Cargo theft from HGVs rose to pre-pandemic rates in the third quarter of 2020, as the national lockdown came to an end and traffic returned to the roads.

According to the latest quarterly report on cargo theft from the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NAVCIS), incidents of cargo theft in the UK rose by 33% in the three months to 31 August compared to the previous quarter.

The report, collated by the freight arm of NAVCIS, said of the increase: “It is inferred that this is due to the effects of the Covid-19 crisis period, as notifications during this quarter are at similar levels to the number of notifications in Q1, just before and at the start of the Covid-19 period."

The NAVCIS report said there were 1,041 cargo crime notifications in Q3 of which 253 took place in motorway service areas (MSAs) with Toddington services targeted by thieves more than any other MSA in the period.

However the most insecure place to park remains the roadside with 518 incidents recorded in Q3, the report found.

Curtain slashing was the most frequently reported method of entry to trailers (46%), according to the report, whilst fuel was the most frequently stolen commodity (24%), with South Yorkshire suffering the most fuel offences at 19%.

The least frequent but possible most alarming cases of cargo theft were what NAVCIS refers to as the 'Romanian rollover'.

The tactic sees lorries robbed on the move by gangs of thieves. The lorries are slowed down by being boxed in by three or more vehicles, allowing a gang member to climb out onto the roof of the car as it drives alongside the truck.

The gang member, secured by a rope, uses cutting tools or a crowbar to break into the lorry, climb aboard and throw out the goods. The report said this crime amounted to 1% in Q3 of all cargo crimes but NAVCIS told there had been none so far in Q4 (see below).

September was the busiest month of Q3 for cargo crime, seeing 411 incidents, whilst August experiences the highest value of goods stolen, amounting to almost £8m.

Losses in August were boosted by the theft of £1.6m of Xboxes on 31 August when thieves broke into a depot in Suffolk and drove away an HGV and trailer which had been loaded with the the game consoles for delivery the next day.

In total £18m of goods were stolen in Q3, with the report estimating the retail value of these thefts is “at least four times greater".

Tom Cotton, RHA head of licensing and infrastructure policy, said: “With Christmas approaching there is an enormous amount of high value goods being moved around by both HGV and van drivers making them very vulnerable to cargo crime.

"Our advice to drivers is, if it does not feel right then it isn’t right, so call 999 and tell police of your concern. NAVCIS has had fantastic success in fighting cargo crime but drivers can help further by providing dashcam footage and index plate numbers or even the last three letters which are unique identifiers.”

Rollover incidents plummet after arrests

The number of 'Romanian rollover' incidents has plummeted since September following a number of arrests, has learnt.

Deliveries of PlayStations, TVs, cosmetics, mobile phones and cigarettes have all been targeted in recent months, with numbers rising exponentially in the first nine months of this year.

According to NAVCIS, in the nine months to September this year there were 27 such thefts, compared to just one in the same period last year.

Hauliers feared these rollover incidents were set to rise in the peak period but NAVCIS figures show that since September that there have been no rollover incidents.

NAVCIS declined to comment on why the incidents have fallen so suddenly. However understands that Thames Valley Police has made four arrests in connection with these rollover crimes whilst Leicestershire Police has made two further arrests.