Transparency with decoupled trailers
Digitalization in logistics does not only affect logistics service providers, but all players who contribute to transparency in logistics realities. Transport companies are increasingly faced with the challenge of integrating their towed units such as trailers, semi-trailers or swap bodies into the digitized processes. In this blog post we show you how the unique technology of ConnectedTrailer© and ConnectedContainer© works and how operational processes can be optimized cost-effectively.
Networking offers undreamt-of possibilities
Before we look at the different methods of tracking drawn units and their benefits, let’s briefly talk about the benefits of visibility of a trailer connected to the Internet. Traditional tracking solutions are often attached to a truck itself. One challenge of such an approach is the transparency of these towed units when they are uncoupled from a towing vehicle. What happens to the semi-trailer, swap body or trailer when they are no longer connected to the truck? How can it be ensured that the property is used lawfully? Particularly in the case of multi-shift contractual relationships, as is the case between subcontractor and client, the unit towed may be uncoupled from its own truck for a longer period of time. What if the property is moved unauthorized or even damaged during this time? If no data is available about what happened to the trailer during this period, it is almost impossible to find out what caused the damage and who should take responsibility for it. But an asset tracking solution also provides insights into the current position of movable goods, especially when they are moved by different trucks, in disposition. Ultimately, a tracking system also makes it possible to make much better use of the fleet capacities of these units. With a manual logging system such as today’s transport management systems, it can be difficult to produce reliable information about how the fleet of these towed units is used. Errors creep in easily and it often takes a lot of effort to keep a complete overview of the trailers or swap bodies.
Status Quo of Trailer Locating
According to surveys by Berg Insight AB more than 20 million intermodal containers and over 13 million trailers are in use worldwide. However, at the end of 2019 only slightly more than five million of these units were equipped with an active tracking solution. But why is this so? In order to know where the trailed units are located, they could already be equipped today with GPS trackers, which have a self-sufficient power supply. Such systems that communicate via the GSM network, however, have the characteristic that they have a relatively high energy requirement. For this reason, modern terminal devices installed in trailers or semi-trailers (such as the PILEUStrailer from fleet.tech, are additionally connected to the trailer’s on-board power supply in order to recharge the battery when coupled to the truck. However, GPS trackers with a magnetic mounting are suitable for use with intermodal containers. Depending on the number of transmitted position reports, they have a battery life of up to three years (for example the STRATUS II from STRATUS II von LOSTnFOUND). This proven technology of GNSS/GSM trackers, however, has its price in terms of initial and operating costs. For this reason, this technology has only become established for some applications, e.g. in temperature monitoring or for very high-value goods.
ConnectedTrailer© versus GNSS/GSM-Tracker?
M With the unique ConnectedTrailer and the end device VELUMplus, mobile goods such as trailers or containers can be presented transparently in operational processes with unprecedented cost efficiency. As standard, the extremely energy efficient VELUMplus has a battery that can transmit a capacity of over 30,000 events and, depending on the configuration, can achieve a service life of many years. This at a fraction of the cost of GNSS/GSM trackers today.
This is possible because the VELUMplus works in the so-called 0G network. Today’s mobile communications standard and in particular the 5G network, which is currently on everyone’s lips, is designed for broadband mobile communications. This is different with the 0G network from Sigfox. It is designed for narrowband communication in order to connect extremely energy-saving terminal devices to the Internet that could not previously be connected. Accordingly, it is suitable to transmit small messages, such as tracking data from trailers or swap bodies, every hour or more frequently during movement. In contrast to the mobile radio network, significantly fewer cells are required, since one cell can manage up to one million devices and the signals of the Low Power Wide Area based radio technology extend very far: In cities through houses and walls through about 3 to 5 km. In rural areas about 30 to 50 km. By the end of 2019, the 0G network will be available internationally in 60 countries – without roaming charges and has already achieved good or even very good coverage in many European countries.
For which applications is the VELUMplus suitable compared to a GPS/GSM solution?
The focus is on applications;
- who today have no automated transparency about their location
- for which GPS/GSM solution is too expensive
- for which a GPS/GSM solution has too short a battery life
- for which no permanent power supply can be guaranteed
- for which an approximate position specification is sufficient
Which applications is a terminal device such as the STRATUS II or the PILEUStrailer preferable to the VELUMplus?
These are typically applications for which;
- a high availability of position reports is required
- require a high density of position reports during movement (< 1h)
- additional information – such as temperature data – needs to be transmitted
Conclusion: Digitalization changes logistics and supply chain management a lot when suitable tools are used to support relevant decisions. This applies in particular to the question of whether semi-trailers, trailers, swap bodies or containers should be equipped with an active tracking system. This is not about the use of tools per se, but always about the previous testing of the degree of maturity and cost-effectiveness of the solution used. Thus, the journey into the digitally supported logistics and supply chain world remains affordable and efficient for all stakeholders.