Experts predict that by 2022, there will be 1.5 billion devices with cellular connections to the Internet of things. It’s a safe bet that among those devices will be thousands of semi trucks using telematics solutions to drive improvements across all areas of fleet operations.
Fleet operators are adopting connected fleet solutions that make each truck a node on the Internet of Things, feeding real-time data to drive strategic and tactical decision-making. Falling prices for sensors and cellular data plans means it’s now economically feasible to equip each trailer in a fleet with the sensors and a hub unit to collect and transmit data. GPS fleet tracker systems transmit the location of the trailer, and a range of sensors gather data on various functions such as tire pressure, door open/close status, temperature, lighting information and more. All asset types such as dry vans, reefers, and flatbeds can be outfitted with the system, either in the field or at the factory. Systems that offer the same functionality are available for containers and chassis as well.
Smart trailer technology is changing the face of fleet management, giving managers unprecedented visibility into the performance of their assets. You can manage asset utilization as well as improve safety, maintenance, theft, and driver retention with intelligent trailer capabilities.
Here’s a look at some of the critical areas where telematics are improving fleet operations.
Early Component Failure
When a trailer fails inspection or breaks down on the road, the effects ripple throughout the network. Late loads, driver downtime, and recovery costs all factor into the equation. With a connected smart trailer, component failure and downtime could be a thing of the past. A sensor-equipped truck is able to pre-check vital systems such as brakes, lights, and tires to ensure a trailer is ready to go before dispatch.
Using the data collected by the telematics, a shop foreman may know there is a problem with a trailer before the driver does. Maintenance personnel and the driver can coordinate to bring the trailer in for repair, reducing unexpected downtime. Fleets will be able to extend asset life and lower maintenance costs to get more benefit from each trailer.
To improve driver retention, focus on one thing: keeping the truck moving. With visibility into a trailer’s location and status, drivers can stay on the road and spend less time with administrative tasks. Dispatchers can locate trailers so drivers don’t have to phone in with a status update. Drivers don’t have to search out the trailer in the yard or find the trailer only to discover it’s already loaded. The system can automatically send an alert when a trailer arrives or departs a designated location.
The maintenance data helps reduce the chance a driver is delayed by a trailer that fails inspection or breaks down on the road. Hooking up to a trailer that’s already passed a basic safety inspection gives the driver confidence in his equipment. With a smart trailer, drivers feel like they spend more time pulling trailers and less time managing them.
The Compliance, Safety, Accountability program from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration holds motor carriers and drivers accountable for their role in safety. CSA identifies carriers with safety problems and prioritizes them for interventions such as warning letters and investigations.
One of the seven categories monitored in the program is Vehicle Maintenance, which includes brakes, lights, defects, and failure to make required repairs. Investing in smart trailers can improve CSA results by identifying common equipment problems before they lead to violations. Depending on the system installed, a telematics system provides diagnostic and prognostic data for common failure points like brakes, lights, and tires. Fleet managers can pre-check a trailer before it leaves a yard. The system can also notify maintenance personnel as faults occur while the trailer is in use.
Reducing CSA related failures also increases driver productivity. Fleet managers can use the data for analysis of failures to increase service intervals and component life.
There is room for improvement in even the most well run operation. Data from connected trailers can reveal some surprising opportunities. Utilization reports often show that some trailers are in use at a higher rate than others, and some trailers are hardly ever used. It’s an opportunity to right-size the fleet by eliminating low-use assets that nonetheless require regular maintenance.
Fleet managers will be able to better capitalize on backhaul opportunities when the status and location of every trailer is available on a desktop or mobile device. Customers will be able to take advantage of better information to move loads more efficiently. Overall fleet velocity will improve with little to no additional cost.
The average costs of each instance of cargo theft was $186,000 in 2018, so theft prevention and recovery are vital benefits of trailer tracking. Stolen trailers equipped with GPS can be located for recovery, reducing insurance claims and customer service issues.The next step to preventing theft is stopping the trailer from moving at all. Phillips Connect Technologies’ patented Trailer Lock-Down system deters theft by locking the air brakes on a trailer when power is disconnected from the tractor. To release the brakes and pull the trailer, a PIN code from dispatch has to be keyed in from a smart device to the control box. Other items in this package include remote trailer door lock/unlock as well as a theft-deterrent video surveillance system.
Integrated Phillips Connect Technologies Solutions
While the business case for developing a connected fleet is strong, implementation carries a couple of challenges. First, integrating the technologies using an existing fleet along with new OEM equipment can be overwhelming. The problem with developing an ad hoc system is that each new sensor added to a truck may require a cellular data plan and proprietary software. Second, once a fleet is connected, there is a new flood of data to analyze to drive actionable business intelligence.
To meet these challenges, Phillips Connect Technologies (PCT) has launched TrailerNet, a device-agnostic platform that consolidates all smart-trailer sensors (from any supplier) into one central hub using one data plan. The central hub delivers alerts to the driver, and operations managers and dispatchers tap into the customizable fleet management dashboards. The package of products creates a master channel of information gathered by smart-trailer components, delivering the data that fleets require to make sound operational and business decisions.
The open platform strategy is based on the premise that customers want choices and every company has its own unique needs. The goal is to provide the best combination for each customer while offering one data plan and designing the system for easy plug-and-play installation. With a PCT hub, the data from practically any combination of manufacturers’ devices is aggregated, correlated and sent to the cloud where it is customized in a display for different end users. The analytics displayed for a driver, fleet manager, or a fleet owner can be tailored to their specific needs.