Company: Trucks For You, Muskogee, Okla.
Operation: Truckload carrier; Joe Irwin, vp-operations
Problem: Keeping tabs on 1,250 trailers is difficult at best, but when one-third of your business is freight into and out of Mexico, the job becomes almost impossible.
Under current restrictions, U.S. carriers turn over their trailers at the border where a customs broker moves the load into Mexico for final delivery by a Mexican carrier. Anytime you combine large cargo volumes like those at major border crossings with loss of direct control over trailers, tracking the trailers, not to mention securing them, becomes a major issue.
So last March, Joe Irwin wasn't too surprised to hear that two empty Trucks For You (TFY) 53-ft. trailers were missing from a customs broker warehouse in Laredo, Tex., the largest U.S./Mexican port of entry.
Solution: TFY has equipped all of its tractors, now numbering 550, with QUALCOMM OmniTRACS wireless communications systems since 1987. Last year, it decided to install ARINC's Dominium self-powered trailer tracking system. One of the major attractions of the trailer system, which communicates over ORBCOMM's LEO (low-earth orbit) satellite network, was its ability to seamlessly follow trailers into Mexico, says Irwin.
The fleet has set up the tracking system to automatically send position reports once a day, or whenever the trailer doors are opened or closed. It also has the ability to poll, or request, a position on demand.
When the two trailers disappeared last March, the fleet was midway through installing the new tracking devices, and only one had a Dominium unit. By sending a position request to that trailer and checking the automatic location reports, TFY found it had been moved to Celestino Gasco, Mexico, a suburb of the major Mexican industrial city of Monterrey.
The Dominium system relies on the global positioning system (GPS) for location information, and until just last month U.S. government requirements restricted accuracy for commercial systems to within 100 meters. (That restriction was removed in May, and new GPS units are now able to generate positions within 10 meters.)
"This was a densely developed area, and 100 meters wasn't accurate enough to actually find the trailer," says Irwin. So the company gave its local Monterrey representative, Jose Luis Cantu, a more accurate Magellan handheld GPS unit. Programming the unit with the trailer's last position coordinates, Cantu got turn-by-turn directions to a trailer shop. There he found the Dominium-equipped trailer, which was in the process of being cut down to 48 ft.
"Cantu called the Mexican federal police, and they made several arrests," says Irwin. "The trailer that wasn't equipped with a tracking unit was never found."