Telematics and Asset Tracking for Trailers and Containers

Semi-trailer pools in the United States are at an all-time low. There are just not enough trailers to go around for drop-and-hook trailer services.

There are several reasons for this. The COVID Pandemic has slowed the production of new trailers at manufacturers because of staffing and supply chain issues. Demand for dry trailers is higher because of the exploding demand for online shopping and shipment of packages to consumers.

“You cannot order another trailer in 2021. They just don’t exist. That’s how critical trailers are right now” Webb Estes of Estes Express Lines tells the Journal of Commerce. If you want a new trailer now you will have to wait until well into 2022.

 There is a reefer (refrigerated trailer) shortage as well, and a shortage of parts for trailers. In fact, trailer manufacturers are not taking new orders because of multiple issues. In short, the whole supply chain for trailers from staffing to materials is strained by disruptions and bottlenecks.

 Containers are in a similar pickle. Dwell times (how long a container sits in port) for containers are at or exceed all-time highs. The average dwell time now is six days. Idle containers – whether empty or full – are not earning you income.

 One way to combat the shortages and port bottlenecks is to know in real-time where each trailer or container you do have at your disposal is so it can be put back to work as soon as possible and reduce idle time. That eliminates losing income. The best method for doing that is by using telematics.

What is telematics?

Telematics is the combining of telecommunications (mobile, satellite) and computer sciences (computer systems and AI) to track any object, including tractors (truck cabs), containers and trailers.

How can video telematics help when monitoring trailers and containers, and what does telematics track?

Trailers – what the tractor pulls – consist of reefers (refrigerated trailers), dry vans (for carrying dry goods and packages), tankers (for hauling liquids and dry materials), flatbeds (for carrying bulky items), and container chassis (for hauling overseas shipping containers. Every kind of trailer can be outfitted with telematics to track location and many other metrics.

What can be tracked and monitored in trailers?


Through GPS (Global Positioning Satellites) a transponder on the trailer sends a signal or ‘ping’ to space where satellites (at least three) pick up the signal and send it back to a viewer. GPS can be especially helpful with trailers that haul marine shipping containers. With the current backlog and slowdown at the Port of Los Angeles and two Chinese ports, knowing where your trailer is, whether it is loaded with a container or not, is it available to take on a new container, these are all important considerations for fleet management.

 “If you had ample labor, while supply would be tight, you’d be seeing throughput in the warehouses that would keep that end element flowing enough to where our chassis are coming back in five and a half days and not eight,” said Ryan Houfek, chief commercial officer at DCLI.


 Telematics measures the speed at which a trailer or container is moving down the road. Excessive speed could be a sign that your trailer is in danger.


The environment inside a refrigerated truck is critical for preserving the food and perishables that are inside of it. Other temperature-sensitive goods such as electronics also need to be monitored. Telematics measure temperature and alert an interested party automatically.


The humidity in climate-controlled containers and trailers is critical for goods such as electronics. Telematics measures humidity and can alert a fleet manager when limits are exceeded.


Rough handling of your cargo – from eggs to fragile electronics – is not acceptable. Fleet telematics can monitor the G-forces (gravitational force equivalent of gravity weight) your cargo is subjected to and alert you when things get too rough. You can then contact your shipper or even the driver and find out what is going on.

Axle load

Each trailer has an upper limit of how much weight it can carry and this affects what the wheel axels can bear. Load limits often vary by road and state. If a trailer is overweight then the fines that are levied for that could really affect your company’s bottom line. Knowing the axel load saves money.

 Electronic Braking System

One option with a fleet telematics system is to monitor the EBS or electronic braking system on a trailer. If the EBS is suddenly engaged you know that the driver had to make an emergency stop. Did this affect a load of cargo in the trailer? Could the sudden stop have damaged what the boxes contain? That is certainly something for a manager to follow up on.

 Arrival ETA’s

Another metric that is important to fleet managers and customers alike are ETA’s (estimated time of arrival). Fleet management technology can capture and transmit straight to interested parties the time and date that a package or even larger delivery has been made. This saves the manager time by eliminating the need for customers to call questioning the location of their goods.

Are you ready to learn more? Talk to a Fleet Advisor today.

How do video telematics aid fleet managers?

 Video telematics – the combination of video cameras and telematics data – aid fleet managers in a variety of ways. Most basically telematics can tell you where your trailer and its cargo are. Are they following the map directions that you stipulated at the beginning of the trip (optimized route), or are they off course. If not you have decisions to make.

 On-board video cameras attached to the exterior of a trailer or container give the fleet manager real-time information about the physical condition of your property.

In the event of an accident, you can see how that accident happened. You can also determine if your trailer is still in working condition or if any damage is merely superficial. Proving whether your driver or another vehicle driver was at fault in an accident can help you control and even lower vehicle insurance costs. Actual video of the event from several angles helps prove blame and acts as a defense in court.

 According to the “North American Trailer Telematics Growth Opportunities” report, only 24.7% (as of 2020) of trailers in the North American market are equipped with telematics. That means there is a great growth opportunity for telematics OEM’s. This statistic also emphasizes how many trailers need telematics.

 “A number of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and Tier I suppliers find the telematics market to be very lucrative because of the revenue potential it beholds. Owing to their interest in the market space, they are trying to penetrate the market inorganically by means of partnerships, mergers, and acquisitions,” according to an analysis by Research and Markets.

 If you’d like to learn more about how GPS Trackit can help to improve safety, increase productivity and reduce costs for your business, speak with one of our knowledgeable Fleet Advisors at 866-320-5810 or get a quick Custom Quote.


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