How to Use a GPS Tracker for Trailers to Improve Your Fleet Management

July 27, 2020

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Key Takeaways

GPS tracking for trailers can be a helpful way for your fleet to increase efficiency and lower operating costs. While the various uses of GPS trailer tracking depend on the priorities of your fleet, there are seven common benefits the technology can provide your business.

Get Started with Samsara’

Get Started with Samsara’

A GPS tracker for trailers can be a valuable tool to help you understand where your assets or equipment are at any given time. A real-time GPS tracking device, or GPS tracking device, can save your fleet money by improving operational visibility for your team (and your customer), providing actionable data to rightsize your fleet, protect your cold chain, improve security and more

Read on to learn more about how you can use GPS devices for trailer and asset tracking to meet your fleet management needs. 

7 ways GPS trailer tracking can benefit your fleet

GPS tracking for trailers can be a helpful way for your fleet to increase efficiency and lower operating costs. While the various benefits of GPS trailer tracking depend on the priorities of your fleet, here are some of the most common benefits the technology can provide your business.

1. Understand real-time location information 

As trailers continue to outnumber trucks on the road three to one, it's becoming increasingly important for fleets to have GPS trailer tracking in place as an additional layer of visibility. With nearly six million trailers in use in the United States alone, trailer tracking devices present a quick and easy way to locate and keep track of these important assets. 

These devices rely on the Global Positioning System (GPS) to determine and track the location of a carrier—whether that’s a vehicle, person, or object. A GPS tracking system achieves this by using the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) network, which transmits signals to GPS devices via satellites to determine location, speed, time, and direction. Because of this, GPS tracking systems like trailer tracking devices can provide both real-time and historical navigation data on your assets.   

2. Maintain visibility when working with partners

While GPS trailer tracking can be a great way to keep an eye on your own trailers, what happens if you rely on independent owner-operator contractors to complete a portion of your hauling? This can be challenging to navigate if the contracted trucks don't have vehicle tracking in place. 

To help, fleets can simply use their own GPS trailer tracking solution as a stand-in in the scenario that a contractor doesn't have vehicle tracking software or partners with a different provider. This way, customers and employees can maintain visibility no matter what. 

3. Rightsize your fleet

Trailers are expensive to own and manage, especially when factoring in maintenance, insurance, and storage costs. Though these costs are ideally offset by incoming business, what happens when a trailer’s expenses outweigh the money they’re bringing in for your company? For this reason, it’s important for your fleet to have the right mix of trailers and drivers to meet the needs of the business.

Utilization analysis can help you rightsize your fleet. This is typically done by determining a threshold for miles driven or hours used, and identifying if a vehicle or piece of equipment falls above or below that number. But the problem with these thresholds is that they often disregard vehicle type or the kind of job performed, making it difficult to accurately monitor utilization–especially when there might be hundreds or even thousands of them to track.

With GPS trailer tracking, you can see how each trailer is measuring up against its potential. To help your fleet drill down on this information, Samsara’s Utilization Reports provide granular visibility into usage to help you more accurately understand utilization. This can help you improve trailer-to-tractor ratio and even grow revenue by redeploying underutilized trailers to areas with higher demand.

4. Protect valuable assets

While certain GPS trailer tracking systems provide fleets with real-time location information, you may prefer to only be alerted via ping at specific intervals. This amount of visibility can often be sufficient, especially for an unpowered trailer or asset. But in certain instances—like theft or unauthorized use—there's a real urgency to identify a trailer's location as soon as possible. That’s when geofence alerts can be especially valuable for your fleet.

Geofences allow you to draw a virtual perimeter around an area you don’t want the trailer to exit, whether that's a yard or job site. If a trailer does exit that virtual boundary, you can set up alerts to be automatically alerted and have access to a real-time “helicopter view” of that trailer’s location. 

