Commentary | Supply Chain Security

Protect Your Cargo With Vehicle Tracking

Tags: Supply Chain Management, Security, Safety, Logistics, Technology , Supply Chain

Sue Rutherford is Vice President, Marketing, ORBCOMM, 613-254-5269

Transit cargo is one of the most vulnerable parts of the supply chain and the level of theft sophistication is on the rise. According to TT Club, a leading international transport, freight, and logistics insurance provider, theft is a top reason for claims. The total value of TT Club claims over a five-year period starting in 2010 was approximately $425 million of which 12.7 percent or $54 million was attributed to cargo theft.

When there is no way to communicate vehicle position or alert fleet managers to an emergency situation, thieves can quickly and easily hijack the cargo and endanger drivers with little risk of traceability. A monitoring solution that provides layers of assurance for companies that are vulnerable to cargo theft greatly reduces exposure to this type of situation.

Dual-mode satellite-cellular telematics devices provide the necessary and reliable monitoring of the trailer and cargo when a vehicle is in an area without cellular coverage or when crossing country borders. Although not all shipments are of high-value or operate in high-risk areas, some shipments that are temperature sensitive such as pharmaceuticals, seafood, alcohol, and meats can be worth hundreds of dollars, and reselling these consumables can endanger the consumer.

In addition to cargo and driver security, dual-mode devices provide several additional features and benefits to shippers and transporters to improve operational efficiency throughout the supply chain. Equipping the fleet with the best monitoring devices enhances operations with the ability to track asset locations, reduce fuel costs, optimize travel routes, increase trailer and container utilization, and minimize idle times. All of these are essential to keeping costs down.

While some may balk at the idea of satellite service, in truth it can be affordable. It’s no longer limited to companies and government agencies with large budgets allocated to M2M. Driven by competition, improvements in technology, and increased adoption, satellite-enabled devices and airtime costs have become very competitive. In some cases, a few extra dollars per month buy fleet owners a reliable secondary communication source for their asset tracking solution.

Because reducing operating costs and increasing productivity is a necessity for fleet owners looking to survive in a tough competitive landscape, telematics devices must provide comprehensive functionality. When looking to gain the best from both worlds, your dual-mode M2M device should include:

  • Alerts – Don’t compromise on the ability to customize alerts that can be sent via email and text message to the people who can act on the information.
  • Geofences – Confirm that multiple geofences can be programmed into the device and that it is easy to add, remove, and change them. They should also have the functionality to tailor the behavior of the device within and outside geofences.
  • Reports – Make sure that there is access to reports by vehicles, customer, and fleet and that the reports are customizable and can be easily transmitted to stakeholders.
  • Interfaces – List what needs to be monitored for effective vehicle operation and ensure that the device will properly connect to external sensors. This includes vehicle engine and diagnostic information.
  • Power – Check how the tracking device is powered. In addition to connecting to vehicle power, self-powered operation should be an option.
  • Installation – Determine that the device form-factor meets the requirements of the application and that the device can be installed discreetly if required for security reasons.
  • Ease of use – Establish that the device is configurable or programmable to the needs of the owner and can integrate data with other business software like dispatch or other back-office systems.
  • Costs – Budget for the purchase and installation of the tracking equipment. Also, include the cost to integrate and the monthly charge to operate the device and use the web reporting.

Selecting a tracking device with dual-mode satellite-cellular capabilities affords fleet managers the ability to send and receive large amounts of data in urban areas and continuous monitoring of the location and status of their assets—no matter where their assets travel. It’s a win-win for fleet optimization.