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Commercial Truck Controller Modules Are Popular with Thieves

Fashion and music are not the only things that shift with trends. Stealing a pricey part out of a semi-truck is the latest theft-crime fad.

Microchip shortages and supply-chain issues have led to the increased theft of common powertrain controller (CPC) modules in commercial trucks in California.

Prior to 2022, CPCs were not on the radar of most law enforcement agencies. That changed this year. According to a report, the Bakersfield Police Department had no reported CPC thefts in 2021. Starting in July 2022, 27 thefts were reported in the span of only two months. About 40 units have been reported stolen in San Bernardino County so far in 2022.

Without a CPC, Trucks Are Inoperable

The unit is the brains of the truck, controlling engine and powertrain functions. The financial damage caused by CPC theft is not limited to the cost of the unit or damage to the vehicle. When the CPC is taken, the truck is inoperable. The driver can lose thousands of dollars in missed loads. Getting a replacement CPC can take as long as six months, leaving a driver with few choices.

CPCs Are Valuable

The trucker’s desperation is one reason why the unit has become lucrative. The regular list price for a CPC is between $1,400 and $1,600. The going rate on the black market can be as much as $8,000.

Thieves also target these modules because they contain precious metals including gold, silver, platinum, palladium, and copper. Catalytic converters also consist of precious metals, which is why these thefts are also spiking in Newport Beach and throughout the U.S.

Most Thefts Occur in Non-Secured Parking Lots

CPC thefts in Southern California have typically occurred in non-secured parking lots, according to law enforcement. CPC theft is also happening at dealerships, customer terminals, and truck servicing businesses across the country.

San Bernardino County law enforcement officials said warehouse centers in Fontana, Yucaipa, Victorville, Highland, and San Bernardino are common targets.

The single-biggest theft occurred in Pennsylvania. The CPCs were taken from 24 trucks waiting to be sold at auction.

An unlocked truck cab grants easy access to the unit. But a locked door will not keep all would-be thieves out. It is not uncommon for entry to be gained by smashing through a window. Using a few simple tools, someone who knows what they are doing can grab the CPC within a few minutes. Damaged dashboards and broken wire harnesses are often left behind.

Protections Against CPC Theft

There are steps that commercial truck drivers and owners can take to reduce the chances of CPC theft:

  • Park in an illuminated area
  • Position your truck in the view of surveillance cameras
  • Park in parking lots with security personnel
  • Locate safe areas to park along your route
  • Install an alarm system on your vehicle
  • When exiting your vehicle, roll up all windows, lock the doors, and take your keys with you
  • Enable password protection for the CPC (the vehicle manufacturer can help)
  • Remain vigilant and aware of your surroundings
  • Report suspicious persons to law enforcement

Consequences of Stealing a CPC

How an accused thief is charged depends on various of factors, including the value of what was taken. The value of a CPC means that the crime in California statute is called grand larceny or grand theft. A single count can carry up to three years in jail. Because grand larceny is a wobbler offense, a misdemeanor charge is possible.

If you are accused of stealing a CPC or receiving a CPC as stolen property, you need an experienced defense attorney in your corner right away.

At the law firm of Corrigan Welbourn Stokke, APLC, we use our more than 100 years of combined experience to create strategies to protect our client’s rights and fight for the best possible outcome.

When you need a defense attorney, contact us at (949) 251-0330 to schedule a consultation. We are available 24/7 to take your call.