Smarter by Nature: The Evolution of Trailer Fleet Management
By Carolina Ruiz • Published April 12, 2022 • 5 minute read
The term “intelligence” has not traditionally been associated with trailers. Motor carriers have always referred to the assets by their physical characteristics — dry vans, reefers, tankers, flatbeds, containers, etc. — until GPS trailer tracking systems changed the conversation.
With the latest advancements in Industrial Internet of Things (IoT), fleets now have the ability to manage trailers and cargo using smart, connected technologies that resemble the natural phenomenon of self-organized systems like ant colonies.
An insect, like an ant, is barely a conscious creature until it is connected with other organisms in swarms or colonies. Remarkably complex and intelligent behaviors emerge from an ant colony, such as power systems to divide labor and rapidly coordinate efforts to accomplish herculean feats. Fire ants, for example, join arms and build floating rafts to survive floods and cross streams.
Similarly, fleets can use a powerful, connected trailer management system with artificial intelligence (AI) to solve complex transportation and logistics challenges. The building block for this AI-driven system is the “smart” trailer.
What is a ‘Smart’ Trailer?
The distinguishing trait of a “smart” trailer is an IoT device that gives the asset a form of consciousness. The device knows its GPS location and status. It also functions as a gateway, or local data hub, that connects with various sensors for real-time monitoring of trailer components and cargo status.
The gateway device sends location and status information to servers in the cloud through cellular networks. Here, in the cloud, the data from a fleet of trailers — and a community of users — is aggregated and analyzed with AI to understand and learn how to solve problems.
The SkyBitz SmartTrailer™ platform brings AI to the forefront of trailer fleet management by using a robust, solar-powered gateway device, Kinnect, to capture highly accurate GPS tracking data and communicate with wireless smart sensors that monitor trailer components and cargo conditions.
SkyBitz Kinnect uses wide-area cellular networks to send real-time information to the SkyBitz Insight web portal and directly to fleets’ decision systems. As data comes to the Insight portal, the cloud-based system’s business intelligence tools give managers the information they need to make the best possible decisions to utilize assets and solve problems for customer service, profitability, pricing, and other areas.
The SkyBitz SmartTrailer Ecosystem
The SkyBitz Kinnect gateway device uses Bluetooth to communicate with a variety of smart sensors to monitor trailer and cargo status. The options include:
- Cargo — to detect shock impacts, temperature anomalies, and other critical events.
- Sub-assemblies and components — to measure brake wear, axle and wheel temperatures to detect problems that if left unchecked will cause downtime and impact driver safety.
- Tire pressure — to give real-time notifications of problem tires and to eliminate labor costs from manual pressure checks.
One of the latest advancements in sensor technology is a smart camera system that scans the entire floor of the trailer to accurately report loaded/unloaded status and capture images of cargo at critical moments.
SkyBitz SkyCamera, powered by Compology, installs on the roadside rear of the trailer. The smart device is connected to a cloud-based program that uses artificial intelligence to precisely calculate trailer fullness in terms of cube volume and floor space utilized.
This data gives fleet managers certainty for dispatching drivers to loaded or unloaded trailers and optimally matching equipment with capacity available to loads. The device also captures and reports high-definition color images at important checkpoints to pinpoint when and where cargo damage occurred.
The data intelligence from SkyCamera helps improve trailer fleet management by:
- Eliminating “false empties” to ensure trailers are available for dispatch to reduce wasted miles, fuel, and driver time.
- Substantiating detention billing with precise arrival, load/unload, detention, and departure data.
- Identifying and matching LTL or TL shipments to available trailers to maximize utilization of capacity.
- Gathering factual, time-stamped evidence to protect against cargo claims and trailer damage.
SkyBitz SmartTrailer™ is the latest evolution of IoT for trailers. With a few simple steps, fleets can transform their physical assets into intelligent systems and deliver the right information to the right people at the right time to optimize trailer management.
For practical tips on how to use smarter technology to improve driver retention and asset utilization, download our latest industry guidebook, “Clearing Capacity Hurdles with Driver and Trailer-Focused Technology.”