Nussbaum Transportation has never shied away from innovation; it was an early adopter of 6x2 drivetrains, has invested heavily in aerodynamics, and created its own driver scorecard. But until recently, trailer tracking was limited to certain groups of trailers for particular customer accounts.
The Illinois-based truckload fleet had talked for years about broader adoption of trailer tracking, but “had really struggled in our minds to show an ROI on it,” explains Nussbaum Chief Operating Officer Doug Bradle.
But with recent advancements in technology that will enable it to do far more than just track trailers, Nussbaum is now going all in, installing a “smart trailer” system from Phillips Connect Technologies on about 85% of its 1,000-plus-trailer fleet.
The new system delivers GPS tracking, cargo detection, automatic tire inflation system alerts, tire pressure and temperature monitoring, and an antilock braking system decoder that provides detailed fault codes, trailer VIN information, and mileage reporting. Tractor-trailer pairing will ensure the right tractors connect to the correct trailers before hauling a load.
The smart trailer package will include the TireView system by Pressure Systems International, allowing tire pressure and temperature monitoring along with automatic tire inflation – even giving visibility into tire status when the trailer is untethered, without tractor power connected.
Cargo sensors that could detect whether a trailer was loaded or empty were the first thing Nussbaum was interested in, as a way to save driver time in finding empty trailers to pick up, Bradle explains.
“Then my director of maintenance said there are companies out there that are monitoring trailer health, if you will, and that just got really exciting once we started looking at that scenario – monitoring ABS, tire pressure, and getting into all kinds of areas beyond that.”
One key factor Bradle says plays into the ROI equation, in addition to saving drivers time looking for trailers, is ABS fault codes.
“Up until now all you could tell was, the ABS light is on, so the braking system’s not working right. You’ve got to take it to an outside vendor and they start cutting wires and figuring out what’s wrong. Now we can know exactly what the fault code is. We felt that could be significant savings at outside vendors. Also if we can monitor tire pressure better, that would be a savings with less blown tires in a year.”
Nussbaum originally started evaluating three vendors, and quickly narrowed it down to two and ran a pilot program with five units from each vendor. One of the things that tipped the decision in Phillips’ favor was its integration with third-party sensors, such as the ones from PSI.
“Something I can’t overstress is that we were looking for somebody that was a partner,” Bradle says, a company that it could work with on innovations and that provided top-quality customer support. “Phillips really sold themselves on that through the course of our pilot.”
Bradle is hoping to complete the installation within a year, and is looking forward to exploring additional possibilities, including the ability to gain insights into the data via analytics, such as trailer utilization, dwell time at customers, and how long the trailer is sitting loaded vs. empty at a customer location.
“At this point that’s relatively undeveloped, but I would also say the sky’s kind of the limit.”