Mar 01, 2023

Smart Trailers: The Future of Fleet Management

Smart Trailers: The Future of Fleet Management

At Fullbay, we’re all about using cutting-edge technology to maximize efficiency for diesel shops. That’s why it’s not hard to see why we’re excited about smart trailers.

If you’re unsure what makes a smart trailer smart, don’t worry—you’re in the right place. Trailer telematics are becoming more sophisticated than ever, and these improvements could easily impact fleet operation and maintenance going forward. Here’s what you need to know about smart trailers and how they could change fleet management forever.

What’s a Smart Trailer?

Smart trailers are a promising new development in trucking technology, so there’s a good chance you’d like to learn more about them.

In short, a smart trailer is a trailer that went to Harvard.

Just kidding. Sorry, we couldn’t resist.

In reality, a smart trailer is a trailer that’s been enhanced with cutting-edge digital capabilities. Thanks to Internet of Things (IoT) technology and integrated sensors, these trailers can share up-to-the-minute updates on the status and condition of their cargoes and themselves. Those updates can be shared with the truck’s operator and the fleet as a whole.

You can convert any trailer (including dry, flatbed, and refrigerated trailers) into a smart trailer with the right equipment.

Now, to be classified as “smart,” a trailer must have all of the following:

  • An onboard central processing unit (CPU). CPUs function as the “brains” of today’s computers, and they play an indispensable role in any smart trailer.
  • A smart trailer gateway. As the “hub” for data collection and transmission, your gateway will likely be as advanced as a modern smartphone.
  • Sensors. These components are responsible for collecting data on the trailer’s overall condition, including (but not limited to) information on its brakes, wheels, weight, doors, and lamps.
  • An electrical connection. This can be the trailer’s existing SAE J560 or a 7/13-pin connector. Either way, it can tell the trailer when it’s connected to a tractor and send data between these components.

Next-Level Smart Efficiency

Smart trailers deliver some serious advantages over their traditional counterparts, including capabilities that can boost a driver’s efficiency on the road. While using a smart trailer, you’ll be able to take advantage of valuable features like:

  • GPS data. The GPS trackers installed in smart trailers can give you valuable information on their location, direction, and speed.
  • Cargo temperature tracking. If you’re hauling refrigerated cargo, a smart trailer will help ensure your shipment stays cool.
  • A live video feed. Smart trailers can provide the peace of mind that comes with being able to keep a constant eye on your shipment.
  • Cargo weight distribution info. Ineffective weight distribution can affect your truck’s braking ability and stability. However, a smart trailer can let you know if there are any weight distribution issues to be aware of.
  • Maintenance advice. Whenever your smart trailer starts having problems, its information-rich updates will go well beyond the traditional “check engine” light.

What Does That Mean for Fleets?

Smart trailers bring some impressive features to the table. Still, it can be challenging to understand the applications of these capabilities without having used one of these trailers yourself. Let’s look at what smart trailers can (and can’t) do for real-world fleets.

First, it’s important to note that smart trailers aren’t smart enough to drive themselves. This technology isn’t meant to replace drivers — it just makes their jobs a bit easier. By providing valuable data (including updates on potential hazards), smart trailers can keep truckers safer and more efficient while they drive.

Smart trailers could also significantly impact fleet maintenance in the future. Fleet managers will be able to look at the additional information these trailers provide, making it easier for them to organize routes and schedule preventive maintenance for trucks (and trailers) that need it. Eventually, these reductions in downtime could even allow smart trailer upgrades to pay for themselves.

A Bright Future for Trailers

Smart trailer technology is still a work in progress. While about 30% of all trailers on the road today have telematics devices, not all are full-fledged smart trailers. That means it might be a while before smart trailers become a standard part of the trucking industry.

Even so, it’s hard not to be curious about this development and what it could mean for the trucking industry in a decade or so. By alerting truck drivers and fleet managers to potential threats in real time and predicting problems before they happen, smart trailers could make the road a much safer place.

Along with that, smart trailers will be able to instantly let fleet managers know exactly which trucks in their fleet need attention. So while smart trailers may not be a common sight on today’s highways, it’s safe to say they’re the future of fleet management.

Emilie Vecera