The Pirates of the Highways
On America’s interstates, brazen bands of thieves steal 18-wheelers filled with computers, cell phones, even toilet paper. And select law enforcement teams are tasked with tracking them down.
Illustrations by David Huang| Edited by Brendan Spiegel
On May 11, 2013, a semi cab made its way up Interstate 555 from Memphis, Tennessee, northwest to Jonesboro, Arkansas. The man driving — a career trucker from Memphis — was accompanied by his nephew, and the pair was bobtailing, meaning their truck wasn’t pulling a trailer. Drivers often have to travel between warehouses and shipping facilities to pick up a new load, and these two men were indeed in search of new cargo to haul. Only in this case, they weren’t looking to do it legally. They were cruising the truck stops along I-555 for unattended trailers to pick up and steal.
Truckers sometimes leave their trailers at truck stops or even in parking lots in order to visit a mechanic or drive the cab home for the weekend. So the men knew it was only a matter of time before they came across an unattached trailer, overlooked in the bustle of a busy truck stop. The pair’s combined experience came in handy, as either one of them could hoo…