Caroline Synakowski

By: Caroline Synakowski on January 14th, 2020

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The How-Tos of Hostage and Stolen Loads

Logistics | Cargo Claims | Hostage Load | Transportation | Best Practices | Agent Program

Hostage loads and stolen cargo are likely two of the most dreaded scenarios for brokers, shippers and consignees. If you think this is happening to one of your loads, follow these steps before you press the panic button.

1. Identify Red Flags

Learning to recognize common red flags will help to quickly identify an at-risk load. Here are behaviors we commonly see in these situations:

  • Two missed delivery appointments.
  • Multiple excuses about a "breakdown."
  • A demand for a new rate confirmation for more money.
  • Unable to contact the driver or dispatcher for 24 hours.
  • A dispatcher gives you the "runaround."
    Examples: being told the driver will be there in an hour, two hours or tomorrow morning, or constantly being told they will call you back with more information later in the day. These can be indicators that the dispatcher has lost contact with the driver.
  • Be alert to suspicious behavior or check-in locations not matching up with the route, and give these loads more attention.

2. Contact Your Claims Department

Brokers should contact their claims representative or the appropriate department in the event one or more of these excuses or demands are made.

3. Find Out Who's in Control

Determine who is controlling the load and causing this situation. Are you working directly with a driver or communicating through a dispatcher? Here the most common scenarios related to a hostage or stolen load:

  • Driver is working independently.
  • Dispatcher is unaware of driver’s intent to hold load hostage.
  • Dispatcher and driver are working together.

4. Stay Calm

Be cool, calm and collected. Generally, the carrier just wants to be heard. Start with a simple question, “What do you need to deliver?” It may not be possible to comply with this demand, but it is a starting point to negotiate the safe delivery of the cargo.

Do not send the carrier a new Rate Confirmation unless you are willing to pay the new amount. A Rate Confirmation is a legally binding agreement. While it may be tempting to promise the carrier what they want, without the intention of honoring the agreement, that is not recommended. If you send a new rate confirmation, you will be responsible for the higher amount listed on the updated confirmation.

Never argue with or threaten the carrier who is holding cargo hostage. If the carrier cannot communicate without arguing, it is best to let a neutral third party communicate with the carrier to help deescalate the situation.

5. Gather Necessary Information

Ask questions such as:

  • What is the cargo?
  • Who is the owner of the shipment?
  • What is the value of the cargo?
  • What is the last known location of the truck/cargo?

If the load is reported stolen to the police, you will need the following documents: signed Rate Confirmation, Carrier Contract and Bill of Lading. By having the above documentation, we can report a potential cargo claim to the carrier’s insurer. 

6. Set A Deadline

Give the carrier a deadline to deliver before reporting the load to the police. 24 hours is reasonable. If the carrier fails to meet this deadline, it is important that you follow through with the report (it can be recanted if the carrier delivers).

The owner of the cargo will need to contact their local police department to report the cargo stolen. They should provide the police with all the information listed above, including contact information for the carrier. 

The ultimate goal is always the safe delivery of the cargo. Ask for help, deescalate the situation, and gather information.

For more information about Armstrong and how we deal with cargo claims, hostage loads and legal issues, connect with us at, or leave a comment below.


About Caroline Synakowski

Caroline joined the Armstrong family in April 2017. In her current role, she helps agents with various issues, including contracts, complex claims, and carrier-related issues.