Mississippi state lawmaker wants stiff cargo theft punishment

January 31, 2019

Keith Goble


A Mississippi state lawmaker is trying again to get a bill approved that is intended to deter the theft of truck, rail or container cargo through stiff punishment.

Rep. Steve Massengill, R-Hickory Flat, sponsored legislation each of the past two years to establish cargo theft as a specific offense and impose felony charges with escalating fines and punishment based on the value of goods. The House and Senate approved differing versions of the bill in 2017 but failed to reach agreement on provisions before the session ended.

According to SensiGuard, Mississippi has ranked in the top 20 of states in the number of cargo thefts. Figures released in 2018 show that California, Texas, New Jersey, Florida and Georgia comprise the top five.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which has more than 2,000 members residing in Mississippi, says the legislative effort to deter cargo theft is a reasonable and overdue measure intended to better protect the livelihood of the men and women that help drive the economy.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA manager of government affairs, says cargo theft is bad for everyone involved in the supply chain, especially truck drivers. He notes that loss of a truck for the professional driver can be financially devastating.

“Such an occurrence could effectively put our members, the majority of which are single truck owner-operators, out of business,” Matousek said. “The same goes for those involved in seasonal operations as they miss out on a year’s income in a short period of time.”

In an effort to discourage thefts in Mississippi, Massengill is again calling for offenders to face prison time in addition to monetary penalties. Specifically, thieves who steal cargo from trucks loaded with controlled substances, or pharmaceuticals, valued at less than $10,000 would face fines up to $100,000 and/or up to 10 years in prison.

Theft of controlled substances valued up to $1 million could result in as much as 25 years behind bars and/or fines up to $1 million. Loads valued in excess of $1 million could result in prison terms as long as 30 years and/or fines up to $1 million.

Violators of other property heists valued at as much as $1,000 would face misdemeanor charges. Theft of cargo valued as high as $10,000 would include fines up to $100,000 and/or 10 years behind bars. Stolen loads valued in excess of $10,000 could result in 20 years in prison and/or fines up to $1 million.

Another provision in the bill covers fifth wheels and any antitheft locking device attached to the fifth wheel. Any attempt to alter, move or sell a fifth wheel could result in 10-year prison terms and/or $100,000 fines.

HB1037 awaits consideration in the House Judiciary B Committee.