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How Telematics Is Revolutionizing Transportation and Logistics

  • September 09, 2021
  • Kinana Hussain
  • Reading Time: 3 minutes
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Tractor-trailers at a truck stop Telematics devices and smart sensors connect trucks, trailers and cargo to improve supply chain visibility, streamline shipping operations and drive down costs. (Credit: Bim/iStock)

Transportation and logistics is a complex puzzle with many pieces. What if more of those pieces were connected through the internet of things?

Today, modern telematics technology can connect trucks, trailers and cargo with a strong ROI. This end-to-end connectivity, achievable through a suite of sensors and applications, can increase operational efficiency, improve cargo tracking, reduce shipping costs and help companies deliver shipments on time and in good condition.

The connected trailer

Before any goods can move, the driver needs to find the right trailer. Adding a telematics device to a trailer lets drivers pinpoint its location in the dockyard using a fleet and asset management application such as CalAmp iOn™, eliminating time-consuming hunts. A Bluetooth reader in the cab can link the driver to the vehicle so managers can confirm who’s driving which truck. For further visibility, a manager can associate the trailer with the cab so it’s clear the driver is pulling the right trailer.

Associating cabs with trailers has another benefit for fleet managers: If a cab breaks down on the road, a manager can easily locate a nearby cab, one without a trailer, to take over hauling the load.

Smart trailer technology can also help fleet managers make the best decisions about which trailer to use so trailers aren’t sitting idle. For example, smart temperature sensors inside the trailer can indicate whether the conditions are too hot for the shipment. Tire sensors can report whether trailer tires are ready to roll. With even smarter trailers, ultrasonic technology can reveal how full the trailer is and whether there’s room for the containers in question.

Cargo tracking with smart sensors 

Next comes the cargo. Affixing reusable or disposable Bluetooth LE smart tags to products or pallets of goods makes them easy to locate in the warehouse. A tag reader — perhaps a battery-charged, multi-use telematics gateway — placed in the trailer can log the cargo and associate it with the trailer for auditing purposes. Another Bluetooth reader near the warehouse doors can log the cargo’s departure.

Once the truck arrives at its destination, the tagged cargo can be logged by a reader at the site as it’s unloaded, closing the supply chain loop.

If a container or package leaves the trailer before arriving at its destination, the tags, which act as proximity sensors when paired with a gateway, will send an alert through the asset management app. In the event the goods were stolen, GPS tracking on the trailer gives authorities a better chance at apprehending the thief and recovering the items.

Smart trailer technology can tip off drivers to potential theft even sooner. With a trailer door open/close sensor, an alert goes out if the trailer door is opened unexpectedly.

Monitoring sensitive cargo

Shipping produce, pharmaceuticals or sensitive electronics? Proximity sensors that double as environment-monitoring tags can monitor and log a host of environmental conditions, ranging from temperature to humidity to tilt to shock. These sensors can help shippers ensure that the cargo arrives at its destination intact. 

If a shipment of spinach or vaccines experiences a temperature excursion during transit, the log provides an account, and a real-time alert may allow the shipper to intervene in time to save the shipment. If an HDTV tilts on its side, the driver can be notified right away so they can stop to take corrective action, and the sensor will log the incident for auditing and insurance purposes.

Using these sensors in combination with a telematics gateway on the trailer eliminates the need to deploy a more expensive environment-sensing device in the container, reducing the cost per shipment.

Cost-efficient connectivity

The cost of BLE smart tags and gateway devices has come down in recent years. As these devices evolve to include more and more features, they provide increasing efficiencies for transportation and logistics companies, especially compared with manual logging and tracking processes that rely on older RFID technology.

End-to-end connectivity is the future of transportation and logistics. An upfront investment in this affordable technology can pay off in increased security of shipments, improved on-time delivery rates, lower spoilage costs and more efficient fleet management.

Discover mix-and-match asset management and cargo tracking solutions to meet your supply chain visibility needs.