AUSTIN, Texas—Roughly 85% of construction industry businesses have experienced equipment and material loss or theft, and estimates suggest these instances cost the industry as much as $400 billion per year, according to Mobile Video Guard. In 2021, the businesses across the U.S. experienced more than 36,000 instances of cargo theft, Statista reported. Additionally, millions of dollars can be wasted if assets aren’t used. If not monitored properly, trucks and trailers can sit at a jobsite or in the yard for weeks without being used. One company even discovered millions of dollars left on the table because assets weren’t being utilized optimally.
See also: Industry responds to heightened cargo theft
These problems cannot be ignored, but thankfully, there are solutions available. Some proactive companies have implemented technology in their fleet to combat the issue, and the solutions are yielding results.
Fraley and Shilling, a lightweight fleet operator and No. 150 on the FleetOwner 500: Top For-Hire list, saved $150,000 by optimizing trailer allocation and utilization. Dohrn Transfer Company, an LTL carrier, estimated the company is saving up to $200,000 per year in trailer costs through rapid recovery and reallocation of assets as well as an estimated $75,000 in lost revenue by quickly putting recovered trailers back into service. Artera provides infrastructure services to electric and natural gas industries and is No. 32 on the FleetOwner 500: Top Private Fleets list. Artera was able to save more than $11 million after rightsizing its fleet. Finally, C.R. Jackson, an infrastructure company, saved $120,000 by recovering a stolen piece of equipment.
What do these companies have in common? Each company implemented asset tracking in their fleet.
Asset tracking can be used on equipment and trailers. In its most basic form, this technology is simply a location tracker that uses GPS. However, some systems also include real-time visibility, geofencing capabilities, and the ability to collect trailer inventory data.
Samsara, which serves several industries through fleet data tracking, analytics, and insight, released a powered and an unpowered asset and trailer-tracking device last year. Since then, the devices have helped all the above companies recover hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets and rightsize their fleets through asset utilization tracking.
The Samsara AG51 unpowered and AG52 powered asset-tracking devices are “game-changing products,” according to David Gal, general manager of Samsara’s smart trailer and connected equipment business unit. This is because these products aren’t just simple tracking devices, he told FleetOwner at American Trucking Associations' Management Conference & Exhibition.
Innovating through feedback
“We took all the learnings from the entire industry, reconsidered everything, and basically built something brand new from the ground up, which has, I think, been really transformative,” Gal explained. “We constantly innovate.”
Gal said the devices were built to be able to receive upgrades through software and firmware, which, as a result, causes the device to improve over time, “like a fine wine.”
The devices are small, white boxes that easily and securely attach to trailers and equipment. According to Gal, some equipment owners even bury the devices deep inside their equipment. He said the devices can even be painted for a more discreet look.
Gal said the tracking products offer more than meets the eye.
“We can look at the device and be like, ‘That’s the product,’ but really, it’s like, half the product,” Gal said. “The product is the whole thing: the software all the way down to that piece of hardware (the device), which I think is kind of the secret sauce of this product.”
One of the recent upgrades the devices received was a “Find My Asset” feature that allows fleet managers and operators to quickly locate lost or stolen unpowered assets at any moment.
“We basically turned an unpowered asset tracker into an on-demand asset tracker,” Gal said.
When designing the AG51 and AG52, or any Samsara product for that matter, Gal said product development includes a “reliability team” whose purpose is to ask, “How do we make this the best piece of hardware we can get out there?” Then, the product undergoes firmware, software, and integration testing.
“There's a significant amount of activity that goes on to make sure that experience is bulletproof for the customer,” Gal explained.
Once the products were developed, customers tested them in the field and shared their thoughts through a customer and developer feedback loop. This feedback helped the development team fully understand the customers’ needs and if the products met those needs and delivered solutions. In fact, the Find My Asset feature was developed through customer feedback. This is a common practice during Samsara’s development process, according to Gal.
Samsara customers that implement these asset and trailer-tracking devices into their fleet will see benefits. Gal said that knowing where equipment is located is critical in this industry, and understanding location will help a manager decide whether to replace an asset, report it as stolen, or keep looking for it. It will also help managers decide which equipment is being adequately used and which underutilized assets can be sold.
The AG51 and AG52 asset trackers are now available to customers. The Find My Asset feature included with the tracker is currently in beta testing and available to all Samsara customers.