As consumers increasingly desire fast and free shipping, there is perhaps no greater pressure for retailers than the race to get packages delivered to people’s doors. Deploying an intelligent trailer tracking product is one way that retailers can solve all three issues, writes Philip Poulidis, SVP and GM of Radar, BlackBerry.

Improving trailer use, reducing theft and the derailment of deliveries due to bad weather are a few examples of problems that retailers must solve if they expect to meet consumers increasingly high expectations for fast and efficient deliveries.

For decades, fleet managers contracted by retailers used spreadsheets, pen and paper or even thumbtacks on a map to track their assets and make decisions based on sheer gut intuition. In recent years however, IoT tools for collecting and analysing data have dramatically changed the distribution and supply chain side of the retail business. Smart telematics-based solutions now allow businesses to track and monitor their assets on everything from vehicle location, route and mileage data to trailer/container temperature, humidity, door status and cargo load state.

Precise, real-time tracking of freight is the new gold standard in supply chain logistics for retailers. Operations managers, load planners and dispatchers can use the data provided by trailer telematics technologies to determine where their trailers and shipping containers are located and how they’re being used to boost operational efficiencies. Recent research also found that vehicle tracking solutions can reduce fleets’ fuel usage by 30% – ensuring they are maximising revenue from every asset in the field.

Consumers are now more willing to spend more on same-day or faster delivery, which means efficiency is key for dispatchers and retailers. In this respect, smart telematics technology can save time for both drivers and their dispatchers. The drivers are also bound by the Road Transport (Working Time) Regulations of 2005, they don’t want to spend time looking for a trailer in a large parking lot, as it contributes to the number of hours they are effectively on the road.

Now, with the use of this tracking technology, dispatchers can send a link directly to a driver, which guides them via map to the specific trailer that needs to be picked up. Previously, drivers would have had to wander around those lots, looking for their trailer like it was a needle in a haystack. This efficiency can save the driver a vital 15 to 20 minutes that they can be re-investing in actual driving time, ultimately getting deliveries to customers on time.

Guard against cargo theft

Helping fleets strengthen their defences against cargo theft is another area where telematics-based solutions are proving their value to retailers. Instant alerts provide real-time information about fleet location, and whether a cargo’s door has been opened or closed, hence fleet owners can give customers the assurance they need that their cargo is safe and secure.

Moreover, the combination of location tracking and door information can help fleet managers respond quickly to theft events and can be used to build custom alerting to help support incident detection. According the British Retail Consortium’s latest Retail Crime Survey, the overall direct cost of retail crime has risen by 6% from £660 million (€747.87 million) to £700 million (€793.19 million). For retailers looking to be more vigilant about loss prevention, trailer telematics is a good place to start.

Managing the effects of severe weather

Philip Poulidis

Severe weather is another volatile factor a retailer has to contend with as part of their complex supply chains. Consider the Beast from the East in the UK back in March 2018. IMRG reported that online retail delivery order volumes increased by 9.6% year-on-year, however due to the unexpected and heavy snowfall, on-time delivery was impacted. This caused a logistical nightmare for carriers and their retail customers. It also resulted in retailers having an increasingly difficult time finding carriers with capacity.

Employing trailer telematics is one option for shippers and their retailer customers. It allows them to locate under-used, available assets to help make up for the sudden shortage in trailers, flatbeds and other mobile equipment that may be caught in the next snowstorm of the century.

While the factors described above are never entirely within the control of retailers, there is a clear need for companies to become more proactive and adopt new ways of gaining efficiencies within their operations; something that is all the more important in an industry where the only constant is change and every advantage helps.

The author of this blog is Philip Poulidis, SVP and GM of Radar, BlackBerry

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