It is recommended that every fleet track its trailers separately from the actual trucks or vehicles they are attached to.
Fleet managers commonly use telematics to track the location of a vehicle rather than the trailer itself. While this might indicate where the trailer is, it doesn’t provide important data about the trailer or the cargo inside it.
Factors like wheel-end temperatures, utilization, and door open and close times play a major role in keeping your assets safe and boosting your fleet’s efficiency.
That is why smart trailer technology has become vital to modern fleet management systems.
In this article, we’ll explain what smart trailer technology is, how smart trailers work, the benefits of using these sensors and systems, and the key features of a smart trailer system.
What is a smart trailer?
A smart trailer uses telematics, onboard devices, and sensors to enable asset tracking and advanced monitoring. This technology helps operators monitor trailer utilization, location, overall health, and safety in real time using software like the CalAmp Application.
Smart trailers aim to improve fleet visibility, prolong the life cycles of trailers and assets, maximize utilization, and prevent the loss or theft of cargo.
Smart trailers equipped with Wheel-End Temperature System (WETS) sensors can monitor the temperature of the wheels and alert drivers and operators when conditions are unsafe.
Trailer telematics provides an extra layer of security for fleets, especially ones that regularly carry high-value cargo.
Instead of tracking the location of the truck or commercial vehicle, a smart trailer shows you where the trailer is and how many times the door has been opened and closed.
With this information, operators and drivers can be alerted to unauthorized access — such as a trailer door opening when the trailer is supposed to be out of service — and take action accordingly to combat theft and tampering.
Moreover, trailer sensors can detect how much cargo is on board. These sensors help operators find the nearest trailer with available capacity so that the driver can pick up a load. On the flip side, the software can also help managers see when a trailer is underloaded.
Features like this mean smart trailers, when used with the right fleet management software, can ensure that your fleet is efficient, optimized, safe, and compliant.
How do smart trailers work?
Smart trailers use onboard devices, sensors, smart trailer gateways, and a cloud platform to collect precise data and send information.
In modern fleets, sensors are placed throughout the trailer, such as on wheels and axles. Depending on where they’re placed, metrics like trailer load, wheel end temperatures, door opening and closing instances, tire pressure, and dwell times can be measured.
Once this data is collected on the edge, the smart trailer transmits it to a gateway. This small, compact, discretely mounted device has a central processing unit (CPU), along with features like GPS, WiFi, applications, accelerometers, and communications systems.
The data is then sent to a cloud platform that transmits the information to a software solution like the CalAmp Application. From here, fleet operators can receive general tracking data and immediate alerts in the case of breakdowns, overloading, and other scenarios that require quick responses.
5 benefits of using smart trailers
Trailer telematics has the following benefits for fleet owners and operators.
Let’s take a closer look.
1. Improved trailer visibility
Operators gain better visibility of their fleets since telematics provide real-time tracking. While some fleet owners choose to only track the truck’s location, tracking the trailer can be vital.
For example, fleet operators overseeing long-haul trucks that pass by remote areas can instantly see where the cargo is using solar-powered asset trackers instead of waiting for trucks to arrive at their destinations.
If a trucking company works with independent contractors that don’t have tracking enabled on their vehicles, then trailer sensors can be used to keep operators and customers in the loop.
Smart trailer telematics also allows managers to track how long a specific route takes, making it easier to schedule future trips and ensure on-time delivery.
Operators can also use telematics features to prioritize important deliveries and assign the most qualified drivers and efficient routes for these.
2. Better insights
Smart trailer technology goes beyond just tracking. Operators can collect historical data on cargo loads, truck routes, miles driven, and trailer health.
Using this information, they can garner accurate insights and take action to fix issues, reduce costs, and save time.
For example, if deliveries using a particular trailer are delayed due to constant breakdowns, the operators can use historical data to see this pattern quickly. They can then send the trailer for maintenance or replace it to avoid future delays.
Data on telematics systems can also be easily shared with teams within an organization and partner companies. This can help boost the entire logistics system.
3. Implement trailer safety
Trailer telematics include features that are crucial for trailer safety, like WETS and tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS).
These features help fleet companies complete on-time deliveries while keeping the cargo, the driver, and others on the road safe.
For example, when a trailer’s wheels are too hot, the driver gets alerted instantly, and they can pull over to let the tires cool down as a result. Without this system, drivers are at a greater risk of tire blowouts and consequent accidents.
4. Boost cargo security and avoid theft
Losing cargo can cost manufacturers, fleet owners, and customers dearly. Fleet owners should do everything they can to prevent cargo loss or theft.
