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Gaining intermodal asset status without manual inspection key to port efficiency

PowerFleet demos chassis and container intelligence solution at FreightWaves’ F3 Virtual Experience

Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

During the second quarter of 2021, intermodal container volume increased almost 30% year-over-year. Shifts in consumer behavior, labor shortages at ports and other factors force ports to work around the clock and freight technology companies to zero in on solutions to increase that velocity. 

PowerFleet, a leading provider of subscription-based wireless Internet of Things (IoT) technology and end-to-end solutions, recently demoed two new products that will address the challenge of supply chain congestion and utilization of intermodal and trucking assets like chassis, containers, trailers and trucks. 

“Once containers are offloaded, they need to get inland to distribution centers and warehouses,” said John Athayde, VP of brand design at PowerFleet. “Even if they take a train ride to an inland port, they eventually end up on a chassis. Each and every chassis goes through the same journey. The driver collects the container, departs that coastal or inland port, and takes the container to a warehouse for load. They then return the empty container to the port and the process starts all over again.”

In normal circumstances, a chassis would exit the port with a container and return for another one every three to five days. According to The Washington Post, this period has stretched to 17 days. PowerFleet’s LV300 and LV750 work in tandem to provide real-time tracking and reporting about the location, status and condition of trailers and chassis, as they leave ports with the containers. 

PowerFleet’s patent-pending solution has been deployed by one of the largest chassis companies in North America. Without the asset having to be in motion, PowerFleet’s technology can sense whether the container is mounted or if the chassis is bare. Another feature that speeds up manual inspection: it can sense to what degree the container is loaded. 

“If it’s loaded, I can reach out to that shipper to alert them that the load has been at that location for however many hours or days, and it’s ready to be unloaded,” said Athayde. “If the container is reported as empty, I can dispatch a driver to go pick up the chassis with the container and return it to port. Over time, managers can see which locations have longer turnaround problems and can be rated for the scorecard in the system.”

Athayde called the intermodal freight challenges that currently face carriers and shippers “unprecedented.” The quick movement of chassis and containers at the port, warehouse and yard is therefore key to regaining supply chain efficiency. 

“Knowing the state of your intermodal assets without in-person visual inspection can fast track this process,” he said.

Corrie White

Corrie is fascinated how the supply chain is simultaneously ubiquitous and invisible. She covers freight technology, cross-border freight and the effects of consumer behavior on the freight industry. Alongside writing about transportation, her poetry has been published widely in literary magazines. She holds degrees in English and Creative Writing from UNC Chapel Hill and UNC Greensboro.