Protecting trailer assets

June 1, 2008
Recent Estimates by the FBI conservatively estimate cargo crime at about $12 billion per year. In the trailer-dependent temperature-controlled industry,

Recent Estimates by the FBI conservatively estimate cargo crime at about $12 billion per year. In the trailer-dependent temperature-controlled industry, trailer “loss” costs millions of dollars every year.

The convention focus session, Protecting Your High-Value Refrigerated Cargo, combined the insights and operational strategies of a technology innovator, Qualcomm, and a carrier with a proven anti-theft program, Giant Eagle, a supermarket retailer serving Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and Maryland.

Giant Eagle has been using Qualcomm's new advanced web-based T2 Untethered TrailerTRACS asset management system on 450 of its trailers and is adding it to another 150.

The system is a standalone terrestrial platform that also can work in conjunction with in-cab Qualcomm two-way satellite mobile communications solutions “to offer rapid-status visibility into fleet operations for improved trailer utilization and security,” said Elaine Chaudoin, Qualcomm's director of product development.

Along with providing automatic GPS location reports and geofence (a virtual boundary around a geographic area) status, she said the T2 system provides alert data from cargo and door sensors, generated whether the trailer is tethered or untethered. Alerts are configurable.

This information is delivered using digital wireless communications and analog cellular technology with a coverage footprint throughout North America.

“Users can easily identify available or empty trailers or containers, and this information helps to optimize equipment and freight inventory and reduce costly downtime,” Chaudoin said.

The T2 Untethered TrailerTRACS systems automatically integrates updated trailer location and status information into Giant Eagle's management system, said its fleet and facility maintenance manager Jeff Chulak. This provides convenient access and management of equipment and eliminates the need to monitor and collect information from multiple systems.

The T2 system “not only protects our trailer assets, but by adding the optional door and cargo sensors, we protect our cargo,” he said. “Someone can always break a seal or cut a lock. Now we can map our drivers and our loads from start to finish.”

The optional sensors help prevent theft by sending alerts to dispatchers when a trailer's doors are opened or closed, and by indicating the presence or absence of cargo, explained Chaudoin. If a theft occurs, GPS tracking will pinpoint the location of the equipment, regardless of whether it is attached to a tractor or parked in a yard.

The door sensors work on both swing and rollup doors, Chulak added.

Giant Eagle uses geofences to track when trucks arrive and leave a delivery or pickup point. With the T2's door alert, it can tell how long a delivery/pickup is taking.

“If the doors are closed and a truck hasn't left a geofence, we may have a problem,” said Chulak. “We can contact the driver to see if there is an issue.”

Because the system can do both position and events monitoring, including loaded/unloaded, tractor trailer connected/disconnected, door open/close, and geofence break, “we remove a lot of the worry from our transportation operations.

“We get multiple equipment status reports several times a day.”

The carrier recently began beta testing Qualcomm's reefer monitoring and alarm system with its T2 system. The reefer systems also work on both tethered and untethered refrigerated trailers, recording and monitoring inside temperature.

Because the T2 system is web based, “we can tap into the website at any time to monitor cargo temperature,” Chulak said. “We can document when a delivery was made, and that the product was in good condition.”

Giant Eagle's reefer monitoring system can send an e-mail alert within five minutes of any critical event. “This gives us the opportunity to get an issue resolved quickly,” he said, “which helps protect the quality of the cargo.”

Chaudoin pointed out all of the information gathered by the T2 system is presented in management dashboards via the website and is downloadable into user-friendly spreadsheets.

Asset monitoring systems are the wave of the future, concluded Chulak, because they help prevent trailer theft, minimize loss, and improve customer service.

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