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Trailer tracking has unique technical demands.

 

Any Vehicle or Trailer tracking system must use a mobile data network in order to send its location to a central server, so that you can view the data (positions of your Trailers).  Many trailer tracking systems utilise the GSM (mobile phone networks).  GSM coverage can become marginalised in sparsely populated areas.  Data-interconnect problems (roaming) into other counties along with the associated variations in operating costs when abroad can also be problematic.

Satellite Communications is an alternative to terrestrial networks (GSM); generally these will offer a wider geographic area of operation and fall into two categories, “Geostationary” and “Non Geostationary”.   Trailer Tracking systems that utilise Geostationary satellites systems typically require a large amount of power due to the “high-orbit” of the satellite, also these systems can suffer a “shadowing” effect from stationary objects (tall buildings).   Devices that use Non Geostationary networks for communication tend not to suffer with shadowing and require much far less power due to the fact they are in a Low Earth Orbit (LEO), some have limited functionality as a “trade-off” for low power consumption.

Is the Trailer Tracking System simple to install and operate?

Some trailer tracking systems may need professional installation that can take up to 6 hours.  You should consider the logistical implications of co-ordinating trailers and engineers, as well as the cost of having trailers off the road.  Typically this type of system will provide a high level of functionality, however there could be ongoing call out charges due to the complex nature of the install.  Using a solar panel to recharge a battery has been introduced by some system developers.  This will make installation much simpler, however you need to ensure that the solar panels and recharging circuitry will survive the operational environment - for example if a solar panel becomes covered in a layer of dirt, will it still operate effectively?

Even within optimum operating temperatures, rechargeable battery technology can suffer from capacity degradation over time and therefore require replacement in the field after a number of months.

 

Physical security of a tracking device is also crucial to long-term unattended operation; does the device or SIM card have a real or perceived value to petty criminals? Your Trailer Tracing system will require attendance if it, or one of its components is stolen.

Any Trailer Tracking system needs to be simple to operate, busy traffic managers cannot afford to sacrifice time attending hours of training or having to continually call support centres for assistance.  Web-based “browser” interface solutions provide the simplest and most cost effective method of data distribution, data can be collected at any internet enabled PC, providing a globally available data portal without the costs associated with software distribution and support.  Client based software can provide a higher level of functionally: this would be important in a data rich environment where there is intensive “data input” by a system operator.

What will be the environmental impact of the system?

Industry is coming under increasing pressure to effectively dispose of batteries and other electronic equipment under the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive.  Regular disposal of a large number of batteries is not environmentally friendly, As current Government policy now financially penalises polluters, this is a hidden cost of system ownership.

There has been notable press coverage where telematics systems have interfered with on-board electronics, such as engine management systems.  Some manufacturers have also expressed concerns over potential interference with ABS systems.  Consider how your mobile phone interferes with a television - you should be confident that your potential system supplier has addressed this issue.

Conclusion

Trailer Tracking is a compromise of three elements, Power, Functionality and Operating Range (geographic).  Any organisation looking to implement a Trailer Tracking solution should decide what is essential and what it can afford to “trade off” against these three factors.  Trade-offs should be exercised with great caution, as too much “Trade off” could be an extremely costly error.

Credits and Acknowledgements:

Tim Steer, Managing Director,  Axscend Ltd


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