Beyond GPS: 4 Ways to Innovate with Trailer Tracking as a High-Tech Fleet

By Matt McInerney • Published August 25, 2023 • 5 minute read

Where is the largest gap in trucking and logistics technology? While tractors and trailers may only be physically separated by a few feet, the digital gap between them can stretch for miles.

Modern trucks generate vast amounts of data from engine sensors and aftermarket products like ELDs and cameras. In contrast, trailer technology has for years created blind spots by having a comparatively small digital footprint.

That is changing quickly. By the end of 2020, nearly 35% of fleets used trailer tracking units. The adoption is growing at a fast rate. Shipments of tracking systems for trailers and containers are expected to increase by nearly 28% every year through 2025, according to analyst firm Berg Insight.

Beyond using trailer telematics to locate assets, innovative fleets are boosting business performance with next-generation platforms. There are four key areas where high-tech fleets are using the latest technology that is accessible to companies of any size:

1. Interchange Agreements and Power-Only Partnerships

Roll back a few years when interchange agreements were considered a last resort. Carriers assumed significant risk by sharing equipment with other trucking companies due to asset damage, theft and cargo claims. Getting equipment back meant phone calls and emails — with fingers crossed.

The biggest fleets in the world — including Knight-Swift, J.B. Hunt, and Schneider — are now using interchange agreements to their advantage. Equipment owners follow their trailers anywhere in real-time, regardless of the carrier pulling them. Interchange agreements are especially useful at shared shipper facilities with trailer pools to better support on-time service and capacity demands.

The same is true for power-only providers. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), 65% of all for-hire carriers operate with only one power unit. The number jumps to 95% for 10 power units or less. Many of these carriers haul freight without their own trailers. Equipment telematics offers a safe, secure way to tap into the tremendous capacity of small carriers to increase revenue opportunities for both the trailer owner and hauler.

2. Trailer Utilization

Is the trailer loaded? Is the trailer empty? Is the trailer ready?

These questions are asked all day, every day. Fleets that use the latest advancements in trailer telematics have answers. Ultrasonic cargo sensors and interior cameras give instant visibility to eliminate customer calls and driver-led equipment checks.

Advanced cargo sensors offer deeper insights than binary loaded/unloaded reports. Trailer cameras, such as SkyBitz SkyCamera™, powered by Compology, capture images inside the trailer at important checkpoints of a load, automatically. Having crystal-clear visibility of trailer contents also helps fight theft and cargo claims. Another advantage comes from having volumetric measurements for available cube and floor space to maximize utilization.

These advanced capabilities help full truckload carriers improve trailer turns and keep assets loaded with revenue-generating freight rather than stuck at shippers. Maximizing every inch of available space is more important than ever in LTL, especially with the recent closure of Yellow, the sector’s third-largest provider.

3. Driver Retention

You might not think of trailer telematics as a driver retention strategy, but savvy carriers know the two go hand in hand.

Many fleets now feed trailer tracking data into custom driver apps. Rather than forcing drivers to hunt for assets, the apps have a “find my trailer” function showing the exact location on a map. The feature saves drivers up to 20 minutes per load helping maximize drive time for more compensation.

Advances in maintenance also make a difference. The FMCSA reports that 70% of violations are from service and maintenance problems, many of which can be addressed by proactive trailer maintenance.

High-tech fleet Bison Transport, headquartered in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, is using trailer telematics to track the mileage of each asset to schedule preventive maintenance. Other fleets use the technology to monitor tire pressure, ABS issues, and inoperative lights. The practice allows carriers to catch problems before they occur, preventing drivers from receiving a citation, or worse, being stranded on the side of the road.

Maintenance is a top reason for driver turnover, according to a 2021 driver survey by Randall-Reilly. Trailer tracking prevents these issues by keeping drivers on the road earning money, rather than frustrated with equipment failures.

4. Sharpening Profits

Trailer tracking benefits routine back-office functions in unique ways. First, the data allows fleets to capture more accessorial charges from shippers. Industry analysts estimate as much as 60% of billable accessorial charges go uncollected annually. Trailer telematics capture proof of overlooked or disputed fees like detention, storage, and unauthorized asset use by customers.

Tracking technology also reduces some of the biggest expenses like fuel and tires. Pinpoint location accuracy avoids wasted miles searching for equipment. Mileage tracking allows fleets to extend tire life by better managing wear and tear.

Trailer telematics improves planning equipment cycle accuracy as well. Many fleets manage asset rotations based on years rather than use. Visibility to trailer utilization allows finance teams to understand which assets truly require trades and which have more life. This transparency also helps fleets know when to rent more trailers.

Trailer tracking as a cost-control practice has a major impact on the bottom line in a business where every penny counts.

Download our latest eGuide to learn how high-tech fleets like Bison Transport use the latest advancements in trailer tracking to fill technology gaps to outperform the market in 2023 and beyond.

Innovation Awaits with SkyBitz

SkyBitz has delivered industry-leading telematics solutions for more than 20 years. In fact, we invented the industry. Best-in-class GPS tracking devices, equipment sensors, and camera systems give a 360-degree view of the equipment from the inside out—anywhere, anytime. Our purpose-built, future-proof devices combat some of the most complex challenges in logistics. Promoting fleet innovation is core to who we are.

Schedule a demo to see SkyBitz next-generation technologies in action.