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Cargo Trailer Theft

Contractors know that thieves like to steal cargo trailers, and protecting them is a constant concern. Whatever may be behind the four walls in a cargo trailer is a target and a challenge to protect.

Protecting Cargo Trailers

Slowing down cargo trailer theft requires diligence and multiple layers of protection. Thieves watch for vulnerabilities and have ways to cover their tracks. Thieves may pick locks, steal cameras, disconnect lights, or attempt to remove identifiers from trailers.

Create a theft prevention policy and procedures

  • Assign tools, if you have a crew
  • Limit (avoid) loaning and borrowing
  • Use lists to keep track of tools
  • Establish a pack up process
  • Establish a lock-up policy

Set up layers of protection

  • Place a lock on the hitch as well as the doors
  • Put cameras on the trailer and at fixed locations pointing to the trailer
  • Enhance lighting
  • Use anti-theft equipment (wheel locks, coupler locks, GPS tracking devices)
  • Make access to the hitch difficult, such as parking a vehicle in front of the trailer
  • Remove a wheel if the trailer will be parked for an extended period
  • Hide trailers from traffic and walkways
  • Use buildings and tall fences to your advantage
  • Secure the trailer to a fixed object or use an anchor, if possible
  • Use security fencing, if possible


  • License and register trailer
  • Advertise business with decals and lettering to make identification easy
  • Weld business name and number on the trailer near the hitch
  • Use fluorescent paint for marking; it is difficult to cover with other paints

Insurance on Cargo Trailers

Auto insurance covers trailers during towing; otherwise, there is no coverage for the trailer unless the trailer is listed on an automobile policy.

Insurance on Tools in Cargo Trailers

Commercial property insurance is coverage for equipment inside a building. It does not cover equipment that moves around from one location to another.

Inland marine insurance or equipment floater insurance, also known as contractor tool and equipment insurance, is optional insurance that can be added for the loss of tools and equipment that move from one site to another location. It does not cover stationary tools. Inland marine insurance has a deductible and a coverage limit. This is separate insurance from the business policy. Inquire with an insurance agent to add coverage for tool and equipment transported in a cargo trailer.

I recently received a quote, which conveniently works well for calculating. The premium was $500 a year with a $500 deductible for coverage up to $5,000. Here is an example of how a loss payout works. We could all assume an insurance company would not renew the policy if claims were turned in four years in a row, and we certainly hope no one would have that type of luck.

Year 1$500$500$5,000$5,000$4,500
Year 2$500$500$5,000$7,000$4,500
Year 3$1,000$500$10,000$2,000$1,500
Year 4$1,000$500$10,000$12,000$9,500
Total$3,000  $26,000$20,000

Tools are listed as either unscheduled coverage or scheduled coverage, based on the tool’s value.

  • Unscheduled coverage – blanket coverage for tools with a value of under $1,000 – $1,500
    • Has a set coverage limit and deductible
    • Most insurance companies only offer cash value for unscheduled coverage
  • Scheduled coverage – the policy will list each item and its value
    • Cash value – pays on the depreciated value
    • Replacement value – pays to repair or replace at the actual cash value

Policy Exclusions

  • War, government seizure, nuclear hazard
  • Pollution damage
  • Changes in temperature or humidity
  • Loss of documents
  • Strikes
  • Earthquakes and floods
  • Wear and tear

Policy Endorsements

  • Flood and earth movement
  • Electrical and power supply disturbance coverage
  • Upgrade value
  • Loss of income


  • Keep an itemized tool inventory recording purchase date, name, serial number, and purchase price
  • Mark equipment with the business name and phone number
  • Take pictures of the inside, both empty and filled with tools
  • Take photos of each side of the outside of the trailer
  • Weld or engrave the business name and phone number on the frame

Act Quickly if Your Cargo Trailer is Stolen

The quicker news spreads about the theft, the more potential for covering the stolen trailer. The chances of recovering a stolen trailer and contents are best within the first 48 hours after the loss.

If serial numbers on tools are provided to police, police are able to search pawn shop databases.

  • Immediately report the loss to the police
  • Contact your insurance company
  • Appeal to social media
  • Search locally lost and found Facebook groups
  • Monitor Facebook marketplace and Craigslist

Tracing Cargo Trailers

Some states don’t register trailers, and some states use a sticker on the tongue rather than a license plate. Even though licensed, thieves can remove the license plate quickly and sell the trailer. Reselling stolen trailers is very easy because there isn’t a national stolen trailer registration like vehicles.

Recovering from a Stolen Cargo Trailer

Time is money. Stolen equipment is a setback financially for replacing tools and losing work time. Even with insurance, the loss will not be fully covered, and it can take some time to receive payment from the insurance company.

The loss of everything a person has worked for is devastating and feels violating. It is understandable to have a difficult time with this setback. Well-meaning people may question how it happened and why this or that wasn’t done. They may even suggest that you give it up. While this is a setback, it is difficult but not impossible to bounce back.

The ability to recover from a loss is dependent on your ability to secure financing. You are in a much better position to recover with a high credit score, assets, and savings.


Loans, this one is tricky. Banks will look at the financial health of a business. The banks look for profitability and at credit scores. SBA does not offer loans for the replacement of stolen equipment. 

Credit Cards

Be careful with credit cards. Credit cards are an easy go-to for quick money. However, credit cards with high-interest rates should be reserved for emergencies and considered after other options have been exhausted unless they can be paid back quickly.


Crowdfunding allows the community to support and help you get up and going again. Gofundme is a personal fundraising site. Grab attention with a well-written appeal. Let clients, friends, and family know about your crowdfunding effort and ask them to pass along your request through their social media.

Yard sales

When you started your business or even before that, you may have watched yard sales.  This can be an easy way to pick up hand tools and the occasional corded tool. Great finds can also be found at estate sales and online marketplaces. 

Friends, Family, Clients

You may be amazed at the generosity of others. Those around you may not realize the prediction you are in and may be willing to help get you to get up and going again. Let others know, share your story. You may be able to borrow tools temporarily, or someone may let go of their old tools. Friends or family may have resources available to provide you with a short-term loan. Clients may even be willing to put a deposit towards future work.

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