Trailer-tracking provider SkyBitz is expanding its data analytics and benchmarking capabilities as demand for the technology grows, company officials said July 8 during an editorial forum with Transport Topics.
Shipments of the company’s asset-tracking systems have been at record or near-record levels during the past three quarters, with constrained freight capacity and the industry’s driver shortage contributing to the uptick, said Henry Popplewell, senior vice president and general manager.
“Customers are really open-minded about anything that helps them run their trailer fleet better,” he said. “They can’t afford not to know where their assets are.”
Analytics represent “the leading edge of data delivery today,” but the next frontier for the technology will be benchmarking, Popplewell said.
By comparing their results with those of other fleets, trucking firms will have another tool to evaluate their performance, he said.
Popplewell said a handful of SkyBitz customers are using benchmarking today, and the company is planning a broad product launch of those capabilities later this year.
SkyBitz has focused much of its recent development efforts on analyzing the information it already collects.
Late last year, the company launched an analytics platform named InSight Trends, which Popplewell said goes beyond “dots on a map” by using dashboards that show managers key performance metrics that enable them to make decisions that improve utilization.
“We sit on a gold mine of data,” said Julia Grove, senior marketing manager. “We’re taking another look at all the data we collect and how we can repackage and deliver it to make it really easy to understand for our customers. We have all the ingredients, but we’re looking at new ways to combine these bits of data.”
Siamak Azmoudeh, vice president of channel sales and customer relations, said SkyBitz also is looking at additional sensors that can help improve fleet management, such as weight sensors and tire-pressure monitoring.
Popplewell said he sees “a ton of potential” in integrating SkyBitz tracking products with other vendors’ tire-pressure monitoring systems. “Tires are the No. 1 maintenance cost on the trailer,” he said.
The first step down the path toward richer trailer data was the availability of cargo sensors that detect which trailers are loaded.
During most of SkyBitz’s history, about 10% of the company’s unit shipments included a cargo sensor as part of the purchase, but that figure has grown to nearly half of all shipments during the past year and a half, Popplewell said.
The ability to tell drivers where trailers are located and which ones are loaded or empty can aid carriers’ driver-retention efforts, he said. “Drivers don’t want to do yard checks. Drivers want to drive trucks.”
Popplewell said SkyBitz serves about 800 customers and tracks about 247,000 assets daily, and recently added two large customers on the TT Top 100 list of the largest carriers in North America.
“I’m not of the opinion that trailer tracking is old news,” he said. “We see a lot of new business with people who have not implemented the technology in the past.”
The company offers satellite- and cellular-based tracking technology, for customers who want only occasional reporting to maximize battery life as well as a growing number of fleets that want far more frequent and detailed reporting.
“We’re constantly coming out with new products and offering a variety of choices,” Grove said. “It’s not one size fits all.”