Fleet Maintenance - January/February 2024

Page 26


Look who’s talking

Having a ‘smart’ trailer doesn’t just mean tracking its location throughout the day. It’s about giving a voice to the trailer components that matter most. By Alex Keenan

If trailers could talk, wouldn’t that make the technician’s job a lot easier? Various systems could just tell you what’s wrong and what they need to get right again. Thanks to the advent of sensors and telematics, modern trailers really do talk. Smart components such as tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) and transport refrigeration units (TRUs) can now indicate to management and drivers anything from tire pressure to trailer temperature. This lets fleets prevent losing a load of perishables due to a faulty condenser, or avoid a blowout by taking care of an underinflated tire. “We’ve had certain customers give us feedback of a 70% reduction in roadside calls,” said Jonathan Gravell, EVP of Pressure Systems International, which makes TPMS devices and telematics soft ware. “That’s huge. It really is a great opportunity to turn your fleet from being reactive to proactive.” If one component can do that, then there’s no limit to the benefits a fleet could reap when every system on their trailer has been given a voice to articulate exactly what its current condition is. This enhanced communication, made more possible with telematics on the soft ware side and improved gateways on the hardware end, makes the fleet more informed and more profitable, too.

“When a fleet is looking at smart trailers as a way to save money, it’s about improving their operations,” said Cliff Creech, SVP at Phillips Connect, a trailer and chassis telematics provider. Because of the improved efficiency and health monitoring, and ability to dispatch the right resources when needed, Creech said, fleets using connected trailers “are able to operate and maintain their fleets at levels they just weren’t able to do before they invested in a smart trailer.” The challenge now will be making sure each voice can be heard, and the various data streams don’t drown each other out. “There are over 60,000 diagnostic trouble codes that are registered [in SAE recommended practice J1939 alone],” said Jon White, transportation industry consultant. “With that volume of data that can come in, the poor guy that’s standing there in the shop trying to repair the piece of equipment and has got to look at diagnostic and repair codes has to have some support.” Each fleet will have to integrate and prioritize based on their operational needs and budgets, but it’s important to know just what’s out there to help improve your trailer’s communication skills and how that can benefit your fleet. Here’s an overview of current solutions to help you do that.

“[TracKing] provides energy usage analytics to help fleets understand what they can do to reduce fuel costs and track results from their actions,” said Dominic Hand, VP of IT and Connected Products, Thermo King. “It’s like having a technician riding in the trailer who is constantly checking to see what can be improved and making recommendations.” Meanwhile, Carrier Transicold customers can leverage its Lynx Fleet telematics solution.

Thermo King


Temperature data was one of the earliest use cases for the Internet of Things in logistics. Now, it has evolved to provide actionable insights for reefers. Thermo King’s TracKing Pro Telematics offers an analytics dashboard that allows you to view emissions and receive predictive alerts. The Alarm Triage Insights feature recommends steps to understand and mitigate issues.

26 Fleet Maintenance | January/February 2024

“From temperatures maintained in cargo areas to refrigeration equipment performance, Lynx Fleet monitors and collects scores of inputs from every asset,” said David Brondum, director of Telematics, Truck Trailer Americas, Carrier Transicold. “It distills, analyzes, and consolidates much of this mission-critical data into different insights so fleet managers can quickly spot assets that may require special attention.”


Every tractor-trailer needs a fifth wheel, but Fontaine Fifth Wheel claims it’s the first to offer one with a brain. The SmartConnect fifth wheel provides fifth wheel telematics, locking status notifications, lock position sensors, and adjustment and wear updates, increasing service life and reducing maintenance costs. “Basically, we’re taking the guesswork out of fifth wheel maintenance and automating it,” said Shane Wolfe, director of engineering, Fontaine Fifth Wheel. “It can accurately anticipate maintenance needs before problems surface.” Jost International also offers ‘smart’ fifth wheels with the UBK Sensor Wheel and Loc-Light sensor system. The former offers in-cab notifications when the fifth wheel is safely coupled, while the Loc-Light uses indicator lights on the wheel itself.

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