Technology evolves. This isn’t a surprise to anyone, but it doesn’t make knowledge of how it evolves any less important. After all, when you understand the capabilities of new and old technologies alike, you can understand what they have to offer you and your business. One type of technology that is rapidly changing right now is trailer tracking software. While trailer tracking systems are not new by any stretch of the imagination, the way they are being designed and implemented has changed in recent years and is continuing to change today. Let’s break down the top five changes that we can see in the development of trailer tracking software.


 

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1. Moving Toward a Trailer-as-a-Platform Smart Trailer Model

As we look for ways to render key tools and equipment “smart,” it’s no real surprise that the idea of smart trailers is getting more and more popular with logistics and transportation operators. After all, smart trailers provide many great benefits that mundane trailers simply can’t. They provide both overall and interior visibility, they allow for detailed condition monitoring for the inside of the trailer, they help those unloading the trailers know where everything is stored, they help drivers ensure they don’t leave critical equipment behind, and so much more. They can even be used to help decipher when a trailer requires inspections or maintenance based on the wear and tear it detects rather than just mileage derived from the truck’s own system. Having your trailer tracking software embedded into your trailer from the get-go saves you time from trying to figure out how you’re going to keep track of these factors on your own. The logistics industry is clearly moving toward this transformation in the long term, but what about the short term?

The major downside of smart trailers and the reason we don’t see more now and are unlikely to see more for the immediate future is that they are still incredibly expensive to obtain. Mundane trailers aren’t cheap, so it’s easy to imagine how much more expensive trailers can become when they’re embedded with a wide array of sensors and computer systems. It’s still largely unrealistic to fund a fleet of smart trailers, especially since trailers are usually only replaced when they break down beyond repair. That being said, the fact that these trailers exist and that their functions would clearly bring benefits to the logistics industry means that other IoT technology companies are coming up with ways to transform mundane trailers into functional smart trailers through supplementary systems at a fraction of the cost. For example, Link Labs’ AirFinder Everywhere solution has a trailer-as-a-platform setup that companies can use to obtain this smart trailer functionality. By strategically affixing the trailer, truck, and trailer contents with tags and sensors, the system can provide all the same benefits as a smart trailer without necessitating that you actually purchase a smart trailer. It lets you use your current trailers for longer while still receiving visibility benefits.

2. Providing Granular Visibility for Trailer Contents

Trailer tracking solutions are also starting to look beyond the scope of general, “trailer tracking.” While the phrase “trailer tracking” evokes the act of tracking trailers alone, whether for location or condition data, the term is beginning to encompass efforts to promote visibility for the contents of trailers. This shift in trailer tracking reflects a shift in the overall priorities of not just trailer trackers, but IoT solutions as a whole. The people using these solutions want to obtain as much information from their system as possible, and by expanding trailer tracking offerings to provide more granular visibility for the location and condition of a trailer’s contents, IoT solution providers are able to demonstrate their solution’s improved value and ROI. 

There are many benefits to investing in a trailer tracking system that provides interior visibility of the trailer and granular condition data for cargo. For instance, when you track cargo in correspondence with the trailer it's traveling in, you have a reliable method of ensuring that it got packed into the correct trailer and is headed to the correct destination. If that cargo is accidentally left behind or unloaded at the wrong location, you’ll be able to know as soon as the system alerts you that the cargo is no longer in the vicinity of the trailer it’s supposed to be traveling with. This saves drivers from wasting time needing to fully backtrack or run through a completed journey a second time, which is usually what happens when there’s no trailer tracking system in place since operators won’t know that something wasn’t delivered until they get a call or happen to discover the deliverable in the wrong location. It also helps companies save money on gas, labor, and replacement.

The strategy of tracking trailer contents both on their own and in conjunction with the trailer also helps companies maintain compliance with shipping regulations, particularly in regard to the cold chain. Just because the trailer itself is registering at a given temperature doesn’t mean that each product registers at that temperature. By tagging pallets, units, or products individually, operators can receive alerts if the temperature of one or more begins to fluctuate due to blocked vents, improper packing, or shifting during transport. This allows them to act quickly to address the matter so that the product isn’t lost entirely. This is simply not achievable with a trailer tracking system that only tracks overall trailer location and condition. For this reason, more trailer tracking softwares are shifting toward a model that allows for more granular visibility.

3. Tracking Non-Powered Assets for Complete Visibility

Logistics companies are further coming to the realization that while many of them do not currently have location or condition visibility for their non-powered assets, it would be beneficial for them to have. The reason many companies don’t already have these capabilities is because they choose to wholly rely on their telematics systems for their visibility and data collection needs. There’s nothing wrong with using telematics, as it provides critical information about fuel consumption, driver behavior, and other data points. There’s a reason that this technology is required by the government, and there’s a reason that so many companies choose to rely on it. However, as the logistics industry grows and evolves, their visibility needs also grow and evolve. Telematics can only provide visibility for their trucks and trailers when the truck is turned on and the trailer is connected. As soon as the truck is turned off or the trailer is disconnected, all visibility is lost. Further, the system is not equipped to deal with other assets such as trailer contents or critical equipment. It’s limited to providing visibility for only powered assets, which means companies that require complete visibility must look elsewhere for a supplementary system that works to fill in the gaps with their telematics system.

