Trucking, like many other functions, have been undergoing tremendous technological changes in recent times. From the electronic logging device to onboard computer systems, autonomous trucks and electric tractors, technology is changing lives for the better. Even the supply chain is being driven by data to enable greater efficiency. Smart technology is almost everywhere.
A veteran reefer jockey we spoke with pondered aloud a few questions:
Why do we have to monitor the reefer by looking into the driver side rear view mirror at a small trailer-mounted panel with 3 indicator lights that only tell us which cycle the reefer engine is running at the time?
And why do we have to get out to check the trailer temperature by the readout on the reefer unit?
And why do we have to get out and go to the trailer doors to check air flow and to check the cargo temperature with a pulp thermometer?
The answer to all these questions is: not any more. Because now we have smart trailer technology. Not just for reefers but dry van and flatbeds as well.
What does Smart Trailer Technology Actually do?
The technology is used with sensors and an onboard computer to collect myriads of data from the trailer and transmit it to the driver and to fleet personnel, all using telematics just as the tractor does.
And any trailer equipped with this technology will not only transmit reefer data, but other information like tire pressures, brake functions, lights, cargo securement and temperature, door security and other functions throughout the trip, making it useful for all types of trailers.
Instead of requiring a PM inspection to reveal necessary repairs, they are reported to the driver and manager in real time to allow for immediate correction.
You’ll still need scheduled PMs to satisfy safety standards, but now data will enable maintenance to be more predictive of possible impending component failures.
Internet of Things
Wireless sensors built into the trailer use IoT (Internet of Things) technology to collect, process and transmit data to recipients. IoT is used to connect with recipients in a network (including a driver and management or even a technician) or the cloud for the purpose of procuring, analyzing, and using real time data on trailer functions. Even if a light is out the driver can have it addressed and repaired immediately.
Trailer location is also known, which provides a means of improving fleet efficiency. How often do your drivers spend hours in large trailer yards looking for just the right trailer number to hook onto? With smart trailers drivers know the exact location of the trailer they need and drive right to it without searching.
That speeds up deliveries, making your fleet more efficient and keeping shippers and receivers happy with your service.
Real time trailer and cargo updates have the capability of smoothing out supply chain issues and making them a thing of the past. Pickups and deliveries become quicker and more efficient with the changing technology.
But are fleets ready and able to convert their vehicles by purchasing smart trailers? Fleets that are able to upgrade to smart trailers will definitely experience a competitive edge in the freight market with their obvious greater efficiency in picking up and delivering cargo, giving them a real advantage over trailers without smart technology.
However, fleets will face a tremendous capital outlay to renew all trailers to smart technology. They may need to transition gradually, say a few trailers at a time to systematically improve their fleet efficiency and gain market share.
Regardless, smart trailers are here and technology marches on, trailers along with it. We live in a great new world with breakthroughs occurring daily. Start boning up on smart trailer technology and see what it can do for your fleet.