Paul Menig, CEO of Business Accelerants Powered by Tech-I-M, sees the trailer and transport industry entering its first growth phase almost 15 years into the GPS era. A tremendous increase in both the number of trailer tracking units over the last five years and the volume of production of new trailers bears proof ( see fig. 1 at right).
Several factors have contributed to this growth phase.
- Hardware costs have come down dramatically, including electronics, GPS transceivers, and wireless service
- Battery life has increased — particularly in situations where a trailer sits unpowered and disconnected from a tractor — including solar power and lithium-ion batteries
- Installation times have been reduced
- Cargo monitoring technology has improved, which includes ultrasonic sensors, cameras, and laser monitoring
- Compliance requirements also factor in, such as the Food Safety Modernization Act
- Increased awareness drives demand among peers, with shipper and consignees demanding to have insight into load location
Trailer Tech That Moves the Needle
Premier Trailer Leasing has been in the commercial trailer rental and leasing business for 14 years. It operates 30 branch locations in 25 states with 45,000 assets and 200 employees. The company knows a thing or two about industry trends.
Seven years ago, Premier Trailer Leasing first partnered with Spireon for all its non-refrigerated tracking technology. Currently, after a making a major investment in refrigerated monitoring, it has more than 29,000 Spireon devices installed on all of its over-the-road assets, including refrigerated, dry van, flatbed, and chassis.
Primarily, Premier Trailer Leasing uses smart trailer technology for:
- Security — For everyone: the shipper, the carrier, the insurance company, and the bank.
- Yard checks and pool management — Real-time location makes driver hook-up more efficient. With a big part of the industry going to drop and hook, yard checks have become very important. Manufacturers and shippers are very keen on pool trailers and the quantity of trailers that are required in a pool. Premier Trailer Leasing has discerning clients that are very quick to call the carrier and get another asset delivered when their trailer pool dips below its par value. Smart technology provides a quick way to keep an eye on those pools and levels very quickly.
- Fleet management — Dwell time is still an issue, from bottlenecks in facilities with live loading and unloading going on. Smart trailer tech provides real data so carriers can sit down with clients and talk about these bottlenecks and the effect it has on their business and profitability. Bottlenecks can then be alleviated with data or a change in pricing so that everyone is fairly compensated.
- Delivery updates — Technology has improved to the point of delivering near real-time updates, including location, speed, and direction. Premier Trailer Leasing clients benefit by being able to provide updates to customers about where everything is and where it is going at all times.
Smart Refrigerated Trailers
Two of the biggest issues with refrigerated trailers are fuel and batteries. Every refrigerated unit Premier Trailer Leasing offers has a fuel sensor that provides real-time tank levels. When a tank reaches about 7.5 gallons, alerts are sent to anyone who needs to know. “In theory, if you are using this technology, a refrigerated trailer should never run out of fuel,” Hall surmises.
When Premier Trailer Leasing first deployed its refrigerated technology, it found that batteries were dying. There was so much information being transmitted and drawing so much power from idle trailers, it was killing the batteries. Eventually, the company made the move to solar paneling on the tops of all its refrigerated units, which has virtually eliminated the problem.
Error code monitoring is another benefit for refrigerated trailers. Anytime one throws an error code, all relevant people are alerted. The trailer can then get serviced and back to a safe operating condition quickly.
“Another big deal is cold chain of custody,” says Hall. “Temperature monitoring data is all stored for an 18-month period of time, so if we do have to prove that we didn’t break the integrity of the cold chain, we have got the data to do it.”
And There’s More
Smart trailer technology also drives up ROI for “super users” by integrating trailer tracking data directly into TMS software, disseminating data to increase predictability, and more.
To get the full picture of the evolution of smart trailer technology and its current and future applications, download the full report “Smart Trailer Facts: Tracking, Monitoring, and Predicting: Once Unfathomable, Now the Expectation” or listen to the webinar “Debunking ‘Smart Trailer” for free today.
To see the latest in smart trailer tracking technology, visit spireon.com/trailer-management or call one of our friendly experts at 800.557.1449.