A lot of delivery fleets use trailers to transport cargo or other equipment. While small fleets may be able to keep track of trailer activity using a simple GPS tool, tracking assets quickly becomes more complex and requires more advanced solutions as the size of the fleet grows.
This is why trailer tracking devices are necessary. They allow fleet owners and operators to track the location of every trailer and vehicle in their fleet at any given time.
If the tracking device connects to a fleet management tool, operators can use this information to streamline fleet operations, reduce fuel costs, and increase productivity and safety.
In this article, we’ll explain what a trailer tracking device is and offer six reasons why they’re necessary for fleets. We’ve also listed seven key features to consider when choosing your fleet’s tracking system.
What is a trailer tracking device?
A trailer tracking device is attached to fleet assets for real-time tracking via GPS. Operators use asset tracking solutions to enhance fleet and cargo visibility, better manage fleet assets, and avoid cargo theft.
A basic trailer tracking solution can collect GPS data, showing where a trailer is. An advanced tracking solution connects the tracker to other sensors and a dynamic fleet management platform.
Advanced tracking solutions can offer operators detailed information about each trailer, including location, vehicle diagnostics, tire temperatures, and trailer health.
Comprehensive asset tracking is vital for fleet owners and operators to maximize their fleet’s potential, keep cargo and drivers safe, and make data-driven decisions to boost overall fleet efficiency while reducing operational costs.
The importance of trailer tracking
Trailer tracking helps in six critical areas of fleet management.
1. Gain visibility
With a trailer tracking device, operators get real-time updates on where every trailer — and connected truck — in their fleet is. Trailer telematics enables fleet operators to check if vehicles are following planned routes, are on schedule to meet delivery deadlines, and ensure cargo is safe.
Trailer telematics data can be used to improve scheduling and route management.
For example, if fleet vehicles constantly surpass the estimated time for completing a specific route, operators can collect feedback from drivers and modify the route to overcome any problems.
Trailer tracking and fleet management data also enable better driver management. The data can help ensure high-performing drivers are rewarded and assigned high-value cargo while inconsistent drivers are given additional coaching and re-training.
Visibility is key to effective fleet routing, trailer management, and scheduling deliveries.
2. Maximize trailer utilization
Over-using or under-using trailers is a major contributing factor to fleet expenses via compliance-related fines, consumption of additional resources, and constant repairs.
Trailer tracking software with asset utilization reports can show operators which trailers are in use, the capacity of each trailer, and any mechanical issues they might have.
If a fleet has trailers sitting in the yard for lengthy periods, they could sell them to lessen redundancies or create a plan to get more customers.
Trailer sensors can ensure all trailers are being used efficiently. A commercial fleet truck running routes with a half-full trailer still costs fleet owners money. They can reduce those expenses by combining deliveries or using smaller vehicles.
On the other hand, if trailers are constantly being overloaded with cargo to meet delivery deadlines, they're more likely to break down and lead to significant repair expenses. It may indicate the need for additional trailers.
Proper trailer utilization is key to reducing expenses and capitalizing on existing resources.
3. Enhance trailer health
GPS tracking software with smart trailer technology can unify sensor data related to trailer health and send alerts for pre-emptive maintenance.
Trailer tracking solutions like CalAmp’s use sensors to monitor factors that affect vehicle health. For example, the Wheel-End Temperature System (WETS) monitors the temperature of trailer wheels and immediately alerts drivers and operators when they get too hot or cold.
Driving when the wheels are in poor condition increases the risks of collisions and breakdowns. Operators can ask drivers to pull over and wait for tire temperatures to return to normal, or they can guide them to the closest service center.
Tracking tire pressure and driving behaviors, such as harsh braking, is also important to prevent accidents and major repairs.
4. Improve cargo safety
Every fleet wants to ensure the safe delivery of their cargo. Losing cargo or assets can cost fleets thousands or even millions of dollars and result in the potential loss of clients.
To prevent trailer theft, asset tracking solutions like the CalAmp Application use sensors to track dwell times and send real-time alerts when trailer doors open or close.
A trailer dwelling for too long at an unexpected location or diverging from the planned route could indicate cargo theft. The same applies to when trailer doors are open outside designated operating hours. Repeated incidents of the trailer door being opened could also indicate tampering.
Apart from sensor data, fleet telematics can also show signs of cargo theft or loss, such as deviance from a planned route or an inability to communicate with the driver for long periods.
5. Increase fleet efficiency
Trailer tracking and fleet telematics can significantly improve fleet productivity. The ability to see exactly how every trailer is being used via real-time and tracking historical data is key to optimizing fleet routes, delivery schedules, and customer service.
Over time, operators can use trailer tracking data to plan delivery schedules more effectively, modify routes to speed up delivery, and maximize trailer utilization.
