February 26, 2015
Author: Natalie Schroeder, Account Administrator
Early trailer tracking involved bulky units that would often malfunction from weather conditions such as rain and snow. The devices were connected by wires and were often difficult and time consuming to install. Their “data” consisted of infrequent updates of simple dots marking the route across the map. Now tracking devices are compact and weather proof. They can often be wireless and take under forty-five minutes to install. Those simple dots have turned into a full report that can include mapping, satellite imagery, fuel usage, and notifications of doors opening and closing, refrigeration unit temperatures, and other useful alerts.
One of the greatest benefits of trailer tracking is its ability to aid in the recovery of stolen trailers and cargo. Almost all trailer tracking services have the ability to locate a stolen trailer. Some trailer tracking hardware is able to report location data for up to seven years. This hardware can usually be mounted anywhere on the trailer and doesn’t need to be connected to wires. This makes the tracking units virtually undetectable by a thief trying to steal the trailer and/or cargo. There are also tracking devices that have the ability to send a signal to the carrier if the tracking device is removed or tampered with.
Some carriers have found that having trailer tracking has assisted them with securing contracts with shippers. They are able to not only track the cargo itself from point A to point B to ensure it is en route, but are also able to have a better idea of the estimated time of arrival. The data and alerts on the temperature of the refrigerated trailers are also useful to shippers who are shipping temperature sensitive loads.
For some carriers, the best benefits of trailer tracking are internal. Trailer tracking helps carriers reduce their trailer pool because it allows them to know exactly where their trailers are and how many are available. This helps carriers save both time and money. This is also beneficial to the drivers because they don’t have to waste time looking for the trailers. For this reason, many carriers with trailer tracking feel it has helped them improve their driver retention.
Despite the benefits of trailer tracking, there are some concerns as well. One of the first concerns for many carriers is the cost. There is usually a fee for the hardware itself and then a monthly fee per unit. Most tracking services require a contract (usually 3 years) with no offer of a trial period. Many of these services also have a minimum number of trailers (often five trailers minimum) that would need to be equipped with the tracking devices. There are also potential up-charges written in the fine print for additional features such as faster refresh rates.
Another concern is the battery life of the wireless units. Fortunately, most services have worked to address this concern. The batteries can be recharged when tethered to a power unit. Some devices have solar panels to charge the batteries when the trailer is not connected to the power unit. There are even devices that can run for three to five years on eight AA lithium batteries.
Some carriers may feel they aren’t tech-savvy enough to use a trailer tracking program with all of the data, graphs, and alerts. There are different services that range from simple to complex tracking. Trailer tracking services often offer training and classes to assist with using and getting the most out of the tracking software.
While trailer tracking may not be a cost effective option for all carriers, it could be highly beneficial to fleets that meet the minimum requirements of the service providers. It benefits not only the carriers with the time and money saved but also the carriers’ employees and shippers.
- Transportation Topics Magazine – Week of October 20, 2014