Drivers who lose unpaid hours searching for company trailers may be getting a break. Satellite tracking may soon help them locate trailers, wherever they may be, whether hooked up to a power unit or not.

Announcements last week from Schneider National, Green Bay, WI; Qualcomm Inc., San Diego; and Orbcomm Global of Dulles, VA, mean a solution is on the way.
Fleets have long wanted to track untethered trailers, mainly to increase fleet efficiency. Trailer tracking could allow some fleets to cut down on the number of trailers they must maintain. The benefit to drivers, who frequently complain of delays hunting for trailers, will be an extra, according to Don Thoma, General Manager of Vantage Tracking Solutions of Herndon, VA.
Vantage is a business unit of Orbcomm, operators of the world's first low-earth-orbit satellite system that was completed late last year. The $350 million system consists of 28 suitcase-sized satellites circling the globe just 400 miles above the surface.
Traditional satellites, such as those employed by Qualcomm's OmniTRACS system, orbit 22,300 miles up. Of course, the smaller, lower satellites can transmit and receive much less data, but they require much less power to do it. Transponders on earth can be much smaller and batteries will last long enough for practical use.
So Orbcomm has promised the near-universal coverage of satellite systems at a price not much more than terrestrial systems with coverage limited by cellular networks. While a number of companies are working on trailer tracking solutions, including some that use Orbcomm satellites, Vantage has made the marketing breakthrough that brings their system into the mainstream of the truckload industry.
Last Wednesday, Schneider announced it will deploy Vantage tracking on more than 43,000 trailers over the next year. In fact, Schneider has been working with Vantage for more than two years helping to refine the system.
Schneider is also the trucking leader that gave Qualcomm's OmniTRACS system its first order in 1987. Now OmniTRACS accounts for an estimated 80 percent of the trucking market for mobile communications.
Indeed, at the same time Schneider made its announcement, Qualcomm announced it had reached an agreement in principle with Orbcomm to market Vantage Tracking Solutions as part of its evolving line of trailer tracking products.
For more information, visit