Trailer tracking systems are largely being designed to fill in this visibility gap left behind from telematics. The companies that provide these solutions have no intent to replace telematics, instead asking, “What does telematics not do, and how can I provide that functionality in a way that meshes with the technology that companies already have?” This in mind, most independent trailer tracking systems intend to provide visibility to trailers when the truck is off and when the trailer is disconnected. This provides a number of benefits to logistics and transportation operators. The most salient of these benefits is found within the yard. Since disconnected trailers cannot be tracked using telematics, when those trailers are returned to the yard, it can be difficult to keep track of which trailers have been out recently, which ones have been sitting, and which ones require routine maintenance or inspections. This leads to trailers being either overutilized or underutilized, which results in more frequent and more costly breakdowns, as well as an increased need for replacements and a skewed perspective on what assets the company does and does not have at their disposal. By outfitting these trailers with trackers that can still operate when they’ve been disconnected, operators have an automated record of how long each trailer’s been sitting, how it’s been used recently, and when it requires maintenance. This saves time so managers don’t have to keep track manually, as well as eliminating human error and misplacements as trailer tracking softwares adopt this focus.

4. Taking Tracking Beyond the Cargo and the Trailer

Trailer tracking software is also developing in a way that allows them to be applied to applications beyond traditional trailer tracking or even cargo tracking. These forms of tracking have become relatively standard and expected from solutions that serve the logistics industry, even if they come as separate systems. Trailer trackers and cargo trackers have existed on the market for a long time, which means that operators are used to having visibility for those aspects of their operations. However, once you have visibility for certain aspects of your operations, you’re more likely to want that visibility and the resultant collected data to be available across other aspects of your operations as well. Trailer tracking systems are beginning to account for this desire, serving as robust solutions that can not only keep track of the location and condition of trailers, cargo, and portable equipment, but also the overall transportation and distribution process.

There are many benefits to seeking complete visibility over a process. With a trailer tracking system that lets you know exactly when your drivers have hit certain landmarks, as well as when they’ve unexpectedly stopped or opened the trailer doors, you can better project delivery times and address disruptions faster. While telematics can account for a portion of this, they stop collecting and transmitting data while the truck is turned off. Having a system in place that continues monitoring when they’re not being powered adds a layer of security and process visibility. For instance, if a truck has stopped and the trailer doors flag as open on the trailer tracking system, it might mean that something has gone wrong. Even if that something is as simple as a routine stop-and-check from police, these stops can have an impact on your ability to get deliveries to their destination on time. Knowing when and why these stops happen can help you keep your customers informed. Further, this level of overall visibility allows you to log how long each trailer has been on the road and under what conditions, both for singular journeys and the trailer’s overall lifespan. This data can inform inspection and maintenance schedules to help prevent unexpected breakdowns and costly repairs or replacements, so it’s no surprise that trailer tracking systems are increasingly taking these applications into account.

5. Emphasizing Add-Ons and Supplementary Systems

The biggest shift in how trailer tracking systems are being designed and used is that IoT providers are focusing on designing these solutions in such a way that they can serve as a supplementary system that can be used in direct conjunction with pre-existing systems. As previously discussed, logistics and transportation companies are already required to use telematics systems, and their workers are familiar with that technology. They know how it works and what they’re going to get out of it. Depending on the company, they might also have a supply chain or inventory management system in place. Either way, the point is that most logistics companies are already relying on one or more of these systems, which makes the idea of adding a whole new system to the mix rather unappealing. After all, a new system means another, separate source of data and needing to teach workers how to properly utilize that system. IoT providers understand that this is a problem. Thus, many have shifted their focus to offering trailer tracking software that can fully integrate with existing systems, ensuring that all data goes to one place and significantly reducing the learning curve for the functions of the new technology.

This shift can be seen in many ways. Large telematics companies like GeoTab are actively curating and offering a market of system add-ons that operate through their core system by providing benefits that their base system does not. As for the IoT providers that focus on designing and providing actual trailer tracking software, the ability of the system to integrate with pre-existing systems regardless of what that system may be is a vital part of the solution development process. Providers want you to be able to use their trailer tracking solution with as much ease as possible, and they understand that the way to do so is to ensure that the software can effectively operate alongside your existing, well-learned systems. Our AirFinder Everywhere solution offers this level of integration, with the data collected from our asset tags accessible to other systems through MQTT and API streams, as well as more formalized integrations. We particularly emphasize our ability to integrate with telematics, as that is most likely to represent the central system for logistics and supply chain operations.

Transform Your Logistics Operations with Trailer Tracking

Link Labs’ AirFinder Everywhere solution serves as a robust and adaptable trailer tracking system for logistics and supply chain operations. Our asset tracking technology is designed to help you transform mundane trailers into smart trailers, gain granular visibility of your trailer contents, track your non-powered assets, maintain a complete automated record of your trailer’s journey, integrate with your telematics system, and more. Book a demo with our experts today to learn more about how our technology can work for you.

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Written by Makenna Dudley

Makenna Dudley is a Marketing Associate for Link Labs, with practical experience in written communications, media writing, and additional forms of content creation. She has a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication.

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