How to Unlock Hidden Trailer Capacity in a Hot Freight Market

Trailer Capacity

By Carolina Ruiz • Published June 21, 2021 • 5 minute read

Motor carriers have limited options to add capacity in the current freight market due to a driver shortage and growing backlog of orders for new equipment, such as dry van trailers, which are booked solid on orders through the rest of the year, according to ACT Research.

Getting maximum utilization from current trailer assets is therefore critical to meet customer needs and to secure new business.

Trailer tracking systems that provide basic time and location reports can be useful for targeting cost-saving opportunities, but in the current freight environment, fleets need powerful data insights in three areas to boost utilization and unlock hidden capacity.

1. Trailer pool status

Changes to inbound and outbound freight flows create daily imbalances in trailers pools that fleets have at shipping and receiving locations for drop-and-hook operations. Some locations have too many trailers and others not enough.

Whenever truckload carriers add trailers to locations — whether intentionally or not — the assets come with an expected weekly amount of revenue. If the revenue per trailer goes down at a location, so does the operating ratio of that customer because transportation services are priced on a variable cost basis.

Besides throwing operating ratios out of alignment, excess trailers causes equipment to be idle or dormant. This negates the cost savings and revenue gains from drop-and-hook operations that make drivers more productive.

Another common reason why trailers are dormant or idle for extended periods is because customers may be using them for temporary storage. Drivers might also be choosing to not hook up to certain trailers that have mechanical issues or have dunnage inside.

2. Monitoring idle assets

Motor carriers can unlock hidden trailer capacity by monitoring the amount of time trailers have been dormant or idle at shipping and receiving locations.

SkyBitz trailer tracking solutions have a web application with prebuilt dashboards and reports that fleets use to optimize trailer capacity and utilization. Fleet managers can use their customizable dashboard to quickly identify which locations and which trailers are not hitting their utilization targets.

Fleet operators can set up custom reports for trailers by location, asset type, and many other variables to quickly identify problems and know what changes need to be made to improve utilization.

The SkyBitz web application InSight includes powerful exception-based reporting tools, such as a heat map of idle time, to give fleets visibility to hundreds, even thousands, of trailers at all locations, nationwide.

Users can be notified of exceptions in real time, such as when trailers have been “sitting” for more than three days. Fleets can use this information to hold customers accountable for unused trailers by sharing reports, with satellite images, that show exactly where and how long each trailer has been sitting.

In addition to using the SkyBitz web application, fleets use real-time integration with transportation management software (TMS) systems to organize the reporting of key metrics. When trailer assignments are made in the dispatch process, the reporting is automatically updated to manage trailer pools at different customer locations.

Besides monitoring for exceptions to identify underutilized trailers, fleets can use “turn time” as a key performance indicator to more effectively position trailers and make capital decisions for how many trailers they need to buy or dispose of to save money.

3. Cargo sensing

Fleets that use the new SkyBitz cargo sensor, SkyCamera, are able to significantly improve trailer utilization and unlock hidden capacity. The sensor uses artificial intelligence (AI) to scan images of the full length of the floor to intelligently report empty or loaded status by measuring cube and fullness.

SkyCamera also captures high-resolution images at door opening, closing and other time- and location-based sensor events to provide insights.

Without using an intelligent cargo sensor, fleets must rely on their customers, drivers and people at remote sites to report trailer loaded or unloaded status. The result is an inefficient process with inaccurate information.

SkyCamera reports trailer empty and loaded status with certainty. This makes it possible for fleets to dispatch drivers more efficiently to trailers when they are ready to roll. Knowing the real-time status of trailer cube and fullness also makes it possible to optimize trailer pools at customer locations and more effectively respond to their needs.

Technology from SkyBitz gives fleets the insights they need to proactively manage trailer pools, idle assets and cargo status. All three strategies will unlock hidden capacity, making it possible to capture more revenue, lower costs and elevate the bottom line.