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The future of smart trailer technology

As capacity continues to shrink and demand continues to rise, the need for efficiency in every step of the supply chain is more important than ever. Roni Taylor, VP of Strategy and Business Development for Spireon,  Zach Strickland, Market Analyst at FreightWaves, and Reza Hemmati, Senior Director of Project Management for Spireon came together to discuss the current trucking market and the potential of trailer innovation in a webinar on August 23, 2018.

“I don’t hear anyone complaining about but the lack of drivers, trucks, and trailers,” said Taylor. All in all, Taylor reported that freight volumes continued to rise after seeing virtually no growth in loads in 2016. She quoted Bob Costello, Chief Economist for the American Trucking Associations, who noted that in 2018, the total number of loads is up 5.4% compared with the same period a year ago.

FreightWaves’ market analyst, Zach Strickland, noted that “the economy is in one of the longest running expansions in current history.” “Everyone is waiting for the cycle to end. We’ve had this extended growth period which has caught people off guard. Capacity isn’t really increasing enough to manage this growth,” he continued.

Strickland pointed to the Great Recession in 2009, which marked a stable cycle with shippers “able to count on carriers beating down their doors.” But in the last year and a half, things have changed dramatically, as things have expanded outside of their normal rates. Instead of dropping off and tailing, things have shot up. “Manufacturing has been a huge part of that. There’s a race for people to start grabbing capacity, but they’re a little bit hesitant to do so as things contract here. Right now we’re really experiencing movement up into the right,” Strickland explained.

Essentially, the volume, the ELDs, and hours of service regulations have combined to create a perfect storm for the transportation industry. “Nobody really expected this level of shipment volume coming through the system,” Strickland said.

Strickland also detailed the way in which shippers attempt to gain capacity in the LTL space, leaving them “very exposed to capacity situations.”

“Managing space on these trailers is an extensive challenge,” he stated.

Hemmati then introduced what Spireon believes to be part of the solution to this extensive challenge: their IntelliScan technology. “Our carriers are looking for improved utilization anywhere they can find it. What I think is the heart and soul of the smart trailer movement is an extremely reliable load detection system. We really believe that starts with giving carriers a look into their trailers,” Hemmati said.

Spireon’s new IntelliScan technology leverages a proprietary combination of optical imaging and laser time of flight technologies to deliver unprecedented accuracy for loaded/unloaded, and soft cargo/extreme environment cargo sensing. According to Spireon, IntelliScan also embeds a camera into the device to better detect cargo load, giving carriers a bird’s eye view of their trailers. “The new solution will capture the entire 53-foot trailer, regardless of environmental conditions or varying cargo types,” the company says.

In an industry that is deeply impacted by inefficiencies, IntelliScan could very well be part of the solution. “I think we’re entering a new era, if you will,” Strickland concluded.

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