Thieves in SoCal targeting semi-trucks for costly computer components

By | November 1, 2023

Authorities in the Inland Empire are warning truck drivers about a rise in thefts from semi-trucks, saying thieves are targeting costly computer components that help the trucks run. 

The relatively new crime trend, according to law enforcement, has been costing victims thousands of dollars, not just in replacing the part, but in the business lost while their trucks are inoperable.  

“I’ve heard about them being stolen, but you know, like everything, you think it’s not going to happen to you,” Mike Bledsoe, the owner of Professional Site Solutions, told KTLA’s Shelby Nelson.  

Surveillance video captured the moments a thief smashed the window of Bledsoe’s semi-truck, pulled out a drill and in less than two minutes, stole the common powertrain controller, which sends communications between the engine and other parts of the vehicle.  

Without the common powertrain controller, or CPC, the truck can’t operate. 

“He hit four trucks in less than 30 minutes,” Bledsoe said. “I just don’t think they realize the predicament it put me in, you know. With inflation, all our costs are through the roof.”  

The theft cost Bledsoe’s trucking and equipment rental company in Riverside around $16,000 in parts and labor, and other costs like the truck’s broken window.  

The break-in happened around 1 a.m. last Tuesday. Bledsoe got a ping on his phone from the alarm, but by the time he and the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department arrived, the crooks were already gone.  

“Since November, we’ve had about 40 reports taken for the for the CPC thefts here, just in our county,” San Bernardino County Spokesperson Gloria Huerta told KTLA.  

The crime trend has been hitting truckers up and down the state.  

“Because there is a global shortage of that microchip, it makes it very lucrative and very popular and very attractive on the black market,” Huerta explained.  

Huerta added that the parts can retail for as much as $1,600, but on the black market, thieves are selling them for double that price or even more and people are buying them.  

“Because there’s a global shortage, there’s a huge backlog of that microchip and people are probably desperate to get to work, so they’re willing to pay that money to get that chip in their semis,” she said.  

Ontario Police Department Sgt. Melissa Ramirez said that some of the CPCs are detachable and can be taken out of the truck.  

“So, if they can do that, we advise them to take it out with them. Park in a well-lit area. If you are the owner, install video surveillance,” Ramirez added.  

As for Bledsoe, he said that for the time being, he’s parking his trucks somewhere else.  

While the parts do have serial numbers, law enforcement officials say the only way to trace them back is through the manufacturer. Once thieves get their hands on the parts, they can have the CPCs reprogrammed, which means the part doesn’t go back to the manufacturer for reprogramming.