Intermodal equipment providers test GPS for better efficiency

Intermodal equipment providers test GPS for better efficiency

Intermodal equipment providers are in the early stages of using GPS technology to track their chassis in seaport and inland locations, and if the return on investment is adequate, IEPs anticipate greater use of the technology.

“Obviously it’s an investment,” said Ron Joseph, senior vice president and chief operating officer at Direct ChassisLink. DCLI provides chassis at inland locations and seaports such as in the Los Angeles-Long Beach pool of pools. DCLI is testing the technology in some locations, and if it helps to foster better asset utilization, improved data collection and greater visibility of the equipment, the company will consider expanding its use of chassis tracking, Joseph said.

The North American Chassis Pool Cooperative announced last week it is partnering with Asset Intelligence to deploy the VERIWISE chassis fleet management solution on 270 of the chassis in NACPC’s fleet. Dave Manning, NACPC president, said the pool operator is installing the technology on its new purchases, and if the return is adequate, NACPC will determine whether to retrofit existing chassis with GPS.

Similar technology has been used for some time to track trailers, Manning said. In this case the device is attached to the chassis itself and is wired into the electrical system of the chassis to keep the unit charged, he said.

Until recently, equipment providers have relied primarily upon data that is transmitted during the gate transactions at marine terminals and rail ramps, but they often lose sight of their chassis before and after the gate movements. Furthermore, equipment providers seek more accurate data from those facilities. “All IEPs are struggling with the quality of the data at the gates,” Joseph said.

Chassis tracking through GPS or Bluetooth technology is starting to surface in the large pool of pools in Los Angeles-Long Beach, said Weston LaBar, executive director of the Harbor Trucking Association of Southern California. The private asset holders are using the technology to assist in repositioning equipment, and to see where chassis are being held up during transactions, such as during mandatory roadability inspections at the marine terminals, LaBar said.

Chassis Finder, a service used to locate, reserve and lease chassis, likewise sees the technology catching on among equipment providers as a tool to achieve better utilization and improved management of their chassis, said Kevin Higgins, Chassis Finder COO. The cost of the technology has come down so it makes sense for some fleet owners to make the investment in certain markets, Higgins said.

Manning said that depending upon the size of the battery, the GPS device costs about $300, plus a small monthly service charge, which equates to pennies per day. Higgins said he is hearing similar numbers.

NACPC believes the data it collects on each chassis will help the cooperative to plan for better maintenance of the assets. Having data on actual mileage per chassis, rather than simply putting the equipment on a calendar schedule, will allow NACPC to perform preventative maintenance when it is needed, Manning said.

NACPC will also use the data on the location of each unit to reduce fuel costs and streamline chassis repositioning. Knowing where each chassis is located in NACPC’s closed-loop operation will help the pool to sequence trucker moves to reduce miles traveled, he said.

Fleet owners are looking at the possible use of chassis tracking technology for billing purposes, but in order to do that it may be necessary to marry the data provided during the gate transaction for the container-chassis combo with the data supplied by the chassis tracking device. “The container drives the billing,” Joseph noted, so the IEP must have information on both the container and the chassis for billing purposes.

Chassis tracking is one of a number of technologies that are emerging as participants in the transportation supply chain in seaports and inland locations seek greater efficiency in their operations, LaBar said. Technology is viewed as having significant promise in transportation logistics because technology is used to improve operations that are in place but until now have been manual, so the customers can realize an immediate return on investment, he said.

Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at bill.mongelluzzo@ihs.com and follow him on Twitter: @billmongelluzzo.