A loophole in crime reporting that allows criminals to get away with cargo thefts from HGVs must be closed in order to save operators more than £700m a year, according to insurers.

Broker McCarron Coates said a major problem in investigating thefts is that a specific category of ‘freight crime’ does not exist in Home Office reporting figures and falls under ‘theft from vehicle’ instead.

And while it acknowledged that changing the reporting regime would be very difficult, there is a much easier way to flag up to vehicle crime experts that freight has been stolen.

It is calling for a tag to be applied to police reports, which marks a cargo theft as a freight crime and not just a theft from a vehicle.

McCarron Coates said this is an option police forces have and it would enable the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NAVCIS) to identify cargo theft quickly and act on reports faster.

NAVCIS refers to the “golden hours” after a cargo theft has taken place, when they are most likely to identify the criminal gang, or track down the stolen goods before they are sold on.

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The broker said NAVCIS is the only organisation capable of joining the dots between reports of truck load thefts and the subsequent discovery of goods and that providing their teams with cargo theft tags would make a significant difference.

Official figures suggest freight crime costs operators £115m a year but NAVCIS said the more realistic figure is £724m when taking into account reputational damage for the haulier, damaged vehicles and contract losses.

Ian McCarron, director at McCarron Coates, said: “In 2021, we saw how crucial HGV operators are to the UK’s goods supply line, with driver shortages blamed for empty supermarket shelves.

“Yet, nobody really cares about the goods stolen and lost en route to their destination.

“We urge the government and individual police forces to recognise how serious freight theft is and clamp down on it by applying a tag, recording the crime as cargo theft in their reports and quickly liaising with NAVCIS.”

Freight crime insurance specialist NMU said it was pleased McCarron Coates was highlighting the issue: “It is costing the UK economy millions of pounds and the additional hidden costs of business disruption are often not recoverable,” said Ian Allman, NMU risk control manager.

“Action on freight crime must become a priority.”