Hijackers have a new target in South Africa – risking insurance premium hikes

 ·8 May 2024

Hijackers are increasingly targeting business-owned vehicles, especially delivery vehicles, due to the boom in online shopping, which could result in increased insurance premiums for businesses and delivery costs for consumers.

This is according to Tracker South Africa, which said 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 a recent study by World Wide Worx, South Africa’s online retail sector surged to R71 billion in 2023—a 29% increase from 2022, which positions the sector to break the R100 billion mark by 2026.

The 2023 rise comes after 35% growth the previous year, taking the total to R55 billion in 2022.

While this is a positive development for business in the country, criminals are always looking for ways to profit from it.

“Regrettably, crime aimed at online deliveries now prove highly lucrative, whether the objective is acquiring the delivered goods, seizing cash or devices carried by drivers, or commandeering the delivery vehicle,” it said.

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 is often planned, premeditated and systematic, local criminals are also taking advantage of the darkness afforded by load shedding, and in some cases, are even luring their victims by placing an online order,” Tracker said.

Certain Gauteng routes remain notorious hotspots for fleet vehicle crime, including the N12, R24/R21, R23, and N3 corridors. 

Courier vehicle being robbed in Cape Town.

Tracker explained that these hijackings not only cause immediate financial losses due to the loss of valuable cargo, but they also have far-reaching consequences.

When supply chains are disrupted, it can lead to delays in delivery schedules, which can have a ripple effect on other aspects of the business, said Tracker.

In addition, insurance premiums for fleet vehicles may rise in response to the higher levels of crime, which could be passed on to delivery costs, adding further financial strain on businesses operating in high-risk areas.

Ultimately, Tracker added, the impact of fleet crimes would be felt by everyone, from businesses and consumers to the wider economy as a whole.

According to Tracker’s latest Vehicle Crime Index—which aggregates information from Tracker’s more than 1.1 million subscriptions—hijacking is still the dominant type of vehicle crime in South Africa.

Hijackings account 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%.

Read: Online retail boom in South Africa as Amazon launches locally

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