Getting your feet wet with trailer telematics can be overwhelming, given the massive amounts of data the systems generate and the challenges of figuring out how to act on that information. That’s why carriers with trailer telematics experience advise newcomers to start small and move into the trailer telematics space gradually.
“Make sure you’re getting a system with capabilities that fit your needs,” says Mike Jeffress, vice president of maintenance at Maverick Transportation. “You may already have a system with track and trace technology. So why would you want to double- or even triple-up that expense?
“There’s lots of overlap in capabilities. You just need to keep in mind what your actual, immediate information needs are.”
The First Step in Trailer Telematics
Stevens Transport’s first step in determining trailer telematics needs was looking at its Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) safety scores to see what was drawing the most violations and safety infractions.
“It turned out it was tires, antilock brake systems (ABS) and lights,” says Nick Forte, vice president of maintenance. “Those were our three pain points. So those were my guidelines for the type of information I wanted to start gathering — because those were the issues I wanted to correct.”
As they implemented and got familiar with the system, he says, the Stevens team could see it was making a difference in those CSA scores.
“Just start off with a few actionable items. If you start out too big, you’re not going to be able to understand all the data you’re getting in and you won’t know what to do with it,” he says.
Correct Installation Is Key
David Voronin, president and CEO of Migway, out of Pineville, North Carolina, says technicians need to take their time and make certain they install the systems correctly to make sure they work properly out on the road.
“Make sure you have all the components — right down to the correct nuts and bolts,” he says. “Once it’s installed, have your technicians go back over everything to look for potential problems. You’ll have a much better experience with the technology if you check all the connections and seals. Make sure there’s no corrosion or water in the airlines and no hoses chafing before you send the unit out on the road.”
Brent Hickman, senior manager of equipment, maintenance, and fleet sales, for Pilot Company, recommends starting with something that will give you a return on investment in five years or less.
“Basically, look at what your critical needs are, and then use trailer telematics to get the most ROI on that situation right away. That’s how you learn the value of this technology.
“So that might mean in stage one, you start with something that offers you good tire and wheel-end data. Maybe tire inflation. You want something that lets your people get their feet wet and familiar with the technology.
“Then, as you start to see ROI and your people gain experience, you can start to turn on other features as they make sense.”