Latest Spireon product will let customers see what’s in the trailer

Spireon is releasing an upgrade to its Intelligent Trailer Management (ITM) trailer tracking system that seems very basic on its face: It will let its carrier clients see the pictures the system takes.

In an announcement timed to be released in conjunction with the Truckload Carriers Association annual meeting in Kissimmee, Florida this week, Spireon announced a product it calls IntelliScan Cargo Image Capture and Retrieval. It is essentially the latest version of ITM and will allow Spireon customers to have the pictures that the ITM platform is now capturing downloaded to their Spireon dashboard. 

Roni Taylor, Spireon’s senior vice president for Strategy & Business Development, told FreightWaves in an interview from the floor of the TCA meeting that while the concept seemed simple, it’s been two years in the making.

The current Spireon ITM platform, created two years ago, uses a combination of lasers and cameras to survey what is in a trailer and report it back to Spireon’s clients. “We were looking and seeing the images that were coming into our engineering group as they were using it to verify what was accurate,” Taylor said. “We started to see the images and we thought, wow, these may be of value to our customers.”

Accuracy of the system in terms of reporting what is in the trailer is 99.9%, Taylor said. But the next step is to repurpose the photographs produced by the system for other uses. Detention monitoring is one of the key ones.

With carriers in possession of photos of their trailer, they have a record of the pace at which a trailer is unloaded. “I know now my trailer hasn’t been unloaded because I can see the images,” Taylor said.

“The beautiful thing of this is that they have an image that actually shows them that this trailer is loaded,” Taylor added. “So they have indisputable evidence as ammunition to go back to the shippers.”

Armed with that, they can then say, “I’m going to bill you” for detention, Taylor said.

As she was quoted as saying in the company’s prepared release on the Image Capture and Retrieval system: “How many times have you wished you had eyes inside your trailer when you’re trying to validate a detention bill? How many times have you sent a driver for a trailer only to find it’s still loaded?”

But the hope Taylor expressed is not that the new system would simply be used in a detention war. Rather, it was that if shippers know there is going to be a more revealing record of the pace of a truck being unloaded, “it’s all about changing the behavior of the shippers,” she said. “You want to unload those trailers faster and get them back on the road.”

Taylor gave this example of the savings (or conversely, new revenue) that could be generated by the new system. “You have a contract with the shippers that says you either have 10 hours to unload, and if you don’t unload I will bill you for the days it sits,” she said. A fleet with 2,000 trailers could increase its detention fees against a procrastinating shipper by $75,000 per month with the photographic evidence provided by the IntelliScan Cargo Image Capture and Retrieval system, she said.

Those figures, Taylor added, came from Spireon’s customer advisory board, which she heads. It was their recognition of the value the captured photos could provide that led Spireon to go ahead with the project.

She added that companies can also use it to record damage — or lack thereof — inside the trailer. Asked why companies would not be recording that on their own now, Taylor noted that such an effort takes resources.

She declined to reveal the price for the new system.

While the system would almost seem to be set up to penalize shippers, Taylor said that was not the case. Eliminating debates over whether detention charges are merited makes it more efficient for them. And shippers want trailer tracking: “Many carriers have told me that when they get RFPs from shippers, there is often a question on there, ‘Do you have trailer tracking?’” Taylor said.