Are Trailers Really Getting Smarter?

March 14, 2023

Paul Bischof

Director, Product Management


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“Smart” has become a commonplace way to describe the tools we use in our everyday lives such as smartphones, smart appliances, and smart offices. Transportation and logistics did not miss out, as along the way the term “Smart Trailer” was coined. Generating data is at the root of all smart things, ever becoming less expensive with more than 1 billion gigabytes born daily. With inexpensive data generation and an assumption that data equals smart, it is unsurprising to find that an aggregated internet definition of Smart Trailer as provided by ChatGPT will offer this:

"A smart trailer is a trailer equipped with sensors and technology that enable it to communicate with other vehicles and systems, such as a truck or a fleet management system. This type of trailer may have features such as GPS tracking, temperature and humidity sensors, and cargo sensors that can monitor the condition and location of the trailer and its contents."

With this definition, it appears that a Smart Trailer is a basic IoT hardware story, with radios and sensors that gather and report on different data points. In our rapidly evolving AI and computing universe, this definition can be narrow and too simple, as a Smart Trailer is much more than a hardware or IoT sensor story.

Smart Trailers are part of a bigger story

Trailers are just one component in the complex ecosystem that makes up a fleet, playing the role of a “supporting actor” in the movement of cargo between origination and destination. In order for fleets to orchestrate an “award-winning” operation, a Smart Trailer must be seen as a holistic, integrated solution that not only maximizes impact of the trailer itself but more importantly, also helps streamline the entire fleet operation.

It is no surprise that business, operational, and safety initiatives vary greatly across companies, spanning individual fleet components of trailers, buildings, tractors, operators, and an abundance of other supporting equipment. These initiatives establish the customer expectations of a Smart Trailer solution, including different data points from trailers, tractors, and drivers as well as reporting, alerting, TMS integrations, and more. Considering all these variabilities, we believe that a Smart Trailer solution should fulfill the following requirements to create meaningful impact on the entire fleet operation:

  1. A smart trailer must seamlessly weave into the broader fleet management system, acting as the connective tissue for the cargo being transported from origination to destination. 

  2. A smart trailer must enable safe and efficient use of the trailer itself, informing fleet managers and drivers on deviations that require intervention, at the right place and the right time.

  3. Fleets must be able to customize their Smart Trailer solution from a menu of market-available components by various providers, ranging from trailer health sensors to cargo monitoring, reefer control, and cameras that integrate easily.

  4. The age of the fleet does not matter, nor does the technology maturity of the company. Value can be delivered across a broad spectrum, from just a mobile application to a fully integrated IoT network, surfacing information via mobile, web, and APIs.

Differentiating with Samsara Connected Operations Cloud 

With our focus on customer success and regular feedback loops, we appreciate the complexity of operating fleets. We recognize that an impactful Smart Trailer solution needs to solve for multiple participants (drivers, supervisors, operations, maintenance), different location contexts (origin, en route, destination), varying types of data (sensor data, trailer utilization, driver inspections), and workflows that depend on all of this working harmoniously together.

Smart trailer 3

Mixed fleets leverage the Samsara Connected Operations Cloud to span their entire ecosystem, encompassing all the participants, locations, data, and workflows that need to work together. It provides comprehensive visibility and insights by consolidating and interconnecting data across:

  • Yards

  • Building docks

  • Cargo

  • En route

  • Complementary assets

  • Integrations

  • Trailers

  • Tractors

With the Connected Operations Cloud spanning the entire fleet, Smart Trailers create an important bridge across all key touchpoints at origination and destination:

Smart trailer 2

Samsara has developed its own hardware envelope to deliver the highest level of innovation and performance, while simultaneously integrating with the largest number of amazing partners who build complementary solutions for fleet operations. The ability to deliver data and analytics across every touchpoint, regardless of the source that generates such data, is what sets Samsara apart from the rest.

What’s next?

The transportation and logistics industry is dynamic, constantly changing from competitive and economic pressures. To remain resilient in the face of uncertain market challenges, those who listen to customer needs, partner with other solution providers, deploy rich product experiences, and integrate across all aspects of the fleet operation will provide real value.

The trailer innovation pipeline is growing quickly and we cannot wait to share more on our work later in 2023. Contact us to learn more about Samsara and and stay tuned for more updates.


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