Perspective: Optimizing Trailer Management

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Many technologies exist to help fleets monitor cargo in their trailers, but carriers must be mindful of how the cargo itself — including what it’s made of — might impact the effectiveness of their tracking systems, especially if they look to make a change. Better trailer management can also improve drivers’ job satisfaction by mitigating issues they sometimes face in detention time and finding empty trailers.

Cargo sensors that use ultrasonics to measure the distance to an object via sound waves are a current industry standard. However, environmental factors such as humidity and temperature can affect ultrasonic technology. Plus, soft materials such as foam, paper or cotton can absorb sonic waves, which can diminish the accuracy of an ultrasonic sensor.

Advanced cargo sensing solutions can tap into innovations such as time of flight laser technology — the measurement of the time taken by an object, particle or wave to travel a distance — similar to a bat’s sonar system, which addresses problems associated with cargo type and proximity.



However, lasers alone have range limitations, so fleets can also consider a device that incorporates a camera and artificial intelligence. Cameras that incorporate optical image processing — the reproduction of an object, formed by a lens or mirror system from reflected, refracted, or diffracted light waves — automatically capture images for photographic proof of the trailer or load’s status.

Motor carriers can also consider the mounting location of the cargo sensor. Traditionally, the only option was installation at the nose of the trailer. Now, the option exists to mount from the rear of the trailer, which increases visibility.

Considering Driver Satisfaction

If carriers aim to retain good, qualified drivers and make their company a great place to work, reducing the frustrating task of finding an empty trailer is an important step. Having accurate cargo load statuses is a great way to save drivers’ time, as searching for an empty trailer can cost drivers time and money.

Trailer telematics technologies allow carriers to know where trailers are at all times, and have confidence that they are sending their drivers out to an empty trailer that is ready to go.

Advanced cargo sensing options allow trailer managers to see if the trailer is loaded or unloaded, but can also determine how much trailer volume and floor space is still available for loading. Optical recognition and artificial intelligence technology provide operations managers with a more precise picture of what is inside every trailer. This level of precision helps to ease common pain points and puts driver satisfaction first, by making sure their time is well spent.

Increase Detention Billing Accuracy

Cargo sensing and image retrieval technologies ultimately enable better optimization of trailer space, increase backhaul opportunities, and improve trailer utilization. Detention times can greatly impact trailer utilization. When loading and unloading efforts exceed the agreed-upon window of time and delay the driver’s route, this costs money and resources.

Detention times could also negatively impact driver morale — waiting for hours at a time during routes can lead to driver dissatisfaction and burnout. The right trailer management systems can provide real-time visibility into a trailer’s location and its transit status, uncovering which customers have surpassed their detention grace periods. With accurate detention billing and image-based proof, carriers can better enforce their policies to turn trailers faster and maximize resources, improving their return on investment and profitability.

Detention monitoring can also help ensure hours-of-service regulations are being adhered to and fleet capacity isn’t strained, in turn boosting driver satisfaction and improving retention rates.

The current state of the labor and trailer market isn’t likely to change overnight, making serious considerations about driver satisfaction and efficiency more important than ever, but you can still optimize your trailer fleet to get where you need to go.

A seasoned veteran of the transportation industry, Roni Taylor has more than 25 years of experience in marketing and product management. She joined Spireon in 2011.

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