Peeling Back the Layers of Trailer Visibility
By Carolina Ruiz • Published February 8, 2022 • 5 minute read
Describing any fleet management technology in a few words is inadequate. Rarely is a technology that solves problems in transportation and logistics one dimensional. As an example, a product that delivers “asset visibility” must do more than track equipment locations.
Such is the case for asset visibility from a GPS trailer tracking system. Besides locating trailers, fleet managers must find available capacity and save drivers time by not searching for trailers in drop yards.
Visibility must also enable fleet managers to quickly answer questions about each trailer. Is it empty or loaded? When did it arrive or depart a certain location? How long has it been sitting there? If it is moving, is the movement authorized? Did a driver pick up the correct trailer?
Having immediate answers to such questions is critical to finding and resolving errors that can otherwise become costly mistakes in a short timeframe. Below are three areas where trailer visibility can make a big impact right away.
1. Unifying trailer fleet management
The benefits of asset visibility are most pronounced when using a single platform to manage trailers of various types.
The Bennett Family of Companies, headquartered in McDonough, Ga., has a mixed fleet of assets for areas of specialty that include flatbed and step-deck trucking, intermodal, driveway, manufactured housing transport, and RV delivery.
The company’s network spans North America with more than 3,000 drivers, agents, and employees. Bennett’s specialized and dynamic operations initially complicated efforts to deploy a trailer tracking solution across its fleet of more than 2,100 trailer assets that include flatbeds, step decks, dry vans, and intermodal chassis as well as 350 trailer components, such as dollies, that it uses for heavy haul and discrete applications.
Using battery-powered trailer tracking devices was part of the problem. When installed on dollies and other trailer components these devices lacked a reliable power source to recharge. This limited the quality of the reporting and the lifespan of the technology.
To identify available equipment, Tony Eiermann, vice president of fleet management, was assigning people to do manual yard checks at nine drop yard locations across the United States. The process took at least an hour each day at each location.
Eiermann joined Bennett in 2018 and became responsible for asset custody and control. Under his direction, Bennett discontinued the use of battery-operated trailer tracking devices. Going forward, the company deployed solar-powered trailer tracking units from SkyBitz to get more frequent, accurate, and reliable reports.
Bennett saves up to nine hours in labor each day by doing yard checks digitally. Eiermann projects Bennett is saving $1,000 per week by eliminating 40 hours of labor a week at approximately $25 per hour.
Bennett has also been putting business intelligence and data analytics of the SkyBitz Insight portal to use for monitoring asset utilization, improving processes and increasing customer service levels.
The reporting tools of the SkyBitz Insight user portal make it easy for Bennett to monitor asset utilization and idle times for trailers and components. The fleet can identify underutilized assets and move them to locations in need, or dispose of them entirely to reduce operating costs and free up capital.
2. Visibility to operating costs
Bennett uses the SkyBitz InSight portal to monitor key metrics and reports on asset mileage, idle time, and location-based activities. With these reports the company is bench-marking its progress towards goals.
Going forward, Eiermann plans to use mileage and location data from SkyBitz to monitor equipment usage and gain a better understanding of the fleet’s true cost of operation for each type of asset.
Previously, Bennett used “billed” miles from its transportation management software (TMS) for analysis. SkyBitz data makes it possible to capture non-revenue or “deadhead” miles on equipment to get the true cost per mile to operate each type of asset, he said.
Moving towards proactive fleet management is where Bennett will be taking the next step with SkyBitz, said Eiermann. The company will be using the SkyBitz Kinnect platform with smart sensors to monitor tires, brakes, and other items for maintenance needs. “There are a lot of things we can improve going forward.”
3. Sharing capacity with others
Trailer repositioning is another common issue that plagues fleets by having to move unused trailers to locations with higher utilization and capacity needs.
Another possibility for trailer visibility is to rent unused assets to carriers for one-way moves or short-term use. The renters may need to move freight to the same areas where fleets need trailers.
The transportation industry is getting more peer-to-peer marketplaces for “sharing” assets that make it possible to generate revenue for short periods from underutilized assets. With visibility, fleets can collaborate to utilize trailers and track locations and mileages to facilitate short-term rental transactions.
Asset visibility has many layers of possibilities for fleet management. Contact SkyBitz today to get started on your journey and discover new opportunities.