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Fleet crime overview in South Africa

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Sponsored Blog by Tracker

South Africa’s freight and logistics market size is estimated to be around 435 billion rand in 2024, projected to reach 581 billion rand by 2029. However, this crucial sector faces persistent threats from criminal activities, particularly transport-related crime such as fleet vehicle hijackings and cargo theft. It is therefore imperative for businesses to stay vigilant, understand prevailing trends, and adopt proactive measures to safeguard their assets and address the crime challenges they face.

The Tracker Vehicle Crime Index aggregates information from Tracker’s more than 1.1 million subscriptions. Tracker’s July to December 2023 data indicates that at a national level, hijackings still dominate, accounting for 55% of all national vehicle crime incidents versus theft at 45%. However, while the theft ratio for personal vehicles is slightly higher at 52%, a business-owned vehicle has a far higher hijacking propensity at 64%. This means that a business-owned vehicle is almost twice as likely to be hijacked than stolen.

Gauteng remains the province with the highest volume of business vehicle-related crime, accounting for 56% of incidents. KwaZulu-Natal experiences 14% of these incidents and the Western Cape 13%. Relative to Tracker’s subscription count, the highest propensity toward business vehicle crime occurs in Gauteng, which reflects a 17% over-representation of Tracker’s business-owned vehicle base. This is followed by KwaZulu-Natal with a 12% over-representation. KwaZulu-Natal shows a high incidence of business-owned vehicle hijackings relative to Tracker’s business vehicle base, with a 64:36 hijacking to theft ratio. Western Cape business vehicles are less likely to experience vehicle crime relative to Tracker’s business vehicle base, but business vehicle crime in the Western Cape is overwhelmingly skewed toward hijacking, accounting for 82% of vehicle crime incidents. This means that it is almost five times likelier for a business-owned vehicle to be hijacked than stolen in the Western Cape.

There is statistically lower business vehicle crime collectively for provinces other than Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape. However, the vehicle crime that occurs in these regions is again skewed towards hijacking with a 63:37 hijacking versus theft ratio.

Why is fleet crime on the rise?

The surge in online shopping, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, has made courier vehicles prime targets for criminal syndicates and opportunistic thieves alike. According to World Wide Worx, South Africa’s online retail surged, doubling from 2018 to 2020 due to the pandemic-induced demand for home deliveries. In 2020, it grew by 66%, followed by 40% in 2021, and in 2022, SA online retail surpassed R50 billion, continuing growth through 2023, driven by the sustained home delivery demand. This e-commerce boom is happening amidst stagnant total retail sales.

Regrettably, crime aimed at online deliveries proves highly lucrative, whether the objective is acquiring the delivered goods, seizing cash or devices carried by drivers, or commandeering the delivery vehicle. Where the hijacked loads have been reported to Tracker, 81% of these were fast moving consumable goods (FMCG) including alcohol, clothing, groceries, couriered parcels through online sales platforms, homeware and medication. While vehicle-related crime in SA is often planned, premeditated and systematic, local criminals are also taking advantage of the darkness afforded by loadshedding, and in some cases, are even luring their victims by placing an online order. Certain Gauteng routes remain notorious hotspots for fleet vehicle crime, including the N12, R24/R21, R23, and N3 corridors. 

Criminals use various tactics, including ‘blue light gangs’ who deceive victims with unmarked vehicles and impersonate law enforcement officers. Vehicle sabotage, where key features are tampered with during a routine truck stop so that drivers pull over later to inspect warning signals is another method. Broken down car scams, forced stops, and diversions are among other common strategies used to hijack vehicles. Driver collusion with criminals may even pose a challenge, emphasising the importance of thorough background checks and robust organisational policies to deter insider threats.

These robberies are likely to affect drivers, customers, e-commerce and logistics businesses and ultimately the economy. The more these incidents occur, the more likely the reputation regarding the safety and reliability of online deliveries will suffer. Moreover, delivery costs and insurance premiums for fleet vehicles may rise in response to higher levels of crime, adding further financial strain on businesses operating in high-risk areas.

Mitigation of fleet vehicle crime

Continued advancements in technology offer viable solutions to enhance fleet security. Artificial Intelligence-enabled (AI) dashcams utilise facial recognition and live monitoring features via a dual camera system to detect both unauthorised cab access as well as external hazards around the vehicle. Control centres can be automatically alerted in real-time, offering fleet managers a live look-in service, potentially preventing vehicle or cargo theft through tracking and theft retrieval services.

In addition to AI dashcams, leveraging vehicle telematics can provide valuable insights for route optimisation and incident management. Real-time tracking, analytics, and interactive dashboards empower fleet managers to make informed decisions and mitigate risks effectively.

Furthermore, incorporating safety features such as in-cab assist buttons for drivers, impact detection paired with emergency services dispatch, the ability for drivers to share their journeys with fleet managers, theft retrieval services, cargo door sensors and on-demand armed response capabilities can further bolster fleet security. Trailer tracking units also aid in cargo recovery efforts, minimising losses in the event of theft or hijacking.

As criminals continue to innovate, a multi-faceted approach tailored to specific operational environments and risk factors is essential. While technology offers valuable tools, it must also complement comprehensive organisational strategies to ensure protection against fleet crime. Proactive vigilance, strategic investment in technology, and robust organisational policies are paramount in safeguarding fleets against evolving threats. By staying informed and adopting a holistic approach to security, businesses can mitigate risks and uphold the integrity of their operations in the face of adversity.

“Tracker urges fleet owners and companies to be better prepared for the heightened vehicle theft and hijacking levels during the year-end and other peak crime periods by ensuring well-maintained fleets and implementing robust fleet monitoring solutions. Additionally, prioritise driver safety through training on vehicle safety checks, emergency protocols, and hijack prevention strategies,” says Duma Ngcobo, Chief Operating Officer at Tracker. “Vehicle telematics has evolved from simple tracking devices to smart devices. We recommend using the insights provided by vehicle telematics and related software to protect drivers, cargo and vehicles.”
For more information, visit www.tracker.co.za

Visit www.tracker.co.za for more information.

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