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Smart Trailer Technology Improves Trailer Utilization, Cargo Distribution and More

  • October 19, 2021
  • Kinana Hussain
  • Reading Time: 3 minutes
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CAL_2021-10_Smart Trailer Blog Image_021 Smart trailer technology can increase safety, efficiency and profitability for fleets, and open platforms are putting it within easy reach. (Credit: CalAmp)

Trailers are the lifeblood of freight transport. The more fleet operators know about their location, utilization and real-time conditions, the better they can manage them and the cargo inside.

After-market smart trailer technology turns unconnected trailers into smart assets, providing real-time visibility into what’s happening inside and outside. This visibility helps fleet operators improve their trailer utilization and ensure that goods are delivered without incident — two especially valuable benefits given the ongoing trailer shortage and supply chain crisis. 

With an open device-to-cloud, or edge-to-cloud, platform such as the smart trailer platform in development from CalAmp, companies can choose the sensors and telematics devices they prefer, regardless of the device manufacturer or trailer manufacturer. Cloud-based fleet management software such as CalAmp iOn lets them view and run reports on the data they produce.

Here’s a look at some aftermarket sensors and telematics devices that enable smart trailers and how fleets can benefit.

Trailer gateways

Trailers equipped with solar-powered gateway devices that send data to the cloud can be located whether they’re sitting in the yard, parked at a truck stop or traveling the highway. Location visibility helps fleets boost trailer utilization and cuts the time drivers spend looking for a specific trailer in the yard.

Gateway devices placed inside the trailer can read smart sensors affixed to boxes and pallets. If goods are left behind during transport, fleet managers can access their last known location. For sensitive goods, if the temperature or humidity in the environment deviates from set ranges or the goods experience shock or tilt, sensors can record and convey that information as well.

Real-time tire pressure monitoring

Tire blowouts on a trailer can be dangerous and even deadly. Accidents that result from blowouts can cause costly delays. For these reasons, a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) is critical.

Tires should be inflated to the maximum indicated PSI to preserve tire life and help avoid blowouts — but they have a way of losing pressure over time, especially during hot weather. In fact, nearly one in five trailers is operating with one or more tires underinflated by at least 20 psi. A TPMS sensor attached to the trailer’s wheels measures the air pressure of each tire. When the pressure dips below pre-set thresholds, these sensors can send an automated alert to the driver and fleet manager.

Keeping tires properly inflated not only guards against blowouts that put lives and cargo at risk, it also saves fleets money on fuel.

Real-time tire temperature monitoring

Overheating of a trailer’s wheel end components such as bearings and seals is another cause of potentially disastrous accidents. Wheel end overheating can even lead to fires that damage cargo as well as threaten lives.

Wheel end temperature sensing (WETS) technology alerts the driver and fleet manager when the trailer’s wheels begin to overheat so the driver can pull over before an incident occurs.

Door open/close sensing

Door status sensors aren’t new, but adoption has been slow due to a lack of trailer-agnostic devices. After-market smart trailer solutions are solving this problem.

Real-time alerts let drivers and managers know when a trailer door is opened, which can help fleets reduce theft and protect cargo if the door opens when the trailer is in motion. Door position notifications report what time the door was open and for how long, which can help fleets optimize operations.

Cargo sensing

With real-time insights into trailer capacity, fleet operators can improve trailer utilization and lower costs. Ultrasonic cargo sensors affixed to the inside of the trailer roof make these insights possible, revealing the percent of cargo space left in the trailer, in total and by zone.

Companies waste a lot of man-hours checking trailers in the yard to see if they are empty and available for use. A cargo sensing solution cuts that waste. What’s more, with visibility into real-time capacity, managers can instruct drivers in transit to make another stop to pick up additional cargo if the trailer has room. Fully leveraging a trailer’s capacity can reduce fuel costs, save drivers time and get goods delivered faster. Cargo sensing also guards against overfilling trailers.

Five-zone cargo sensing delivers another benefit: safety. If a manager sees in the fleet management software dashboard that the cargo distribution poses a potential danger, they can tell the driver to pull over and redistribute the goods.

For transportation and logistics fleets, as freight demand continues to surge, deeper visibility into trailer operations is becoming imperative. Open smart trailer platforms that unify data from multiple devices and provide a holistic view into trailer operations are the key that will unlock smart trailer technology for more fleets. By helping fleet operators improve trailer utilization, increase safety and reduce theft, smart trailer technology can pay out many times over.

Learn more about CalAmp’s edge-to-cloud smart trailer platform, which integrates seamlessly with OEM sensors.