These are dangerous times we live in. Terrorist use our own systems against us, which brings us to the subject of the need for a system to track trucking trailers.
The trucking industry has made good use of the global positioning system (GPS) to track the location and movement of tractors and drivers. The tracking of trailers has lagged behind, however, and is a concern of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The FMCSA recognizes trailers as a significant security risk. Untethered trailers can easily be used to transport dangerous cargo and are subject to being used by terrorist to move weapons of mass destruction inside the borders of the United States virtually without detection. Almost 800,000 shipments of hazardous materials are being made daily and the risk of lost trailers, or theft is another concern.
One solution to this problem is a National Untethered Trailer Tracking system (UTT). Currently, UTT devices are installed on less than 2% of the nations estimated 2.5 to 3 million dry van trailers. This creates constant inventory problems within the trucking industry. It is not hard to keep track of a trailer when it is attached to a cab, but once it is untethered it is not as easy. The trucking industry uses almost three times as many trailers as tractors which means that at any given time two thirds of all trailers are sitting empty and unwatched. This makes them extremely subject to theft or misuse.
There are several ways that tractors can become lost even in normal use. They may be erroneously moved or parked. Trailers are often transferred to other carriers, and once this occurs the owner loses track of it until it is returned. The need to manually track the locations of trailers is what causes increased costs due to the need to perform yard searches, and sometimes engage in long and costly searches for misplaced ones.
A recent pilot test on a UTT system showed the ability to track the real time location of all trailers in the fleet. The location data is fed to a dispatcher on a regular schedule. The test system involved remote sensing of such things as the status of loads inside the trailer, and provided alerts when doors were opened or cargo was disturbed. This ability to track trailers with the same degree of accuracy as tractors could reduce loss through theft, and help guard against the potential security risks. Although some time would be required to equip every dry van trailer with a UTT device, the benefits seem to outweigh the trouble and expense.
Carl Stinson is with TruckingCompaniesforyou.com - providing articles on trucking .