Este’s First Giant LTL Provider to Use Trailer Monitoring – Industrial Provider Journal

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The sale of trailer tracking and surveillance systems under the truck load carriers is good. This year saw a record high for fleets upgraded to 4G and 5G devices with enhanced functionality to avoid service disruptions from the retirement of 3G CDMA cellular networks.

The use of the technology is far less common in the general cargo industry. In comparison, LTL fleets operate trailer equipment in a tighter network with more terminal locations, but that doesn't make the assets any easier to manage.

Due to the increasing demand from e-commerce, LTL carriers are under pressure to increase their capacities. Some are turning to trailer tracking to meet these and other needs.

Estes is planning a fleet-wide rollout

Recently, Estes Express became the first large LTL carrier to start rolling out a trailer tracking system across the fleet. The company has had conversations with a vendor, Spireon, for three or four years to understand how the technology can be used, said Rich Schwartz, Estes vice president of engineering and corporate optimization.

Based in Richmond, Virginia, Estes is an end-to-end transportation and custom logistics solutions provider with 90 years of freight shipping experience.

Schwartz plans to use the technology to give fleet operators better tools to do their jobs and to automate and optimize a variety of yard, dock and pickup and delivery (P&D) processes.

The plan for the mission is to “think big and start on a smaller scale”. Estes will initially use trailer location data to streamline yard inspection processes and manage detention at customer locations.

In order to conduct a yard check, Estes is currently printing out a list of trailers at the site who have a manifest for urban or road liner transport. This information comes from his legacy software system. Workers then have to go through a manual process to identify on-site trailers that are not on the list and then physically open their doors to see if they are available.

Estes has followers in more than 250 terminals and thousands of customer locations. Performing a yard check takes a long time, especially at large terminals like Joliet, Illinois, which have 750 followers each day, he said.

Schwartz is most excited about using the technology to save drivers time. Estes plans to provide drivers with the location of trailers to pick them up at corporate and customer locations throughout the United States. Estes will integrate Spireon data with the Trimble fleet mobile platform used by the drivers.

“The last thing we want is for drivers to go to another app to look for a trailer,” he said.

Increase efficiency

Estes will also integrate trailer location data into a proprietary application that it will use for dock and yard operations. The locations of the trailers in the yard are communicated to the mobile computers in the vehicles that are used for jockeys.

Schwartz is in the process of using new metrics to monitor how the fleet uses trailers at each location for P&D and line haul operations. Tracking usage in miles will help the company better maintain equipment, he said, and get equipment to locations to balance supply and demand.

In addition to using Spireon Fleet Locate technology on luggage tags, Estes will install equipment in its fleet of 800 intermodal containers. The visibility of the containers helps the fleet lower their chassis rental costs, which start as soon as the chassis leaves the station.

Since containers are not plugged into a power source, Estes uses a Spireon solar powered device.

Another planned use of the technology is tracking the location of converter carts to automate inventory controls. Estes currently performs manual dolly inventory counts twice a year.

“It is a challenge for any freight forwarder to know where each piece of equipment is,” he said. Tracking dollies help you plan equipment purchases. If the data shows that the fleet is only using 5,000 of the 7,000 dollies in the fleet, “there are a few things to be aware of”.

Future considerations include obtaining tire pressure and load sensor readings from trailers through the Spireon platform. If the company had a cargo sensor, “we would never have to open another trailer in a yard to know if it was empty or had cargo,” he said.

Schwartz is also fascinated by the possibility of monitoring the utilization of the trailers. For example, a cargo sensor that measures cargo volume could be used to determine how efficiently dock workers are loading trailers in order to “bring more science into our true capacity. If we had trailers that are not full, we will secure and fill them. “

“One of the things we looked at with trailer tracking devices was that we wanted something to build on,” he added. “It would be very difficult for us to digest all of this data from day one.”

Spireon is currently installing the Fleet Locate platform in 20 locations in Estes that have the highest speed of trailers passing through. The plan is to install 1,000 trailers per week and complete all 40,000 trailers in the fleet by the end of the year, he said.


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