For years, fleet managers have understood the importance of supply chain visibility. This understanding has led them to invest in high-quality telematics systems that provide insight into truck activity that can be used to make better, more informed decisions. But recently, these managers have discovered that most telematic platforms only provide about 30% visibility of the entire supply chain process. What’s included in the last 70%, and is it important? The trailers and cargo are included, and yes. Overlooking the cargo and trailers carrying it can lead to a variety of challenges for fleet managers. This visibility is incredibly important to have despite being left out of telematics. Luckily, fleet managers can invest in trailer tracking to supplement their telematics and gain visibility for 100% of their supply chain activities. 


 

Increase Your ROI by Investing in AirFinder Everywhere

  • Loss Prevention. Reduce the amount of loss that occurs during the supply chain process
  • Location Coverage. AirFinder Everywhere uses a combination of GPS, Cellular, and WiFi to determine location everywhere
  • Security Alerts. Know when a delay in shipment has occurred so the problem
    can be addressed immediately.

 

Telematics vs. Trailer Tracking

A common misconception in the logistics industry is that fleet managers have to choose between a telematics system and a trailer tracking solution. The opposite is true: it is, in fact, encouraged to merge your existing telematics solution with a trailer tracking system. Telematics still provides 30% of the visibility you need; if you eliminate it, you will still fall behind your goal of 100%. Additionally, telematics systems are required by law for trucking safety. It provides crucial data about powered assets and the truck when it’s turned on. The problem is that when the truck is off or disconnected from the trailer, you can’t see your unpowered assets, including the trailer and cargo it carries. Integrating telematics with trailer tracking ensures complete visibility of all transportation activities, both when your truck is and isn’t turned on.

How Trailer Tracking Works

Trailer tracking is a sophisticated system that utilizes advanced technology to monitor and manage trailers effectively. Trailer tracking combines location tracking technology and sensors to provide real-time information about the location, status, and condition of trailers and their cargo.

The trailer tracking device you attach to your trailers, pallets, packaging, and other non-powered assets is responsible for collecting location data and monitoring shock and temperature. The collected data is then transmitted via wireless communication to the network. Once the data reaches the network, fleet managers or operators can access the information through the UI. When trailer trackers are integrated with existing telematics systems, fleet managers can access a comprehensive view of the entire fleet in one location. This enables them to accurately visualize the trailers' movements, providing insight into their fleet's overall efficiency and productivity.

Trailer tracking systems offer more than just location data. They also provide additional features and functionality for enhanced monitoring and management. For instance, geofencing allows the creation of virtual perimeters around specific areas. When a trailer enters or exits these predefined boundaries, the system generates automated alerts. This capability is invaluable for ensuring that trailers stay within designated regions and alerting managers of any unauthorized movement.

Why Invest in Trailer Tracking?

A trailer tracker helps improve fleet operations. By implementing trailer tracking technology, companies are able to maximize efficiency and mitigate risks. When companies reduce late shipments, decrease detention times, increase trailer utilization, and increase unpowered asset visibility, they are able to improve overall supply chain operations.

Reduce Late Shipments

Late shipments cause a variety of problems for companies. For one, they cause you to lose credibility with customers. When your customers can’t trust you to deliver their product on time, they leave you for your competition. You can, of course, apologize and even offer discounted or free items to try to get them to stay, but there is no guarantee they’ll be willing to risk another late shipment. Avoiding late shipments lowers your customer acquisition cost. An on-time delivery means a customer is more likely to return to you rather than leave due to a delay.

Trailer tracking ensures that shipments are on time by directly addressing one of the core causes of shipping delays. It is not uncommon for a trucker to accidentally hook up their truck to the incorrect trailer. When they do so, the installation of a hitch can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours; installing the wrong trailer means needing to repeat the lengthy process for reinstallation, even before considering how time and fuel is spent on the road before the problem is discovered. 

Decrease Detention Times

How long are your detention times? Most companies don’t know, because they don't take the time to track how long it takes for trailers to be loaded. This is a problem, because if loading takes too long, there may be a detention fee to account for the unnecessary time spent loading. If the loading time is higher than it should be, there may be an underlying reason for it, possibly unproductive employees or a worker shortage. Perhaps the trailer was simply overloaded. Either way, using a tracking solution allows you to have important loading data so problems can be addressed and prevented. 

Beyond detention fees, shorter loading times also allow for quicker deliveries because the truck can leave sooner. The faster the delivery, the more deliveries you can make, which increases both the amount of money you make and the likelihood of returning customers.

Increase Trailer Utilization

More often than not, fleet managers have underutilized trailers and overutilized trailers. Very rarely is trailer use completely balanced, simply because managing large numbers of trailers can be difficult. With a large lot full of trailers, the ones in the back can easily get overlooked.

Proper yard management is essential to extending the trailer’s lifecycle. When the same 100 trailers are being sent on every trip, they are being overexerted, while the 30 in the back aren’t being used at all. This means the overutilized trailers will have a shorter life than they should, requiring more maintenance and more replacements. When every trailer is effectively used, the overall efficiency of logistics operations increases. 

Increase Non-Powered Asset Visibility

Theft is an unfortunate problem that every company struggles with. Sometimes thieves steal trailers, causing a domino effect that delays operations. Other times, it's the cargo on the trailers that is stolen. In this case, the merchandise needs to be replaced, the pallet or container carrying the cargo needs to be replaced, and a shipment is delayed. Wouldn’t it be great to know when a pallet or cargo is stolen from a trailer? Using a trailer tracking system to get visibility of your non-powered assets helps to reduce or eliminate theft. Even if theft does occur, it’s less likely to be successful since you are alerted once the pallet is removed from its designated location. If this occurs, you can quickly alert the authorities and get your trailer back.

