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Trailer Tracking Tips and Buying Advice

 

Trailer tracking products differ from Vehicle Tracking solutions which are developed for the car or light commercial vehicle fleet. These solutions do not typically have to surmount technical issues such as cold temperatures, damp conditions and  intermittent power supply.  The advice found on this page relates to the unique issues relating to trailer tracking solutions. When you are sourcing a trailer tracking solution, it is always worth checking with potential suppliers, what their thoughts are on the points raised in this section.

 

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Will the Trailer Tracking System survive the operational environment?

A major challenge for system developers, a Trailer Tracking system will be exposed to extreme environmental conditions.  It is not enough to simply place a standard vehicle tracking system into an environmentally rated enclosure such as IP67 (submersible in water up to 1m).

Temperature variations and extremes will have a huge impact upon any system or device, rendering it potentially useless or even hazardous.

The standard temperature range for the Automotive Industry is, –40C to +85C.  This standard has been set as the ideal through many years of experience of developing reliable components that are widely distributedtrailer fleet.

You should be very cautious of the battery chemistry selected by the system developer.  Alkaline, NiMH, NiCad and Lithium Ion all suffer serious capacity issues at extremes temperatures.  Some totally freeze, and become useless.  Some actually have the potential to catch fire at high extremes.

It is exceedingly difficult to design and manufacture a radio that maintains operability over the environmental temperature range.  Radio designers must employ advanced temperature compensation circuitry to stabilise devices such as crystals, filters and synthesisers.  Many Trailer Tracking devices on the market today employ a GSM / GPRS radio board.  On the whole these devices have been designed to be worn on the body and not used within heavy industry such as commercial transport.

Your Trailer Tracking system will be exposed to many other environmental conditions, Dust, Shock, Sand, Vibration and Water to name but a few.  A system supplier should be able to demonstrate that these areas have been addressed, ideally with some evidence of professional testing to industry standards such as:

SAE-J1455 is the standard set by Society of Automobile Engineers (a organisation funded by companies such as Ford and GM) for "Environmental Practices for Electronic Equipment (Heavy-duty Trucks), see www.sae.org for more information.

Will the system provide a long, reliable and unattended service life?

 

To ensure maximum return on investment a Trailer Tracking system should offer multiyear operation in the field without attendance. Any advantage gained in improved Trailer management and utilisation will soon be lost if the Trailer Tracking device itself requires a lot of management resource.


A long battery life cycle is crucial to a long service life.  Any quotations made for “predicted battery life” must be calculated using “real-world” metrics, all devices will use varying amounts of power depending upon the environmental conditions or by operational demands.

Electronic circuits consume more power in hot environments, often as much as 50% more at industrial temperature limits.  Equally battery capacity can be affected at extreme low temperatures.

Multiple variable drains on available battery power will also make battery life calculations difficult to predict, the fewer variables may limit functionality, it is important to determine the best “trade-off” between battery life and system functionality for your specific application.

No single Trailer Tracking technology has been adopted widely enough to be able to prove undisputed product reliability. As a general rule when seeking a system, normal rules should be applied - generally the simpler the system the more reliable it should be. You should seek evidence that the system or device been in widespread use in other similar industrial applications.

Regular battery changes and maintenance will mean that the system needs attendance. Some Trailer operators have expressed concern over the security of SIM cards, These issues should be addressed, as ultimately they boil down to hidden costs.

 


 

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