Haul More with Less: 5 Strategies to Maximize Trailer Efficiency in 2023

By Carolina Ruiz • Published May 9, 2023 • 5 minute read

Ongoing supply chain issues and labor shortages have caused trailer manufacturers to struggle to keep up with demand in 2023. Order backlogs now extend into 2024 despite a soft freight market, rising equipment prices and interest rates.

In January, the ISM manufacturing index showed Transportation Equipment was one of two manufacturing industries (out of 17 surveyed) to record growth. New trailer orders reached an all-time high in December 2022, and the backlog grew to 9.9 months in January from an 8-month average since August 2021, according to ACT Research.

The good news is that freight volumes are expected to grow this year despite a possible recession. Looking out further, the American Trucking Association estimates that over the next decade trucks and trailers will be moving 2.4 billion more tons of freight than they do today.

One of several reasons for increased trailer demand is that more brokerage service providers are purchasing or leasing trailers to offer more capacity to shippers. The asset play of brokers is benefiting carriers from more drop-and-hook and power-only load options.

Get More From Your Assets

When the freight market ignites – a probability for Q3 or Q4, economists say – it will add more kindling to the growing trailer order backlog. The inability to buy more trailers could leave carriers and freight brokers scrambling for ways to more fully utilize their trailer assets.

Consider these five strategies to more fully utilize your trailer assets now and prepare for the days ahead.

  1. Optimize trailer pools. How many of your trailers are domiciled at each location? Are your inventories more or less than what you really need at each site? Answers should not require time-consuming site visits or audits. Having real-time information on trailer locations and status details (empty, loaded, idle time, etc.) makes it possible to synchronize capacity with demand by moving under-utilized assets to locations where they are needed most.
  2. Get a grip on detention. Billing customers for detaining your equipment and drivers will not yield the best results. Having pinpoint accuracy of where and when detention events are taking place will help you work more effectively with customers to make changes, such as getting pickup and delivery appointments for off-peak times. As well, you can offer customers incentives for turning trailers faster to free capacity for better revenue opportunities than charging detention.
  3. Do more with less. Is a 3:1 trailer-to-tractor ratio ideal for truckload dry van operations? As a rule of thumb, yes, but many fleets have proven it can and should be lower. Some are running 2.5 trailers or less for every tractor. Having real-time and historical data on trailer utilization trends – idle times, average turn times by location, and more – gives motor carriers and freight brokers much-needed insights to divest under-utilized assets and free up capital.
  4. Create new revenue streams. Trailer and cargo data can unlock new revenue opportunities. Having visibility to underutilized trailers will assist with repositioning them to places where more capacity is needed. Another possibility is to rent underutilized trailers to other carriers on a short-term basis. In this case, visibility is critical for managing the billing and security of assets. The same data can help with renting older trailers to customers in need of temporary storage units.
  5. Keep trailers longer. With order backlogs growing on new trailers, fleets and freight brokers may need to hold onto aging equipment longer. Monitoring trailer mileage data captured by GPS tracking systems can help with scheduling preventive maintenance (PM) and with proactively identifying repair needs. Better maintenance will improve utilization by ensuring assets are road-ready, and in the right places at the right times.

Trailers may not be your only non-powered assets. GPS tracking and telematics systems are just as powerful for managing intermodal chassis, containers, and trailer dollies, for example, with door-to-door visibility of equipment and cargo.

The past year has shown how quickly the freight market can change. Having real-time visibility of trailers and cargo status will help you make the most of your assets by aligning capacity with demand. As well, you can make strategic, long-term decisions to optimize equipment purchasing and leasing.

Get smarter, faster

Smarter trailers are essential to implement the five strategies above. To help you make smarter decisions, the next-generation Kuantum solution from SkyBitz mounts on the front of trailers and combines location-based intelligence with an integrated cargo sensor that accurately reports empty/loaded status.

The Kuantum platform also functions as a single gateway that supports multiple wireless sensors in the SkyBitz SmartTrailer™ ecosystem. You can add future capabilities without having to change out the device. Kuantum makes it easy to gain more security over assets and cargo, save time, and maximize trailer capacity, utilization, and revenue.

To understand how you can evaluate GPS trailer telematics solutions to meet your present and future needs, download a free copy of “The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide to Trailer Telematics.”

Contact SkyBitz today for a demo of how Kuantum can make your trailers smarter to navigate the road ahead.