Top 6 Uses for Cargo Imaging and Volumetric Sensors in FTL and LTL Operations

Volumetric Cargo Sensor

By SkyBitz • Published May 18, 2021 • 5 minute read

Drive time is the most valuable resource of motor carriers, but too much of it gets lost at customer locations when drivers wait to get loaded or unloaded and have to search for empty trailers before resuming productive, revenue-producing work.

Many truckload carriers have been using trailer telematics systems and ultrasonic cargo sensors to gain visibility of loaded and empty status. With this visibility they can dispatch drivers for pickups and manage drop-and-hook operations more effectively and efficiently.

Ultrasonic sensors cause frustrations, however, by reporting a binary loaded/empty status based on the presence or absence of a single pallet of freight. A trailer with one pallet is reported as loaded, but for one-half pallet of freight, or for empty pallets and non-freight items (dunnage), ultrasonic cargo sensors will communicate an “empty” status.

In both instances an empty status may cause fleet operators and drivers to waste precious drive time and fuel by sending trucks to customer locations to pick up trailers that are not actually ready.

The latest innovation in cargo sensing technology combines high-resolution cameras with artificial intelligence (AI) to capture volumetric data from inside trailers. The SkyCamera sensor powered by Compology, offered by SkyBitz, is a smart device that installs at the rear of a trailer in under 20 minutes.

SkyCamera scans the full length of the floor to intelligently report empty or loaded status as well as report how much total cube space and floor space is being utilized. Both types of reports are valuable to efficiently manage full truckload (FTL) and less-than-truckload (LTL) operations.

FTL fleets can identify truly empty trailers and those that are empty of cargo but have dunnage. LTL carriers know how much capacity is remaining to assist with planning needs. This and other data is presented through dashboards in the SkyBitz Insight web application in context with other telematics data. All of the data can be integrated directly with transportation management software (TMS) systems.

The technology also captures high-resolution images at door opening, closing and other time- and location-based sensor events. With these valuable insights, FTL and LTL fleets are able to dispatch drivers with confidence and create loads to maximize utilization of available capacity and time.

Below are the Top 6 operational areas where fleets can immediately gain the most value from using the SkyCamera volumetric cargo sensor:

  1. Reduce turn times. Trailers only generate revenue when moving. Rather than wait for a customer to say a trailer is loaded, fleets using SkyCamera are able to proactively schedule pickups when trailers are on the dock being filled. When cube volume passes 80%, for example, a fleet operator can proactively dispatch a driver. Similarly, if a trailer is empty but the sensor detects pallets or dunnage, fleets can view an image to verify the status before they dispatch a driver.
  2. Utilize more capacity. LTL fleets can use SkyCamera to more fully utilize remaining volume on their pickup, delivery and linehaul routes. When linehaul trailers are in process of being loaded, SkyCamera sends a timed sequence of status and images. Fleet operators can use the reports to ensure that cube space utilization is meeting or exceeding their KPI before trailers leave the dock. Any exceptions can be discussed with dock supervisors and images can be very helpful for training.
  3. Mitigate detention. SkyCamera can settle debates on trailer detention times with customers by recording the on-the-ground truth for what time trailers arrived and were loaded or unloaded and available for pickup. Having an accurate record creates accountability for shippers, receivers and carriers towards the contractual agreements they have for on-time arrivals, wait times and demurrage.
  4. Manage storage trailers. Carriers may lease older trailers to customers to use as temporary storage units in addition to utilizing newer, and more roadworthy trailers for regular drop-and-hook operations. Having accurate data and images from the SkyBitz volumetric sensor can reduce the unauthorized use of over-the-road trailers for storage to improve turn times and utilization.
  5. Lower cargo claims. When trailers are equipped with SkyCamera and door sensors, fleets can receive an image at door open and close events. A picture when the door is closed may show freight has not been loaded properly, or not packaged properly by the shipper. The picture at the receiving location when the doors are opened may show that cargo shifted during transit. These images can be used to help determine the reason for cargo damage and the proper course of action to take, such as a discussion with a customer about proper packaging to prevent damage or for loading dock training purposes, and to assign appropriate accountability for damages that occur.
  6. Proactively schedule deliveries. Companies that manage supply chain logistics for automotive manufacturers have to build and schedule just-in-time loads from suppliers. As soon as doors close on trailers, the manufacturer needs to know immediately if all of the right products and quantities will be arriving at the appointed time. Trailers equipped with SkyCamera can detect at the moment when doors close at the shipper if the volume of a load is not correct. If the load volume should fill 80% of the floor space, for example, but is at 70% when the doors close, the logistics company can be notified immediately and spring to action to make the necessary adjustments to prevent a short shipment from stopping a production line.