Assaults on cargo trucks by criminal gangs has resulted in the loss of nearly 5 billion pesos (about $380 million) between 2008 and 2011 in Mexico, and some criminal groups are beginning to use increasingly sophisticated methods to carry out the robberies.
According to Proceso magazine, the trucking business has been forced to adapt several new security measures in reaction to the increased risk of robbery, including having trucks travel in convoys of at least ten, and equipping them with GPS units.
But some criminal groups have become so adept at truck robberies that they are now capable of identifying and dismantling the GPS units, the head of Mexico's trucking trade association Roberto Diaz Ruiz told the magazine. Gangs that previously only stole merchandise are now more frequently stealing the vehicles themselves, and kidnapping the drivers, Diaz added.
The areas most at risk include Mexico state and the Federal District, where 60 percent of the robberies were registered. The Attorney General's Office of the Federal District counted 352 assaults on truckers in 2011, and 169 assaults between January and August 2012.
The most frequently stolen cargo includes technological and electrical equipment, pharmaceuticals, construction material, and basic goods like food and clothing.
InSight Crime Analysis
The aim of most truck robberies is to re-sell the stolen goods on the black market. This helps explain why so many criminal groups involved in the trade have proliferated in and around Mexico City, the country's licit and illicit economic hub.
As Proceso points out, internal corruption within some trucking associations has also contributed to theft. Mexico's largest trucking trade association estimates that 15 percent of all robberies involved a driver who collaborated with a criminal gang.
Mexico's larger criminal organizations have also been blamed for participating in truck theft, including the Zetas and the Familia Michoacana. Cargo trucks are used to smuggle drugs, money, weapons and human cargo across Mexico's northern border. Smaller vehicles like pickup trucks are also used for smuggling drugs and human cargo. In one recent example, a pickup attempted to "jump" the US-Mexico fence, but found itself literally straddling the border.