV)
• Transported Asset Protection Association (TAPA)
• Verband Chemiehandel e.V. (VCH)
• German Chemical Industry Association (VCI)
• Verband Deutscher Verkehrsunternehmen e. V. (VDV)