Pirates of the Highway...

Are there such a thing as pirates on the U.S. highway system?

As in “thieves who make a living hijacking legitimate cargoes?”

Sure there are, but highwaymen prefer to work in stretches of road less well travelled or patrolled than the interstates.

Since “piracy” by definition means robbery on the high seas, I would say no.

From Merriam Webster

Now truck hijackings and sometimes carjackings do take place, but I think that they are more likely in urban areas where traffic is slower rather than on highways. But it would be rather fanciful to call this piracy.

Semi-trailer trucks get hijacked from time to time, particularly when they are carrying valuable cargo (liquor, cigarettes, electronics). A cousin used to work as an accountant for Mitsubishi Electronics in Southern California, and she said that their shipments were made, more or less, in secrecy. Presumably they didn’t use trailers with big pictures of LCD televisions on the side.

It would seem like the logistics would make it an improbable crime.

Suppose I set up a road pirate business along Highway 70 in west Kansas. I start picking off lone trucks. Being a ruthless pirate I kill all the drivers because dead men tell no tales.

Now what do I do with my booty? Do I set up a warehouse in the middle of the nowhere? Do I drive my stolen trucks a couple of hundred miles to Denver or Kansas City?

It’s not going to take very long for the trucking companies to notice some of their drivers and trucks and cargoes have disappeared in this area. The Kansas State Police are bound to either investigate my mysterious warehouse which is near the scene of the crimes or pull me over while I’m driving a stolen truck.

I could run my piracy business as a mobile operation and move around the country. But that’s not going to improve the logistics. I’ll still will have to figure out ways to deal with my stolen merchandise and now I won’t have a base to work out of.

The way you’re planning it, certainly – hitting trucks at random in an isolated location.

Actual hijacking is not trucks at random; there is usually a ‘source’ tipping the hijackers off to what trucks contain, valuable, salable cargo. Either some employee in the shipper or trucking company, or someone watching the loading dock.

And the hijacking takes place in a metro location, where there are many nearby locations (fences) to dispose of the loot. Or the whole truckload may have already been sold to a fence in another city, possibly halfway across the country – it just continues to travel, but with new drivers. (Though maybe the new mob driver might get hijacked in an isolated location by Little Nemo’s gang.)

Most such hijacking is organized, with specific targets, and specific buyers. (Possibly even sold to the buyers before it’s ever stolen.)

But where’s the romance? Pirates don’t want to waste their time planning their crimes ahead of time. We want to roam about hunting for our prey, never knowing what each day will bring us.

If you’re going to go hijack designated trucks with presold cargoes in the middle of a city, you might as well just start holding up liquor stores.

Of course it happens - I saw it in that documentary Fast and the Furious. …


Ok, on a more serious note, I have heard of it happening on Malaysian highways, where a truck is stolen, sans driver.

As an extra thought, not that I know a heck of a lot about it, but why would you need to take the ENTIRE cargo and dispose of it?

using the example of plama tvs…Say IF I were such a hijacker, why not take the truck, drive it 50 or 100 miles, then transfer say 50 tvs to a covered (smaller) trailer then go park it in my garage and sell at my leisure over the next 4 or 5 weeks? 2 or 3 TV a week would be a pretty nice supplementary income.

Assuming you’re working in an area where there’s some kind of law enforcement, this would greatly increase your chances of being arrested. Each transaction is another opportunity for a betrayal or discovery and holding on to the evidence for weeks increases the chances of you getting caught with it in your possession. The smartest thing to do with stolen property is get rid of it as quickly as possible and in as few transactions as possible.

But robbing liquor stores is more risk for less payback. It’s the sort of thing strung-out druggies do.

So let’s play a game of “what if” …jsut how much would a truck load of Plasma TVs or DVD reocrders, wiis or tablet pcs be worth? Assuming that you did hijack it and had to fence it, how much could you get from it?

I recall a few instances of trucks being stolen at truck stops close to cities. The driver goes inside for a few minutes, then comes out to discover the truck is gone.

This actually makes more sense. By hitting a truck stop close to a city the pirates can get the truck off the major highways where the cops would be looking, and get it relatively quickly to some place where they could unload the truck at their leisure.

It seems like a prudent truck company carrying valuable cargo would simply have those GPS locator devices onboard. Here an example of the product:

I know of at least a few companies that monitor all of their trucks location real time. This helps their flow efficiency as well as prevents lazy truck drivers from messing around.

With the cheap availability of these devices I imagine thefts of this type are fast becoming things of the past.

Trucks are stolen all the time. Hijacked is the correct term. It’s less common in the US today than it was in the 60’s but far more common in Mexico and many other countries.

A truckload of Plasma TVs is worth a lot less than a truckload of small items without individual, trackable serial numbers.

A good fence might pay 10% of the retail value of the items for big ticket items but up to 40% of the retail value of something like cigarettes.

In other words, 'jack a truck with 100 plasma TV’s and you might be better off just gifting them to 100 of your closest friends than trying to sell them. You have to sell them without making any paper trails. And with any tech, sitting on them while the heat blows ovef just detracts the value.

It was a much more lucrative business when companies couldn’t track serial numbers to the point of know which serial numbers were on the truck when it disappeared.

So the money is in either taking stuff that can’t be tracked or taking stuff in a place that law enforcement is not effective enough to worry about.

That can be defeated with a pair of wire cutters. Or a hammer.

True enough, but the last location of the theft/hammering would be known, and if the truck was monitored real time then the trucks disapearance could be noticed immediately. It would dramatically lowers the odds of a successful car-jacking if law could be warned immediately that a truck went missing and was unresponsive to calls and exactly where. You still might be able to get it hidden in a warehouse quick enough but you’re going to have bad luck if you try driving it anywhere far.

I’m just saying, if car jackings were frequent enough to warrant it all trucks would have devices like this installed, possibly hidden on board somewhere to prevent hammering. As it is lots of trucks have these on board for other reasons.

Another way of tracking trucks is via their transponders. which they use for weigh stations and and tolls. A thief might not even know that this can be used to track a trucks time/location as well.

By the time the GPS tracking company notifies the shipper that the driver is off-route or stopped, the merchandise has already been transferred to another truck.

I suppose, depending on how exposed your GPS unit needs to be, you could hide it inside the truck - if it’s behind a trailer-load of plasma TVs, what are you going to do, unload them all, disable the (potential) GPS unit, and then load them back up?

How about some cites to counter my point that GPS on trucks does reduce truck jacking theft. All I see here is your speculation.

I am simply asserting that the advent of GPS makes it more difficult (not impossible) for profitable truck jacking, and it will only become more difficult as the technology becomes more commonplace in all trucking fleets:



From the second article, they are saying this about trucking in Mexico:
GPS has solved the problem of truck thefts to a great extent, especially between large companies who have the financial backing to spend in such technology.