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WGAL News 8, an NBC affiliate in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, broke the story in early April:
“Police are investigating the theft of computer modules stolen from trucks ready to go up for auction in Lancaster County. Hess Auctioneers in Marietta said the modules are worth thousands of dollars.”
At the time, the company was getting ready for its biggest auction ever, with 1,800 trucks and other items on the block. “We have customers from all over the country,” General Manager Bill Troop told the television news station. “It’s a pretty brazen thing that somebody would do to take that right out of the dash.”
Since that theft, a large number of others have occurred at dealerships and customer terminals around the country.
Common Powertrain Controller modules are considered the brains of the truck. Without them, the two dozen trucks at Hess Auctioneers and others—mainly certain Freightliner models–were not going anywhere because their CPC4 modules control various engine and powertrain functions.
Troop blames the thefts on the chip shortage and supply chain issues. “We actually reached out and put an order in today for some of those units, and they’re estimating five to six months,” he said.
A Daimler Truck North America (DTNA) spokesperson agreed: “There’s a lack of availability and many replacements are on backorder. The truck will not run without it. We would describe the current supply chain shortages for microchips as the root of the problem,” the company said.
As thefts of CPC4 modules from parked trucks rose, there were also reports of thieves seeking reprogramming and reinstallation on other trucks. In late May, that prompted DTNA to launch a broad initiative to fight the pervasive thefts from its vehicles. The company’s anti-theft measures include:
• Asking all customers and dealers to report stolen CPCs to both local law enforcement and DTNA at 1-800-FTL-HELP.
• Recommending all dealerships, customers and repair facilities cross reference vehicle identification numbers from CPCs brought in for installation against the company’s database of CPCs to ensure the CPC hasn’t been stolen or illicitly sold.
• Providing tracking capability through DTNA Service Systems to detect any stolen CPC attempting to be installed on a different VIN.
• Asking any dealership or repair facility with a CPC confirmed stolen to report it to both their local police agency and DTNA.
• Recommending all fleets and customers password-protect their CPCs.
Fleets and drivers affected by the theft of a CPC module can seek replacements from a DTNA-authorized distributor or dealership, the company related. The modules can be replaced in fleet or dealer shops.
DTNA is also collaborating with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to assist in the investigation and prosecution of CPC theft. Additionally, the company will evaluate and pursue as necessary civil actions for software infringement against those involved in CPC theft and mismanagement.
“The theft of CPC modules is a crime that threatens the livelihood of customers and disrupts our dealers’ operations,” said Paul Romanaggi, chief customer experience officer at DTNA. “Daimler Truck North America is committed to doing everything in its power to protect our customers and dealers from this crime and will support prosecution of anyone found in participating in these thefts.”