Smart highways. Semi-autonomous trucks. Platoons of communicating rigs. What’s next for trucking? Try smart trailers.
Let’s face it, from a historical perspective, trailers don’t typically have much expected of them. They are designed to carry the load with little fanfare, but maximum efficiency. In some cases, they are built to specific specifications in order to haul whatever commodity they are designed for in that application.
Although trailers can be made very rugged, being able to resist corrosion and such, they still are relatively dumb where smart equipment is concerned. But those days may be long gone.
Consider temperature-controlled trailers. Reefers are decked out with several sensors that allow for complex temperature monitoring to prevent perishables from going bad.
Innovation in this space is leading to new technologies and methods. Thermo King is now developing even more advanced sensors and other control systems designed to protect loads to the tenth of a degree. They can also run self-tests prior to their next run.
Even more, advanced reefer units can communicate with headquarters and record and document temperatures along the way. Real-time numbers can be provided instantaneously. When combined with big data analytics, this type of information can yield real-world results.
Telematics have made a big splash in the trucking industry, providing advanced ways to both track and disseminate information regarding truck driver behavior and other load-related information.
With Security in Mind
These advanced new trailer technologies allow for instantaneous communication with home base, and provide truck and dispatch operators a way to know what’s happening with the trailers in real-time.
Many of you have likely heard of Omnitrac trailers. These pioneers of trailer technology allow for a small satellite antenna to be attached to a trailers roof.
This device would transmit information back to home base instantaneously. They can even be doubled as GPS tracking devices were the trailer to be stolen. Considering they can be placed almost anywhere on the trailer, hidden from view if necessary, it isn’t hard to see how trailer security is greatly improved.
Another feature that enhances security are simple door sensors. If an operator makes an unplanned stop and opens the trailer doors, the device sends a signal back to home office. Might someone be trying to steal the load? If the truck driver is unresponsive, home office would then immediately call law enforcement.
As the trailer sector has matured, Omnitracs and other manufacturers have moved into a similar space. From pinpointing a trailer’s exact location to throwing a solar panel onto the roof, there’s a ton of different ways OEMs are innovating.
Not only is trailer tracking great for mitigating theft, but it allows fleet managers to better manage equipment productivity. More and more fleets are holding on to their trailers for a greater amount of time, so it’s only logical that they would want their equipment to provide them with an analysis of how long that trailer sat at a dock or outside in the yard.
Advances in suspension technology allow new air suspension systems to lower at highway speeds, thus reducing frontal drag and ticking off another tenth or two in fuel efficiency. Consider that OPEC is trying to raise fuel prices, and there’s every reason why fleets want to become more efficient.
These technologies allow fleets to get more use out of their trailers, enhancing productivity while minimizing costs. When comparing maintenance costs with trailers of the regular variety, fleets see real savings.
The fact is, the landscape is changing, and just as we may see a major shift in infrastructure and truck technology, so trailers are likely to follow.