Statistically speaking, summertime has the highest frequency of vehicle theft, which is why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration declared July as Vehicle Theft Prevention Month. Not only do drivers need to consider shifts in behavior but also the technology solutions available to bolster safety and theft prevention. 

2020 holds the record for the highest number of vehicle thefts in the last decade, increasing 9.2% year-over-year to 873,080 thefts. These thefts ranged from entire vehicles stolen to “smash-and-grab” theft, which is when a vehicle barrier is broken and items inside are stolen. 

In a January statement, David Glawe, president of the National Insurance Crime Bureau, said investigations are still being conducted regarding the rise of theft in 2020, but “considerations such as the pandemic, economic downturn, loss of juvenile outreach programs and public safety budgetary and resource limitations are likely contributing factors.”

The recent chip shortage crisis isn’t helping matters. AlixPartners, a global consulting firm, predicts the chip shortage will cost automakers $110 billion in 2021. In an interview with FreightWaves, William Sandoval, senior vice president of product management and strategy at PowerFleet, said that the shortages of vehicle components and parts are a significant contributor to the rise in auto theft.

“The global shortages of components are creating a vicious cycle of parts and component theft as people are holding on to their older vehicles and trucks for longer periods of time,” said Sandoval. “Unfortunately these vehicles might need parts that might not be available immediately. This wasn’t a problem a year ago, but the global shortages are pushing customers to consider using used parts and components to address their immediate needs as opposed to waiting weeks or months to get a new part from a manufacturer.”

The rise in thefts is just one cause for the growing adoption of 360-degree camera technology for trucking fleets. In June, PowerFleet launched Vista, its AI-driven high-definition video technology solution, in response to customer demand for more visual proof and contextual insights for both vehicle and cargo theft. 

The camera hardware includes a dashcam, as well as side and rear cameras, which work together to find and categorize any risk to vehicle and driver safety. Through a secure and comprehensive portal, fleet managers can access all cameras to take stock of trucks and take corrective action if necessary. 

But not only do trucks contain expensive cargo in transit, they hold the driver’s personal possessions. 

“Drivers spend a lot of time in their trucks; they essentially live in them,” said Sandoval. “In some cases we have obtained feedback around driver privacy concerns with video technology in the vehicle or truck cabin; ultimately drivers realize that a video solution not only helps them from a safety perspective, it’s also an additional security system that they never had before. Vista provides an additional security measure not only to see when the cargo doors are open and cargo is missing, but also for drivers’ personal security when parked at restaurants and rest areas where they might not feel as safe.”

Even when the truck is powered off, Vista records any event preceded by a sudden jolt. In the case of cargo theft, the video footage gathered from drivers and fleets is incredibly necessary in the process of getting paid from insurance companies. All video history on the SD card is cloud-based and can be accessed remotely should the truck itself get hijacked.

Facial recognition and near-field-sensing technologies are currently being developed to prevent or reduce future hijackings, wherein only the driver will have permission to turn on the truck. While the industry waits on this technology, the National Safety Council advises drivers to keep fixed driving routes, park in secure and well-lit areas and to never pick up hitchhikers. 

“I don’t think that there is one technology that can guarantee nothing’s going to happen,” said Sandoval. “But when it comes to video, we’re collecting the evidence required for a business to go back to the insurance companies and create a case. This affects a company’s bottom line. What might seem like an investment might have a major payout in handling theft of the cargo or vehicle.”

To learn more about PowerFleet’s Vista solution, click here.