What is GPS Trailer Tracking?

Sometimes peace of mind is difficult to come by in the transportation world. Every shipment comes with a unique set of variables and moving parts — each requiring attentiveness and careful management. Sure, there are plenty of more-than-capable transportation companies across the United States and the world.

But still, peace of mind – for shippers and providers alike — can be difficult to come by in the transportation world. 

GPS trailer tracking, however, was created to ease this burden for all stakeholders. 

And, in the interest of rounding out your knowledge on the transportation industry — an industry that continues to feel the impact of technological advances — you’re here to learn a little bit more about it. 

Here at Anderson Trucking Service (ATS), we’ve been servicing the needs of shippers across this nation for more than 65 years. During this time, we’ve made it our ongoing mission to inject peace of mind into every customer transaction. Most recently, we’ve seen the potential for GPS trailer tracking technologies to help us do so even more effectively. 

In this article, you’ll find comprehensive outlines of:

It’s our hope that with these understandings you’ll get more from your transportation provider selection decisions going forward. Let’s get started. 

What is GPS Trailer Tracking?

GPS trailer tracking is the process of monitoring, gauging and/or locating the position of a semi-trailer by attaching (either internally or externally) a physical device to it. These units — typically powered by solar or battery power — give trucking companies an additional level of trailer-specific visibility. 

Often, asset-based trucking companies — particularly those that offer dry van transportation services — have far more trailers than they do trucks to pull them. In recent years (over the past decade) these carriers have turned to GPS trailer tracking devices to avoid confusion, delays and unnecessary mishaps in the management of their transportation assets. 


Although these devices rely primarily on GPS signals to relay location information to the companies using them, some models utilize cell towers as well. 

Accessible on mobile devices and desktop computers, the information received from GPS trailer tracking devices gives carriers another method for monitoring their equipment and — where applicable — the cargo inside. 

But what else can these devices do?

What Features Do Trailer-Tracking Devices Offer?

Trailer tracking systems, which started out as simply that — devices to be clamped onto an enclosed or open-deck trailer for location monitoring — have evolved recently with the help of Bluetooth technology. 

In addition to serving their initial purpose, you’ll now find that devices made by companies like SkyBitz, Spireon and Orbcomm have expanded their use-cases further. Depending on the make and model of the devices used by your carrier, they may be offered any number of the following things (and more):

  • Built-in cameras. 
    • These give carriers up-to-the-minute visibility on the inside of van trailers and help trucking companies verify who’s interacting with each shipment and whether loading and securement was done properly.
  • Automated locking for (dry van) trailer doors.
    • Automated locking systems — built into tracking devices — help carriers secure freight shipments from the moment they leave a shipper’s facility until they reach their final destination. At the touch of a button, this feature allows trucking companies to shut down in-transit access and cut down the touchpoints that could otherwise cause cargo damage and theft. These automated locks are particularly useful for high value shipments. 
  • Temperature monitoring (reefer freight)
    • Many of the tracking devices utilized by reefer carriers allow them to remotely monitor and adjust the internal temperature of their trailers, ensuring that all elements are set for successful temperature-controlled transit. 
  • Tire pressure monitoring and alerting
    • The best trailer tracking devices can monitor and gauge the tire pressure levels on each trailer during transit. This gives carriers the ability to notify their drivers when pressure is falling so that they can take steps to refill. In the end, this visibility helps drivers avoid transit delays caused by incorrect tire pressure. 
  • Historical equipment-movement data
    • Some of the best trailer tracking devices record and catalog the movement of a trailer, including all departure, stop-off and arrival times. When used correctly, this information helps trucking companies verify in-transit details for their customers and step in to find a solution should a problem arise. 


How Does Working With a Company That Employs Trailer Tracking Benefit You?

It’s not unusual for things to go wrong with a shipment. In fact, with so many things under every trucking company’s watch, it’s easy for a few to slip through the cracks. 

For this reason, carriers are constantly looking for ways to serve customers better, cut down on incidents and ensure smooth transportation interactions with every load. 

GPS trailer tracking is one of the latest avenues through which transportation companies have been able to achieve this end. For you, working with a carrier that employs these devices — an undertaking that equates to a pretty significant investment — means many things. 

That said, the two largest advantages of working with carriers that utilize these technologies are:

  1. Improved timeline adherence 
  2. Greater peace of mind

1. Improved Timeline Adherence

Freight shipments fail for many reasons. Be it due to an unexpected outcropping of poor weather, the miscommunication of crucial information between stakeholders, or something else, it’s never convenient when things go wrong. In recognition of this, great carriers understand the importance of controlling what they can.

Breakdowns due to equipment maintenance issues are one of the most prominent reasons timelines see a shift and deadlines face disruption. Tracking technologies give carriers the ability to monitor the health of their trailers and take strides to reduce the likelihood of mishaps.

In turn, the shippers working with these carriers stick to their timelines with greater regularity as only the most well-maintained transportation equipment shows up to transport their shipments.

Additionally, the time drivers normally spend locating their designated trailer before heading to your door — time that’s siphoned from their fleeting on-duty hours of service clock — is saved with these technologies. This gives drivers more time to service your shipment, allowing them to carry your load further or expedite your timelines where possible. 

2. Greater Peace of Mind

Placing a price tag on the peace of mind shippers receive by working with carriers that can remotely monitor, track, lockdown and verify the sanctity of their freight while under their care would be difficult.

Repeat cargo claims can be hard on the relationships shippers hold with their carriers. With these technologies at their disposal, carriers can see the frequency of over, short and/or damaged cargo claims decrease substantially. 

A reduction in the possibility of in-transit mishaps and an increase in the oversight their provider holds gives many shippers the hard-to-reach peace of mind they’ve been looking for.

Instead of worrying about the condition their freight will be in upon arrival, these shippers rely on their provider’s oversight and instead focus their energies on other enterprises.


Make Sure Your Network Is The Highest Quality

Now that you have a better understanding of how GPS trailer tracking benefits not only the carriers using it but the lives of their customers, let’s take this a step further. 

Although your network might be full of companies that invest in the latest technologies (like trailer tracking), managing it properly isn’t always easy. 

Without monitoring the performance of your providers and measuring their pricing against one another, it will be very difficult to get the most for your supply chain. 

ATS is here to help where this is concerned. 

Check out this article outlining the Top Five Most Impactful Transportation Provider KPIs and put them to use in your own evaluation processes. Doing so will help you optimize going forward in the pursuit of a more fruitful supply chain in 2022. 

Finally, if you have any questions about how Anderson Trucking Service uses trailer tracking to increase customer satisfaction, visibility and success, please don’t hesitate to reach out.  We’re always more than happy to help you in any way you need. 

Tags: Technology, Specialized Flatbed Shipping, Dry Van Shipping, Carrier Network

Ben Spurgin

Written by Ben Spurgin

Ben joined the ATS Vans division in 2014 as the East Coast Planner. Ben now oversees the planning department and truck efficiency for more than 550 drivers in the Vans Division. His team successfully executes over 7500 loads per month with a focus on project based freight. Ben has also helped create reports and tools to enhance the driver experience at ATS.

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