How Smart Trailers Work

How Smart Trailers Work

The concept of a “smart trailer” has been a hot topic for a long time now, but the idea has only recently begun to come to fruition with the development of advanced trailer telematics systems, such as Great Dane’s FleetPulse. But what exactly are smart trailers and how do they work?

What is a Smart Trailer?

A smart trailer is simply a regular trailer with advanced digital capabilities – refrigerated, dry, or flatbed – that has been equipped with integrated IoT technology that provides details into the health and status of the trailer and its cargo. Through the use of smart sensors, the trailer can effectively communicate with drivers in tractors as well as with the home office, the Cloud, repair facilities, and anyone else that needs to receive this information.

How Do Smart Trailers Work?

Smart trailers use an intricate system of onboard computers, sensors, and IoT connections to collect precise measurements directly from the trailers’ components and instantly report the data to whomever needs to receive it. To meet smart trailer criteria, a trailer must be equipped with a smart trailer gateway, an onboard central processing unit (CPU), an electrical connection, and sensors.

The smart trailer gateway acts as the hub for collecting and transmitting data in real time. Most importantly, it transmits safety or other critical warnings that the fleet manager or driver need to be notified of immediately. The gateway may be as electronically and functionally developed as a smart phone. A printed circuit board contained within the box can include a SIM card, GPS radio, Bluetooth, USB, wi-fi, a time clock, a battery, programmable applications, accelerometers, gyroscopes, and the ability to communicate on the controller area network (CAN bus).

The gateway and onboard CPU can be connected to multiple sensors on the trailer in addition to providing location, tether condition, connection to open ecosystems, IoT, and real-time communications about the health status of all smart components.

The electrical connection can be either the current SAE J560, 7-pin connector, or 13-pin connector. It is used to recognize when a tractor is connected, and to provide a path for data pairing between the tractor and the trailer.

The component sensors play vital roles in diagnosing the health status of the trailer and act as the warning system for the safety of the tractor-trailer’s operating environment. For a smart trailer to be effective for today’s complex fleet operations, sensors are needed to monitor a wide array of functions on the trailer, including wheel ends, suspensions, brakes, lamps, weight, cargo, temperature, doors, tethered status, and much more.

A Smart Trailer Solution

It is estimated that more than 30 percent of trailers are equipped with telematics devices today, but data collection and utilization are still at infantile stages. A handful of telematics companies offer limited and basic options, such as GPS, but today’s refined customers have complex operations that demand much more information. These sophisticated fleets require more sophisticated smart trailer systems, which is why Great Dane has developed FleetPulse, the industry’s first integrated telematics solution for complete fleet protection provided by a trailer OEM.

FleetPulse has been carefully designed from end-to-end to meet the high standards of even the most advanced fleets. The system’s built-in sensors collect precise measurements directly from the trailer’s components, keeping watch over key indicators. The data is collected and reported via a robust, powerful 4G platform, so fleets are alerted to potential issues and receive reports on what maintenance needs to occur and when.

Take an active role in the health, safety, and efficiency of your fleet by scheduling a demo of FleetPulse with one of our experts.