To achieve this, Molitor and his team are working on smart trailers. This is a tremendous opportunity for logistics companies because having the appropriate data means they can check the technical condition of the trailer and its cargo in real time, monitor compliance with highway load limits and prevent theft. Most importantly, data extracted from the trailer can be incorporated into transportation management systems to optimize cargo loading in addition to providing route and service planning in a predictive and efficient manner. Ultimately, this data also allows transportation companies – who are always under severe cost pressure – to reduce their running costs and generate more revenue with better vehicle utilization. “Together with our customers, we are currently evaluating which applications can add the most value,” adds Molitor. “It’s not just about getting the right data; it’s also about understanding what this data is telling you and making it usable and available over digital networks.”
The possibilities and approaches with the smart trailer are many. For example, SAF-HOLLAND already offers systems that tell the driver when brake pads are in need of service. “In the future, it will be possible to send this data to a cloud system for feedback telling us when the pads need to be replaced,” described Molitor. Having this data allows fleet managers to automatically upload maintenance intervals via their logistics systems and minimize downtimes. Another example of future development are sensors that are mounted around the wheel hubs to measure the temperature while driving. Bearing damage and brake system malfunctions can cause overheating – the temperature sensors would detect this and alarm the driver to prevent major damage.
Smart trailers can also help prevent unforeseen stops along the way, starting with the tires, which are continuously monitored by the European “SAF TIRE PILOT.” If the air pressure drops below the setpoint, the tractor’s compressor supplies the tires with more air. In the future, air springs or weight sensors on the axles can determine the correct load and send a warning when the semi-trailer is overloaded or the load distribution is no longer optimal due to cargo slippage. Should an accident still occur, position sensors can detect when the semi-trailer or trailer is overturned and send an automatic message to emergency services and fleet operators.