A pearl of knowledge

[160] 3 February 2021: Breakthrough requested: Investigation into vulnerabilities to criminal abuse and (public-private) measures in professional road haulage

Introduction and context

Wednesday 3 February 2021, hopefully, a slightly drier day than yesterday. That was a very grey slush of rain including an impenetrable cloud cover. To keep up the courage, a sunny song: You get a good warm feeling with that. But now to more serious matters, the ‘knowledge pearl’ of today. This time, this is a recently published study into vulnerabilities to criminal abuse in professional road haulage. The Netherlands is a crucial logistics hub and therefore the Gateway to Europe . The Netherlands, the transport sector and public parties benefit from a safe, strong and ethical sector. At the same time, it cannot be otherwise concluded that organized crime markets, in particular the drug industry, need (conscious or unconscious) facilitators in the upper world to commit a subversive crime. The resilience to criminal abuse of companies and its employees is therefore under pressure.

It is also important that organized crime with a strong cross-border character usually has its roots in local situations and geographical areas. After all, illegal trade must be transported and distributed from certain locations or find its way to the local markets. In other words: the criminogenic marketplace is often geographically bound. Organized crime in the Netherlands is largely transit crime . Criminal groups are often involved in illegal, cross-border trade and smuggling (drugs, weapons, stolen vehicles, illegal immigrants, women) using the same opportunity structure that also facilitates the legal economy. The Netherlands is primarily a transit country, to a considerable extent a destination country and an important production country (synthetic drugs, hemp). Not only the geographic position of the Netherlands and its role as a logistics hub in Europe but also the social infrastructure provides a broad opportunity structure in the Netherlands. Preventive actions are then obvious:

Organized crime often uses the same facilitating infrastructure that legal organizations use. In order to operate on the illegal market, it is often necessary to make use of available services of the legal market (distribution, financial transactions, housing, licensing systems). The high-quality infrastructure of the Netherlands (level of knowledge, transport and communication facilities, legal facilities) and its typical characteristics (transit country) make the Netherlands an attractive ‘partner’. Organized crime in the Netherlands is highly dependent on trading activities for legal goods. The use of carriers, transport documents, financial advisers, lawyers, notaries, and storage areas are indispensable for criminal operations.

Partly as a result of this, a sector-wide investigation was conducted into the possible (criminogenic) role of the transport and logistics sector. The choice for this investigation is partly due to signals from the constituency, police investigation and previous investigations by both public and private parties. Such an investigation in this capacity has now also been carried out more than 25 years ago. A thorough up-to-date insight into making the right choices for policy and measures is therefore of great importance, especially now that undermining crime is a top priority. The research serves three related goals:

  • Providing insight into (potential and actual) vulnerability to criminal abuse in the licensed and non-licensed transport and logistics sector;
  • Contribute with recommendations to (a series of) concrete measures to make the transport and logistics sector more “criminally proof”. Concrete measures that – along an increasing scale of prevention, restraint and repression – increase resilience, integrity and security in the chain and thus contribute to maintaining the Netherlands’ economic position in the world top;
  • To deliver practical, feasible and clear recommendations for a well-functioning Public-Private partnership in the transport and logistics sector. These recommendations not only contribute to achieving reciprocity and accessibility in public and private organizations, but also to constructive and sustainable cooperation.


Bervoets, Eric, Mirjam Corsel, Govinda Fortuin, Kieran Kaal & Marcel van de Ven (januari 2021). Doorbraak verzocht: Onderzoek naar kwetsbaarheden voor crimineel misbruik en (publiek-private) maatregelen in het beroepsgoederenvervoer over de weg. Nijmegen: Van de Ven Management, Training en Advies / Amersfoort: Bureau Bervoets, 120 pp.


The transport sector remains vulnerable to crime. That is the main conclusion of the independent investigation “Breakthrough Requested”. There is a rich breeding ground for crime and the prospects are not promising. Professional goods transport, from international freight traffic to parcel delivery, is susceptible to criminal abuse due to tight working conditions and strong competitive pressure. The priority for tackling crime varies and is mainly symptom-fighting, say the researchers. A breakthrough is necessary to stop crime in transport. The pressure on rates, decreasing pay for drivers and couriers, combined with the low probability of being caught, means that part of the transport sector is sensitive to drug trafficking, for example. This, combined with well-organized criminal partnerships that easily use the excellent infrastructure of the Netherlands as a “gateway to Europe”. The researchers are also noticing the increased role of online crime in the industry.

Transport crime requires a change in thinking, say the researchers. In addition to structural investigation and enforcement, it is necessary to remove the breeding ground for criminal abuse. Both for clients and the government, a culture change is needed in which market mastery and fair pricing and remuneration are of great importance and therefore an approach that not only focuses on catching crooks but also on preventing the opportunity. . The researchers, therefore, recommend, among other things, to the national government to instruct the Authority for Consumers and Markets to investigate soil tariffs to remove the breeding ground for criminal abuse. Also, the researchers recommend that policymakers take into account that incoherent policy can actually be counterproductive and that they need to connect and collaborate much more with practice so that these worlds come together instead of drifting further and further apart.

To conclude

These are rather hefty conclusions that have since caused the necessary discussion. For example, the trade association Transport and Logistics Netherlands (TLN) is not entirely satisfied with these conclusions. For example, TLN believes that the study leaves several important questions unanswered and believes that additional research is needed to provide transport companies and logistics service providers as well as stakeholders with concrete tools for measures. TLN is also apparently disappointed that several crucial questions remain unanswered and also notes that the correct tools are missing for the implementation of several recommendations:

Be that as it may, the enclosed research has in any case also yielded solid knowledge to reduce both repressive and preventive (organized) crime in the Dutch transport sector. Again excellent knowledge for policy and practice to take further steps in the context of tackling organized crime in the Netherlands. ‘Sound knowledge for policy and practice’ to further shape evidence-based and informed policy and practice to tackle organized crime.