Until recently, driving safety was the key design consideration for most applications for cameras on commercial trucks.
In-cab products record the driving environment, which can be analyzed to correct driver behavior or assign liability in an accident. Some companies train cameras on their drivers to detect if they are dozing off, which triggers a signal to get their attention. On the trailer, cameras can eliminate blind spots and help drivers back up.
However, technological advancements are allowing the telematics industry to offer more advanced tracking and situational awareness. PowerFleet, previously I.D. Systems, is now using sophisticated cameras to let customers watch their freight inside the trailer during transport. Fleets and shippers that subscribe to the service don’t view a continuous livestream. That would be boring.
Instead, a small camera affixed to the outside of the trailer door and aimed through a drilled hole captures images at predetermined times or when something causes cargo to shift. The aim is to prevent damage to goods and improve productivity.
The high-definition, lithium battery-powered LV-710 also includes an image recognition processor, door sensor and environmental sensor. It integrates via wireless Bluetooth technology with PowerFleet’s primary asset-tracking device and YardView smart-phone app. Utilized with the LV-740 pallet sensors, the device can also detect if pallets are loaded for complete cargo visibility.
The mechanism is mounted on the locking rod of the trailer. When the rod turns to lock or unlock, the camera automatically wakes up and snaps an image, which is electronically handed off to the tracking device.
The camera unit has an infrared LED flash to take pictures in the dark and can also relay information about temperature, humidity, light and barometric pressure.
The real value comes from PowerFleet’s central system, which uses machine learning to categorize photos and identify trends that would otherwise go unnoticed because of the data volume. The software analysis also prevents customers from getting bombarded with routine notices that don’t require human intervention.
Carrier efficiency is one benefit of capturing images of a loaded trailer.
“We can inform them [the carrier] that the trailer is only 80% of capacity because we measure the inside with algorithms to see how much space they actually use. For a truckload company, it might not be that important, but a less-than-truckload carrier wants to optimize floor space as much as possible,” said Norm Thomas, general manager of PowerFleet’s logistics division.
Managers at a trucking company may not realize or monitor how dockworkers load trailers at the terminal, so clear visuals of the final configuration can lead to new procedures or training to ensure full capacity utilization, Thomas said.
The images can also be forwarded to the consignee’s so it knows what is inside the trailer before it arrives and prepare the right equipment and personnel to eliminate downtime at unloading.
The camera is useful for pinpointing where cargo was damaged during the trip so the carrier can resolve any claims with the shipper, or better train drivers.
The LV-710 has a built-in accelerometer and shock sensor so it can take pictures of the trailer’s interior during sudden braking or swaying, or when the truck hits a big bump or pothole. The camera automatically relays the photos to PowerFleet’s server, where software analyzes the images for anomalies. Customers receive notifications of load shifting or visible damage. The exact time and location can be determined by matching data from the GPS system in the truck’s main tracking device, which wirelessly communicates with the tracking center.
Even if damage isn’t visible until freight is unpacked, the company can query the database and pull up images to identify when the incident that caused damage took place.