The National Insurance Crime Bureau says the theft of pickup truck tailgates is soaring in the U.S, aided by the ease of removal and a ready market on the internet. Most of those thefts go unreported because the replacement cost is often less than truck owners’ insurance deductibles. Still, the number of thefts reported to insurance companies have gone from just 3 in 2008 to more than 500 last year. An experienced thief can remove an unlocked tailgate in as little as 10 seconds.
“Those are just insurance claims. We know that number is woefully under-representative. The problem is much, much larger,” said Frank Scafidi, NICB public affairs director. “There’s a huge market, and that feeds the monster.”
Chrysler, which started making remote locking system for tailgates standard on 2013 Ram trucks that come with a remote key fob. The company blames the thefts in part on how easy automakers have made it to remove their tailgates. The remote system also locks RamBox storage compartments on trucks equipped with them.
“Tailgates can be taken with no effort at all. There’s no bolt. There’s no tools. I don’t know a single manufacturer that makes a tailgate that doesn’t pop right off,” says Chrysler spokesman Nick Cappa. “The incentive for some sort of locking system is pretty high.”
Another reason given is that tailgates get damaged and need to be replaced, creating a ready market for replacements.
“It’s the Number One theft item on a pickup,” said Bob Hegbloom, Ram brand director. “Typically, the thing that’s damaged first on a pickup is the tailgate. People are always replacing these things.”
They also aren’t stamped with serial numbers, making it difficult to trace them.
Ford and GM tailgates can be locked, but they are manual locks and not many drivers will walk back to the back of their trucks to secure the tailgate.
Chrysler says that they discovered the problem while doing consumer research for the 2009 Ram pickups, hearing from a number of Ram owners that they’d like a locking tailgate.
Another thing that’s made the tailgates worth stealing is the proliferation of backup cameras, nearly tripling the replacement costs if there is a camera or other electronics in the tailgate.
The most tailgate thefts take place in the number 1 market for pickup trucks, Texas, and the most common tailgate stolen unsurprisingly is from the Ford F-150, the most popular pickup truck sold.