Knowing Just Where Your Trucks Are

May 1, 2008
Maintaining visibility of tractors, trailers and their sealed doors is easier than ever with the latest technology.

When moving bulk chemicals knowing the location of product at every moment is a necessity. Because Heniff Transportation Systems, Inc. hauls latex, solvents and other hazardous materials (HazMat), security is paramount and visibility portal-to-portal is key.

With corporate offices in Burr Ridge, IL, Heniff has nine strategically located terminals across the country. Everything Heniff handles moves in tank trucks. The carrier serves the largest producers of chemicals and acts as a dedicated service for them, notes Randy Morris, the company’s director of marketing. “Many times their customers are another chemical company that makes a final product,” he explains. “We can act as an intermediary. It might be another big company that makes the final product. It’s often one chemical company selling to another.”

Heniff has experienced double-digit growth over the past four years and, according to Morris, it is adding more tank trucks to its fleet than anyone else. Statistics are that the average age of tank trailers across the country is more than 10 years old, with one out of six nearly 20 years old. By contrast, the Heniff fleet average is six years old, with half of them less than three years old.

Heniff is a Responsible Care Partner, a program created by the American Chemistry Council. “It’s a requirement from our customers that we be so registered in order to be a core carrier for them,” claims Morris. “If you are part of Responsible Care, it means you have a real focus on safety and security. We have put a management system in place and have been audited to prove we not only document our commitment but put it in practice as well.”

Most of the carrier’s lanes are shorter hauls, although it runs the gamut on where it delivers. Heniff has computers in its cabs tied into the company’s systems. It also has a messaging system that allows it to stay in touch with its drivers.

Heniff is constantly pinging its trucks for location information.

In order to know where its trailers are located in real time Heniff has installed asset tracking devices from SkyBitz. Advantages of the compact solution for Heniff are that it’s easy to use, easy to install and uses batteries that last five years.

SkyBitz employs a patented Global Locating System (GLS) that on customer request downloads Global Positioning System (GPS) wireless tracking data, sends it through a communications satellite to a Satellite Gateway where the location is calculated and sent on to the Service Operation Center for processing. The data is then transmitted to the customer either via the Internet or through a feed for integration into fleet dispatch operating systems.

“We’ve had SkyBitz for several years now,” Morris concludes. “We were one of the first, if not the first, to put that technology into all of our tank trucks. From a customer perspective, just knowing that puts their minds at ease knowing our security measures.”

While locating trucks carrying HazMat material is an important use of monitoring technology, most recently several suppliers have begun offering specially tailored solutions for refrigerated trailers (reefers). For example, Qualcomm Inc. has just announced the availability of Untethered Asset Management service as part of its OmniVision Transportation suite. Users monitor the load’s location, its temperature and such vital information as shutdowns. Optionally, the service can include door sensors that send alerts of opening and closing. Using GPS tracking abilities, a trailer can be found whether it’s attached to a tractor or not.

Untethered Asset Management can work with Qualcomm’s in-cab mobile hardware, although it is not necessary to have such communications to derive benefit from the reefer service.

The SkyBitz unit quickly attaches
to trailers.

Norm Ellis, vice president and general manager of transportation of Qualcomm, explains, “We are committed to developing products and services that meet the needs of all of our customers. The Untethered Asset Management service for refrigerated trailers is designed for carriers who need to provide accurate refrigerated trailer-tracking services to their customers.”

Another offering for those using reefers is the RT 100 from Par Technology Corp. The solution is configurable for tracking, monitoring and controlling reefers in real time. The solution communicates via cellular, satellite or a combination of approaches.

RT 100 is capable of providing customized reports that include alerts and alarms of temperature, details on the unit’s operability, low fuel, abnormal or excessive consumption of fuel and excessive dwell time.

In observing his company’s use of the technology, Stephen P. Hrobuchak president of Trans Refrigerated Lines, says his company, “recognizes the value of maximizing the utilization of our refrigerated trailers while promoting best of breed technologies for advanced frozen food safety and security. PAR’s refrigerated trailer tracking solution allows us the ability to utilize real time refrigerated monitoring and location information while bringing a new level of value to our business as well as the businesses of our customers.”

Going beyond locating an asset through the use of GPS, the Automated Vehicle Locator (AVL) wireless service from Descartes Systems Group Inc. integrates on-demand delivery route planning and execution. AVL is available on the supplier’s Global Logistics Network, part of its software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings. With data provided in real time, in addition to the capability of changing routing while freight is in motion when there are exceptions, users can measure such things as delivery performance against planned routes. Those along the supply chain have more visibility into shipment status.

“Descartes’ AVL offerings do much more than simply provide visibility into shipment arrivals at a customer’s door. By integrating on-demand route planning and optimization with real time visibility, dispatchers and customer service staff gain access to a Web-based view of delivery status in real time,” claims Chris Jones executive vice president of Descartes’ Solutions and Services. “It also provides rapid notification of critical events affecting deliveries, enabling operators to make customer-focused decisions on routes and delivery reservations in real time to reduce costs, streamline operations, and ensure consistent quality of service.”

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