The Value of Strong Trailer-to-Tractor Connectivity

Telematics solutions have changed the landscape of trucking. As technology advances, establishing trailer-to-tractor connectivity is easier than ever. Fleet managers are taking advantage of a bird’s eye view, tracking trailers across the country, managing roadside repairs, and generally understanding more of what’s happening on the road in real time. From remote diagnostics to tire pressure management, there is a ton of data to be shared.

Sharing data between trailer and tractor, however, is more difficult.

“Right now, the trailer and the truck only connect through a seven-pin connector, so there’s no high-quality data that’s passing between the truck and the trailer,” says Chris Hoyt, FleetPulse product manager at Great Dane. “In Europe, they have some standards in place that allow data to come from the trailer and connect into the tractor, but unfortunately in North America, we don’t have those standards in place right now.”

How to improve data communication in your equipment

There are a few ways to manage data communication between the truck and the trailer, some of which are wired and some wireless. Wireless connections include WiFi, Bluetooth, DSRC, and cellular connections.

“The best way would be a hard connection, but some of the standards need to change and the manufacturers need to adopt those, which will take a long time to become widely available given the age of the equipment and the life cycles that would need to play out,” Hoyt says.

Great Dane’s FleetPulse telematics system, for instance, allows for Bluetooth connection.

“Bluetooth is limited from a distance standpoint,” Hoyt notes, “but where FleetPulse is located on the nose of the trailer does provide an opportunity. We haven’t gone into full-blown testing with it, so I can’t say it’s the best solution or the right path forward, but it is an option.”

Why reliable trailer-to-tractor connectivity is critical on the road

“The value of trailer-to-tractor connectivity would be in real-time feedback if there’s a problem with some of the components, so if there’s low tire pressure or if there’s an ABS issue, being able to send that in real time to the driver is the ideal scenario,” Hoyt says.

“Right now, if you have a connected trailer, they can send that information to the cloud and then that information can go to the dispatch center, and the dispatch center can get ahold of the driver. Or if the driver happens to have the FleetPulse app, they can scan the trailer and do a pre-trip inspection,” he adds.

A reliable connection between the tractor and trailer could allow a driver to address any issues as they occur, without waiting for the device to send information to dispatch and then back to the driver again. Trailer-to-tractor connectivity is the next step in telematics, and a great opportunity to be even more efficient out on the road.

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