Your Guide to Smart Trailers for Commercial Fleets

December 22, 2020

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Key Takeaways

Smart trailers, which use GPS to provide accurate location information, can be an advantageous tool for fleets in the commercial transportation industry. Most notably, smart trailer tracking devices provide visibility into a trailer's whereabouts—but the benefits extend beyond just location tracking. 

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With such a rapid pace of innovation, it can be challenging to keep up with Internet of Things (IoT) advancements to determine if a smart trailer solution is right for your fleet. But as trailers begin to outnumber trucks on the road three to one, it might be a good time to evaluate IoT technology to ensure your fleet stays safe and secure. With nearly 6 million trailers in use in the United States alone, smart trailer tracking devices present a quick and easy way for you to locate and keep track of these important assets.

Read on to learn more about smart trailer telematics systems, their many benefits to the trucking industry, and how they can provide your fleet with real-time insights that can help keep your supply chain moving. Plus, discover recent updates from Samsara’s smart trailer tracking solution that can help you view your trailer conditions more intuitively. 

What is a smart trailer? 

Smart trailers refer to any type of trailer—including flatbeds, reefer, dry, and seasonal—that leverages IoT technology to provide details about the health and status of the trailer and its cargo. Bluetooth enabled IoT sensors can capture information via WiFi about GPS location, reefer conditions, trailer maintenance, tire pressure, battery levels, and more. 

How does smart trailer technology work? 

Smart trailers use a system of onboard computers, sensors, and IoT connections to collect real-time data directly from trailers. To meet smart trailer criteria, a trailer must be equipped with a smart trailer gateway, an onboard central processing unit (CPU), an electrical connection, and sensors.

How can your fleet benefit from a smart trailer? 

Smart trailers, which use GPS to provide accurate location information, can be an advantageous tool for fleets in the commercial transportation industry. Most notably, smart trailer tracking devices provide visibility into a trailer's whereabouts—but the benefits extend beyond just location tracking. 

By providing real-time location updates, smart trailer tracking gives fleets a cost-effective way to maintain visibility, accurately right-size fleets, reduce time spent on yard hunts, and increase security with geofencing functionality. Read on to learn four ways your fleet can benefit from implementing a smart trailer system to your fleet: 

1.  Streamlined workflows with partners

While many fleets use telematics in their own vehicles, your trucking company might rely on independent owner-operator contractors to complete a portion of your hauling. This makes it challenging if the contracted trucks don't have vehicle tracking in place, especially when employees or customers need this type of visibility.

To fix this, you can use a smart trailer tracking solution in the scenario that a contractor doesn't have vehicle tracking software or partners with a different provider. This way, customers and employees can stay in the loop, regardless of the tools a partner does or does not use. This can also provide you with more control over trailer utilization and can prevent your fleets from turning down work.

For many fleets, this removes concerns about accessing a contractor’s telematics solution. For example, fleets can use Samsara smart trailer tracking to gain location information about their trailer even when the trailer is in use by a truck that’s not part of their fleet or uses a different fleet management solution. This can be particularly useful when a third party is making deliveries for a fleet or if a fleet is working with a maintenance provider.

2. Properly utilized trailers

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 it's bringing in for the company? Because of this, it’s important for a fleet to have the right mix of trailers and drivers to meet the needs of the business.

To effectively rightsize a fleet, a fleet needs to undergo a utilization analysis. 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.

But with smart trailer tracking, you can see how each trailer is measuring up against its potential. To help fleets drill down on this information, Samsara’s Utilization Reports calculate the rate of usage by segmenting trailers by type, location, and date used. This can help fleets improve trailer-to-tractor ratio and even grow revenue by redeploying under-utilized trailers to areas with higher demand.

3. Decreased instances of theft or unauthorized use

For businesses that keep assets like trailers on-site, financial savings and peace of mind come from knowing that every asset is present and accounted for. By using customizable, location-based alerts, Samsara customers protect their remote assets by knowing if, where, and when assets move.

Whether your business regularly misplaces assets or you're not sure what's missing, Samsara provides operational savings by simplifying inventory management, detecting unauthorized movement, and increasing the likelihood of recovery. 

For example, you can use geofence alerts to draw a virtual perimeter around a secured area, whether that's a yard or job site. If a trailer crosses that virtual boundary, you will be automatically alerted and have access to the trailer’s real-time location. Not only does this pinpoint exactly where the trailer is, but can be useful to share with police authority in case of theft. Samsara geofence alerts also allow fleets to designate who receives an alert and how they get it (email or SMS) to make sure the right people are contacted via their preferred or most-responsive method of communication.

4. Automated inventory management

Smart trailer trackers can also help you automate your fleet’s inventory by allowing you to easily search for trailers by location, name, type, or a custom field via Samsara tags. This granularity can provide visibility into your trailer inventory from a single dashboard view and allows you to check in on trailers from remote locations. 

Fleets can also use this location data to gain more inventory control onsite. For example, you can eliminate yard hunts by providing yard spotters with the exact location of a trailer or capitalize on unexpected loads by immediately seeing if a trailer is in range and available for a requested job.

Samsara GPS trackers for trailers

Is your fleet looking for smart trailer tracking to help manage its trailers? Samsara’s Asset Gateway integrates with Samsara’s complete sensor system to combine smart trailer tracking, fleet management, and compliance solutions in a single platform. Whether you’re looking for ways to rightsize your trailers or simply need a better way to track them, the Asset Gateway can provide valuable insights and peace of mind for your fleet.

The different types of Samsara smart trailer trackers

If you’re interested in investing in smart trailer technology to improve the efficiency of your fleet, you have lots of options to choose from. Where should you start? Below you can find information and common features for Samsara’s three Asset Trackers—the Unpowered Asset Tracker (AG46), Powered Asset Tracker (AG46P), and Advanced Powered Asset Tracker (AG26).

Leverage Samsara smart trailer controls for expanded visibility

Samsara is excited to introduce a suite of new features to help create a more seamless integration between your fleet and Samsara smart trailer technology. These updates include more intuitive trailer viewing options, added controls for multi-zone reefers, and expanded visibility into the sensor’s battery health:

  1. Smart Trailer UX: Information from environmental, cargo, and door monitors is now displayed in relation to their placement on your trailer, making it easy to view trailer conditions at a glance. You can find steps on how to configure your sensors here. 

  2. Multi-zone Reefer Control: In the new trailer user experience you can monitor and control individual zones in Thermo King reefer trailers. Learn more about multi-zone reefer control here. 

  3. Sensor Health Report: To make it easier to maintain your environmental, cargo, and door monitors, you can now view sensor connectivity and battery health in the Samsara Sensor Health Report. If you need to replace the batteries in any of your sensors, learn more here.

To learn how Samsara smart trailer tracking can benefit your fleet, reach out to Samsara’s 24/7 customer service team for additional details or information about pricing.

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