Trailer telematics also helps improve trailer lifecycles, so operators have their assets available for dispatch when they’re needed. They can plan deliveries accordingly without constantly worrying about potential breakdowns and delays.
6. Ensure customer satisfaction
Customers and clients appreciate transparency during the post-purchase experience. This means they expect updates on when their orders will be delivered, and they expect communication when delays occur.
Trailer telematics enables this transparency between customers, fleet operators, and logistics companies.
For example, a fleet operator for a logistics company can instantly track where deliveries are to see if the delivery will be made on time.
They can also predict and mitigate potential delays by collaborating with the driver. If a delay is unavoidable, they can keep customers updated on the new delivery date.
Simple notifications like this can boost customer experience and build trust. Recurring missed delivery deadlines without warning or explanation can push customers to consider other fleets.
What to look for in a trailer tracking device
When choosing a trailer tracking device, some features are essential, while others are optional enhancements.
Here are seven must-have features of a trailer tracking device:
1. Real-time location
A GPS trailer tracking system for fleets must show every trailer’s exact location in real time so operators can track vehicle and cargo locations and manage routes.
Without real-time intelligence, fleet operators must manually check in with drivers via calls or messages or wait until the delivery is completed to get updates. This negates the point of a trailer telematics solution.
An instant overview of the location of all fleet trailers simplifies management, route planning, and responses to unexpected incidents. Easy two-way communication between drivers and operators also helps with this.
Commercial fleet vehicles often drive through rough conditions, including deserts, rugged terrain, remote places, and freezing cold environments. Your trailer tracking device must handle these harsh challenges without malfunctioning or failing.
Since long-distance fleet vehicles are on the road for days or even weeks, the GPS tracker must also have adequate battery life and fail-safe mechanisms.
All of these features help operators constantly check their fleets without interruption and prevent blackouts in communication.
3. Easy installation and usage
The GPS trailer tracker must be easy to install on existing trailers and assets without additional expenses.
The tablets and software used by drivers and operators must also be easy to navigate regardless of their technical knowledge. This means that even the least technically-adept driver can use the app’s key features.
A dynamic UI that's easy to operate helps managers focus on planning and management rather than wasting time configuring the software.
4. Flexible device options
Every fleet has its own tracking needs. Some fleets operate within a specific area, while others provide intercity and interstate deliveries.
The vendor for your asset tracking devices must offer a wide range of trackers that fit multiple use cases, rather than relying on a single tracker that may or may not fit your needs. Options in connectivity, battery life, and durability are essential to equip your trailers with the right device.
CalAmp, for example, offers several asset tracking devices. These compact devices offer GPS and mobile connectivity.
Different battery options are also important. CalAmp has asset trackers that run on replaceable, rechargeable, or solar-powered batteries.
Your GPS trailer tracker must be weatherproof, have reliable battery backup, and be easy to configure.
Your fleet tracking software must also be customizable to match your use cases. CalAmp enables fleet managers to personalize the software and apply updates over-the-air (OTA) without hindering operations.
5. Unified fleet management
Trailer and asset tracking is only one element of fleet management. A trailer tracking device that connects to a unified fleet telematics platform is ideal for fleet operators to improve productivity.
Software like CalAmp’s can bring every element of fleet monitoring and management onto a single intuitive platform.
As a result, operators, drivers, and managers have all relevant information available instantly and can make data-driven decisions on-the-go.
A comprehensive fleet management tool is more efficient and productive than a basic tracker, manual fleet tracking methods, or using disparate, unconnected systems.
The GPS trailer tracker must integrate with existing fleet systems, in-office applications and platforms, and third-party data solutions, like ELDs and fuel cards.
Integrations also apply to software used by partner companies across the supply chain.
For example, CalAmp enables effortless, customizable integrations via APIs so all parties in the supply chain are updated on shipments and deliveries.
Creating a uniform system like this can boost collaboration and streamline logistics. It also lets fleet operators view all data on one platform, so they don’t have to scour through multiple logins to make informed decisions.
7. Remote management
Trailer tracking software must have a web platform and be available on mobile devices to enable remote fleet management.
Fleet operators and managers require instant access to vehicle locations and data. They can't get this when the software is restricted to specific devices at offices, job sites, or warehouses.
Instead, they need a fleet solution that works anywhere, any time. This makes fleet management more accessible and allows operators to react quickly in emergencies.
A dynamic fleet telematics application like CalAmp’s enables companies to support remote and hybrid workforces, which is crucial for modern fleet operations.
Remote fleet software makes sure operators never miss a crucial incident and always have access to fleet information.
Trailer tracking devices are necessary for modern fleets that want to capitalize on the latest technologies to boost operations.
An asset tracker connected to a fleet management solution like CalAmp’s can help fleet owners, managers, and operators improve productivity, fuel efficiency, driver management, route management, and more.
These features save fleet companies money and time while providing them with opportunities to expand their business.