Going the Distance: Maximizing the Life Cycle of a Trailer


Shipping freight in today’s day and age no longer means simply moving goods from one place to another. In the name of maximizing efficiency throughout the supply chain, the trucking industry has evolved into a highly specialized, technologically sophisticated business that requires advanced tools to succeed, even when it comes to standard equipment like trailers and truck bodies. This, in large part, is due to the latest trends in online shopping, rapidly changing customer demands, and intense competition among online retailers, all of which have increased the need for automated fulfillment centers that, in turn, have increased the demand for robots.

The concept of warehouses relying heavily on A.I. and robotics might seem novel today, but according to a recent comprehensive research report by market research company Market Research Future, the warehouse robotics market is expected to explode to become a $6.65 trillion business by 2027.

The promise of this market can already be seen in the partnership between FoodX Technologies, an end-to-end eGrocery Management Solution for routing, inventory management, order fulfillment and logistics, and Attabotics, a 3D robotics supply chain company that transforms a typical warehouse into a single, vertical storage structure, which is used by Walmart to help fulfill last-mile home grocery delivery in Canada. It can be seen in French startup Exotec, which is developing semi-automated warehouses full of tiny robots that pick up goods and replenish bins for its e-commerce clients. And, it can be seen in companies like the U.K.-based Ocado and Kroger in the U.S. that use their own versions of automatic robotic technology within micro-fulfillment centers.

As this market finds its footing, fleets will be expected to have the equipment necessary to communicate and interact within this ecosystem. For manufacturers like Great Dane, this means designing equipment not just with quality, long-lasting materials, but with the ability to coexist alongside the variety of technological standards warehouses and manufacturing centers will employ ten years or more down the road.

Future-Proofing Technology

Now that FleetPulse telematics devices are a standard feature on each of Great Dane’s newest dry and refrigerated trailers, the challenge of meeting the logistical demands of warehouses in the future is alleviated to a substantial degree. According to Chris Hoyt, FleetPulse product manager, FleetPulse-integrated equipment will remain viable and relevant in these technology-laden warehouses a decade out or longer.

“From a telematics and data standpoint, all 2023 model year dry vans and reefers come standard with FleetPulse telematics and CAN enabled harnesses. CAN and J1939 communication are industry standards in the trucking and automotive world, so now all of our trailers are prepped to support that data transfer,” Hoyt says. “Additionally, the FleetPulse telematics device has a CAN Bus connection, allowing it to process data from future CAN-enabled sensors.”

Hoyt says FleetPulse will also be an invaluable tool for collecting and processing reliable trailer data in autonomous driving situations.

“As autonomy continues down its development path, trailers are going to have to provide real-time data for the tractor. That information will have to be processed on the edge and provided almost instantly,” he says.

Another important feature of FleetPulse, whether the truck is autonomous or not, is geofencing—this allows a customer to understand when a trailer has entered a specific location, like a warehouse or shipping center, and to know how long it’s been there and if it’s loaded helping customers understand their detention status.

Quality Counts

From a quality-of-goods standpoint, Great Dane has taken a different approach than the competition by engineering and manufacturing a more durable truck body that has more integrity and lasts longer than the industry average, according to Mayo Rude, Great Dane’s truck body division director of sales.

“Many truck body OEMs create a product with minimal body life to match up with a typical five-to-seven-year lease term and the life of a chassis, but the Great Dane truck body will last ten-plus years easily if maintained properly,” Rude says.

This is due in large part to the component-related technologies used in Great Dane products.  ThermoGuard, for example, is a durable and lightweight composite liner found in the company’s refrigerated trailers and truck bodies that is significantly stronger than traditional liners. The virtually impermeable liner significantly reduces moisture intrusion and improves thermal integrity.

Many Great Dane products also feature PunctureGuard, a durable, lightweight interior lining that effectively protects walls from the abuses of forklift and cargo damage. There are even some Great Dane products that feature no wood, such as the company’s Everest reefer, making risks like moisture absorption, rot, and mildew worries of the past. Everest reefers also feature Microban technology in their interior lining, providing ongoing protection against the growth of bacteria for the life of the liner.

“I would bet the current marketplace emphasis on last mile delivery will drive much of the innovation around lightweight, autonomous, robotics, and telematics,” he says.

Supply chain technology is changing quickly, but Great Dane stays a step ahead by ensuring its trailers and truck bodies stay relevant no matter what surprises the future may hold.

Learn from our industry experts about the six emerging trends impacting the future of truck and trailer connectivity and how to capitalize on the opportunities that exist now, and down the road, to increase the profitability and sustainability of your business.