This removes any guesswork about the trailer’s location and can be useful to share with police in case of theft. Samsara geofence alerts also allow you to designate who receives an alert and how they get it to make sure the right people are contacted via their preferred or most-responsive method of communication. Samsara also includes the option for an adjustable ping rate in the case of theft, which allows you to receive more frequent check-ins even when the trailer is not connected to a power source.

5. Optimize asset scheduling

Overseeing multiple trailers can be challenging when you have a large workforce operating lots of different vehicles and trailers across multiple job sites. This can be particularly challenging if you rent or lease a portion of your fleet. While spreadsheets can help document in the short-term, it's difficult to glean insights about utilization or allocation from a spreadsheet. But with GPS trailer tracking, you can easily see which trailers are working which jobs and creates schedules of your leased assets. This ensures you’ll never underutilize assets or accidentally double book machines you need. 

6. Eliminate yard hunts

If your fleet includes hundreds or even thousands of vehicles and trailers, your yard can span several miles in both directions to accommodate these assets. This can make it time-consuming to locate a trailer or simply verify that it's been properly returned at the end of a work day. 

But with GPS trailer tracking, you can not only improve yard and dock operations but also automate inventory tracking by searching and locating trailers ahead of time. This means you can know exactly where a trailer is before you even step out into the yard—eliminating a lengthy search for a specific asset. You can also identify the right trailer for a specific load and prepare it ahead of time, saving time and money.

7. Monitor temperatures

If your fleet distributes or delivers temperature-sensitive products, an unbroken cold chain is critical. It can require precise record-keeping and if something goes wrong, it can lead to rejected loads and unhappy customers. To help maintain fresh products, you can use Samsara temperature monitoring in tandem with GPS trailer tracking to ensure perishable goods stay at a certain temperature in-transit.

How to choose the right GPS trailer tracking solution?

The best way to select a GPS trailer tracking solution for your fleet is to determine what level of visibility your business needs and choose a trailer tracking device accordingly. Here’s a checklist of important questions to consider when evaluating a system:

  • Quality of location data: Would your trailer inventory benefit from real-time tracking, or is a single location ping every five to ten minutes sufficient? Additionally, would it be helpful to have the option to switch between real-time or interval alerts?

  • Ease of use: How straightforward is the trailer tracking dashboard, and will it require a heavy-lift to onboard and train employees to use it?

  • Customer support: What level of customer service will your team require? Is it important for your team to have access to support via a mobile device, mobile app, or digital help desk?

  • Ease of install: How seamless will the install process be for your fleet? Will it require hiring additional people or new resources?

  • Power: How are the trailer trackers powered? Is the battery lifespan inline with your business needs?

Understand where your assets are with Samsara trailer tracking devices

The Samsara Asset Gateway is a GPS trailer tracking device that integrates with Samsara’s complete sensor system to combine trailer tracking, fleet management, safety tools, and compliance solutions in a single platform. Whether you’re a food distributor aiming to improve cold chain efficiency or a construction company searching for a better way to track heavy equipment, the Samsara trailer tracking device can provide valuable insights and cost savings.

Unlike other asset tracking solutions which provide "breadcrumb" location updates every several minutes, Samsara's trailer tracking solution is real-time. With the option of live tracking for trailers, your fleet has flexibility and can adjust the connection rate for your trailers to the interval that's appropriate for your business, all the way up to to-the-second tracking.

Whether you’re looking for ways to collect trailer data or need a tracking platform to keep an eye on equipment, Samsara’s Asset Gateways can provide valuable information for both your powered and unpowered trailers. And with their compact size, Samsara Asset Trackers can attach to almost any trailer or piece of equipment. Each device includes:

  • A durable, waterproof shell built to outlast the harshest conditions

  • Anti-theft screws and a custom screw bit

  • Long-lasting 4-year battery life 

  • Fully wireless accessory sensors that integrate seamlessly with Samsara gateways

To learn more about how Samsara asset tracking can help you successfully track your trailers, reach out for a free trial or learn more about the technology today.

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