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TMC20: Phillips Connect Technologies debuts remote precheck capabilities for fleets

Company announces several new tech offerings, including products designed to prevent trailer theft

Phillips Connect Technologies has introduced a series of technologies that use data to reduce downtime and prevent improper trailer use. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Kicking off a year that will be filled with telematics-related product introductions, Phillips Connect Technologies (PCT) made several announcements Sunday at the American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Exhibition in Atlanta, none more important than the debut of Remote Pre-Check.

The company, founded five years ago as a separate business unit from Phillips Industries, focuses on deriving intelligence from equipment using internet of things sensors, generally under a single data plan, to help fleets hold down costs.

Founder and CEO Rob Phillips was most excited about the Remote Pre-Check tool. Leveraging the onboard power of the also introduced Smart7 nosebox, Remote Pre-Check allows fleets to check items like trailer lights and to test automatic brake and tire inflation systems remotely. The expectation is that conducting a precheck remotely saves drivers time and will reduce downtime and roadside inspection violations, thereby reducing costs.

“The idea here is that if you take a fleet that has 10,000, 20,000 trailers across the country, dispatch can push one button and it will remotely power up the lights on all the trailers and they would get a report back,” Phillips said. “If used properly by a fleet, it can save a tremendous amount of money and prevent downtime.”

Phillips said this level of insight gained through Remote Pre-Check can help fleets reroute assets for maintenance and dispatch healthy assets to replace failing units.

Since PCT’s founding, the unit’s technological innovation has been about pushing forward with data-centric solutions for fleets. The products announced on Sunday are a continuation of that.

“The customers we are talking to, the telematics customers, they really aren’t interested in the hardware, they are interested in the data that comes off that hardware,” Phillips said.

The Smart7 is the centerpiece for many of the technologies introduced on Sunday. It collects trailer health data and is powered by solar and a large-capacity battery. Connected to PCT’s telematics gateway, the Smart7 transmits GPS data and reports on multiple health sensors, including light-out detection, door open/closed, tire status (PCT works with Pressure Systems International), cargo status, air tank and trailer tail status, SmartLock Gladhand status, tractor pairing, and weight status.

One benefit of PCT’s Smart7, and all its data products including its trailing tracking systems, is the ability to work across cellular networks to prevent dropped coverage.

“[With] every other company in the world, you have to choose an AT&T, a T-Mobile or a Verizon [for cellular service],” Phillips said. “We’ve got [products] that switch between providers, and you never see it.”

PCT worked with J.B. Hunt (NYSE: JBHT) on technology designed to reduce incidents of trailer theft or drivers hooking up to and pulling the incorrect trailer.

“The importance of pairing truck to trailer seems obvious, but fleets want to know what trailer they are pulling,” Phillips said.

The SmartLock Gladhand is designed to prevent unauthorized trailer use. It does this by securing the connection to the tractor air line supply to release the brakes. The sensor hands the carrier the power to determine who can use the asset. The gladhand has a red “stopper” that won’t let the driver make the connection until the trailer has been verified as the proper trailer.

“It’s a big issue fleets have, and the larger the fleet the more this happens,” Phillips said. “It’s a big expense for fleets and they don’t like to admit it, but it happens all the time.”

The SmartLock Gladhand is paired with SmartPair. When the trailer is attached to tractor power, SmartPair looks for nearby sensors. Any tractor with SmartPair will be picked up by PCT’s tracking products, but the system is smart enough to pair the trailer with the proper tractor. It utilizes Phillips Industries’ QCS2 socket, which is standard on most major truck manufacturers’ products. Combined with the SmartLock Gladhand, it should prevent theft and drivers hooking up with the wrong trailer.

Additionally, Phillips introduced the IntelliSense harness system. The product is an integrated seven-way smart harness that allows multiple sensors to connect to PCT gateways. A data communication harness is woven into the trailer’s main harness to speed installation time and improve reliability.

All the smart products operate in an open platform and can interface with non-PCT telematics gateways and with any supplier sensor, including PCT’s sensors.

Fleet managers can utilize all this data through PCT’s user interface dashboard.

“Our product development criteria provide solutions that offer a massive ROI and competitive advantage to our customers,” Phillips said. “Trailer tracking and sensors are what everyone is talking about right now, but that’s just a tiny piece of what’s really going on. The most important piece of this pie is not, ‘Where are my assets?’ or ‘What is their status?’ It’s what the collective data reveals that’s gold. This is our specialty; we have figured out the ultimate formulas to build customized strategies for each fleet customer.”

Phillips said all the products PCT develops are designed to be scalable, so as more innovation is brought forth, the products can be updated. Taken in their totality, he believes the company is empowering significant change for the industry.

“Each of these products are massive in scope and scale,” Phillips said. “One company would be happy to have any of these innovations, but we’ve been able to do four of them in the past year.”

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight leads FreightWaves' Modern Shipper brand as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler. You can reach him at [email protected]