Smart trailer solutions like CalAmp use sensors to help operators oversee trailer operations at all times. For example, door sensors can detect and record every time a door is open or closed. So, if the trailer is unexpectedly opened along the route, the operators can quickly contact the driver to find out why.
Other features, like recording the trailer’s dwell time and the tractor’s idle time, enable operators to spot suspicious activity.
5. Increase fleet efficiency
Implementing smart trailer technology helps owners and operators see where every trailer is and track vital metrics. They can then use this information to maximize their fleet’s potential.
If unused trailers are in the lot, operators can either use them to facilitate more deliveries or get rid of them to reduce maintenance costs.
Trailer utilization is a significant contributor to fleet efficiency. Cargo volume sensing can detect when trailers are running half-empty or are carrying excess loads.
If your trailers are underutilized, adding more cargo and additional route stops can increase your income. On the other hand, overloaded trailers can lead to roadside delays, compliance fines, and frequent repairs. Owners must scale their fleets to prevent these costly consequences.
7 key features of a smart trailer system
Fleet owners must carefully consider every element when choosing a smart trailer system. The system you select must have the following seven capabilities.
1. Real-time trailer tracking
The most vital feature of a smart trailer solution is real-time trailer and cargo tracking. This feature lets operators see precisely where their trailers are and ensure their fleet is running on schedule.
Real-time data and alerts enable operators to take instant action when delays occur because of issues with the route (such as traffic jams and unexpected road closures), deviation from the planned route, and accidents.
Historical data from GPS tracking allows operators to identify route and transition point inefficiencies, along with suspicious stops that could indicate misuse or theft.
2. Sensor data
Your trailer telematics solution must collect accurate data from all the sensors onboard and relay it in real-time.
Real-time tire pressure and temperature monitoring can prevent accidents or expensive breakdowns. Similarly, constant information on trailer load can help improve utilization, and door sensor data can boost trailer security.
For example, if a door opens when the trailer is in motion, the fleet operators and drivers can get alerts and act immediately to avoid cargo loss.
Sensor data collected over time helps operators improve overall fleet operations.
3. Flexible connectivity options
The smart trailer technology provider you choose should offer a range of edge devices that will work under varying conditions.
From battery-operated asset-tracking devices for motion detection to solar-powered asset trackers for harsh environments and versatile weatherproof trackers with extended batteries and excellent field reliability — whatever your fleet needs, CalAmp has the connectivity options for it.
All of these edge devices are integrated with the CalAmp Telematics Cloud (CTC) and the CalAmp Application for fleet management.
With extensive features and integrations in the palm of their hand, operators can take charge — and control every aspect — of their fleets.
4. Unified fleet management
While tracking devices and software are adequate for smaller fleets, most fleet companies require uniform fleet management.
Your asset-tracking devices and sensors should integrate with an application that collects comprehensive data about other fleet aspects, such as driver behavior, fleet safety, vehicle management, and compliance.
An all-inclusive solution like the CalAmp Application can make trucking telematics a breeze and improve productivity while also saving owners money.
5. User-friendly interface
Smart trailer solutions must be accessible on multiple devices by drivers, operators, and managers. Restricting platform access to specific locations will hinder data collection and alerts.
If fleet operators can only use the platform at a warehouse computer, then they cannot intervene or assist in case of critical alerts related to collisions, theft, accidents, and other problems.
The UI must also be easy to operate regardless of the user’s technical skill. Complex UIs make finding and tracking the correct data more difficult.
Integration between sensors, trailer trackers, cloud servers, and the user application should be seamless. Constant interference or interruptions between this connection will hinder real-time tracking and insights.
Moreover, your smart trailer solution should integrate with third-party apps that make up your current transportation and logistics systems. This will make data sharing easier and help operators better analyze data.
Seamlessly sharing data with partners using APIs also builds trust and helps you collect more in-depth data about your trailers and fleets.
7. Remote trailer tracking and management
Remote fleet management and trailer tracking are vital to modern fleets. Operators’ capabilities are limited to a specific location and work hours without remote access.
These restrictions mean operators cannot respond to urgent alerts because they won’t receive them when they are out of office. But even if they did, they would not be able to access the necessary data or the trailer’s precise location.
Your smart trailer solution should be able to work anytime and anywhere to facilitate constant monitoring, support remote and hybrid workforces, and implement efficient fleet policies.
Smart trailers can take fleet management to the next level. A comprehensive fleet and trailer management solution like CalAmp ensures that every trailer within your organization generates a return and is being used efficiently.
Operators gain granular visibility with CalAmp’s edge-to-cloud smart trailer technology. They can use real-time and historical data to make informed decisions in all areas of fleet management, including safety, driver behavior, maintenance, and compliance.