Another asset visibility challenge is pallets being accidentally left behind. Forgetfulness is not uncommon when you’re on a tight schedule; unfortunately, leaving behind pallets can cause even greater delays. A trailer tracking solution can help you track these pallets. If a pallet is left behind at a warehouse, fleet managers can be alerted so they can tell the driver before they get too far from the warehouse. The driver can turn around, retrieve the pallet, and return to the route without losing too much time.

Features to Look for in a Trailer Tracking Solution

After you decide to invest in trailer tracking, you need to decide which solution to invest in. In order to make this decision, you need to evaluate what features are important to have in an asset tracking solution.

Sensors

Trailer tracking tags with embedded sensors provide data above and beyond the location of the assets. For instance, some of these sensors can monitor the temperature of the environment for cold chain monitoring on reefers. Other sensors can also monitor acceleration and shock and be used to monitor driver behavior. These features are more important to some companies than others, so it’s important to know what you need and what’s available to you. If you need one of these or another sensor, make sure the solution you choose has the sensors you need embedded. 

Geofences

A geofence is a virtual zone that is set up in areas typically surrounding warehouse facilities. With geofences set up around the warehouse, companies are alerted when trailers, pallets, or packages leave the premises. With these alerts, companies can find out if an asset is removed from the zone when it’s not supposed to leave. Whether it’s leaving due to theft or an accident, managers can address the situation before it causes a negative impact on overall operations. 

Durability

Depending on the environment your trailers and cargo will be in, the tags attached to them may need to be specifically designed to withstand the environment. Trailers are exposed to demanding conditions such as constant vibration, rough terrain, varying weather conditions, and potential collisions. When tags are built to endure these conditions, their lifecycle will be extended.

Data Reporting

The data an asset tracking system for trailers provides is the reason you track your trailers. Without data about the trailers, fleet managers can’t make informed decisions to improve efficiency. The data these reports provide show asset use, history, and even their performance. If you require embedded sensors in your tags, the data that the sensor monitors is available for viewing as well. With this data, managers can improve asset utilization and identify areas where costs can be saved. 

Trailer Tracking Technology Solutions

There are a variety of well-known technologies used for location tracking, but it may not be easy to determine which is the best to use. Let’s break down the top three.

WiFi Sniffing

Using WiFi sniffing does not mean the tag connects to any WiFi networks. Instead, by leveraging WiFi signals, trailer tracking systems can detect nearby WiFi access points to determine the location and movement of trailers. This technology provides valuable insights into trailer movements, enabling companies to optimize asset utilization, streamline operations, and improve overall fleet efficiency. By incorporating WiFi sniffing into their trailer tracking systems, companies can achieve enhanced visibility and precise tracking in specific environments where traditional tracking methods may fall short. 

GPS

GPS trailer tracking is a powerful technology that revolutionizes fleet management and enhances trailer visibility. By utilizing a GPS tracker for trailer tracking, companies gain location and condition data about their trailers, allowing for efficient route planning, optimized asset allocation, and enhanced security measures. GPS trailer tracking also improves operational efficiency, reduces theft risks, and enables timely responses to incidents. Essentially, with GPS trailer tracking, companies can gain better control over their trailer fleet, improve logistics operations, and improve their overall operational efficiency. The downfall of using GPS tracking is that GPS quickly drains the battery of the tag, so it is not recommended to use this technology all the time or on its own.

Cellular

By leveraging cellular networks, trailer tracking systems can transmit real-time data, including location information, to a central monitoring system. This enables fleet managers to have up-to-date visibility of trailers, even in remote areas where GPS signals might be limited. With cellular-based trailer tracking, companies can optimize operations, improve asset utilization, and enhance security measures in places where WiFi and GPS can’t cover.

All of these technologies are beneficial for trailer tracking, but the one most highly recommended is WiFi sniffing. WiFi sniffing doesn’t drain battery life and provides nearly the same accuracy as GPS, leading it to be the primary choice for asset tracking. Our AirFinder Everywhere solution allows companies to utilize all three technologies together to further extend the battery life while maintaining accuracy. You can choose the order of default use. Where there are WiFi access points, you can use those to determine location. If that fails, then you can use GPS. If there’s a poor signal, you can then default to cellular. No matter where your trailers are, you’ll always have visibility of them.

Turning Your Trailer into an IoT Platform

Transforming a trailer into an IoT platform opens up a world of possibilities for fleet management. By equipping the trailer with various sensors, communication devices, and data processing capabilities, it becomes a smart, interconnected hub of information. A trailer tracking solution connects the truck, trailer, cargo, and even the driver. When all these pieces of the trailer are connected, it can collect and transmit valuable data in real time, such as location, temperature, shock, trailer capacity, and even trailer conditions. Additionally, an IoT-enabled trailer can enable automation, inform predictive maintenance, and optimize trailer utilization. By turning a trailer into an IoT platform, companies can unlock new levels of efficiency, safety, and productivity in their fleet operations.

Conclusion

Our AirFinder Everywhere solution is used by companies to track their trailers. AirFinder Everywhere provides location information about trailers and even has sensors embedded to monitor environmental conditions like temperature and shock. If you are looking to gain visibility of all parts of your supply chain instead of just connected assets, invest in trailer tracking so you can maximize operational efficiency and reduce risks. To learn more about trailer tracking or to find out how tracking your trailers will benefit you, book a demo with our team.

Written by Carson W. Garner

Carson W. Garner is a proactive business development and marketing professional with the goal of turning opportunities into sales. At Link Labs, Carson is heavily involved with project management, sales, customer success, and he hosts Link Labs' podcast Get Linked. Holding a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree in Marketing, Carson brings creativity, vision, organization, and dedication to the Link Labs team.

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