Global asset-tracking company Orbcomm is taking aim at the "Achilles' Heel" of the international supply chain — the chassis. The New Jersey-based company, which already tracks ocean containers worldwide, introduced a chassis management system.
With its proprietary satellite network and terrestrial coverage partners, Orbcomm "can track and monitor nearly every type of transport asset," from dry van and refrigerated trailers to ocean and intermodal containers and now chassis, said Marc Eisenberg, CEO.
The timing for a chassis management system couldn't be better. The ocean carriers' decision to leave the chassis management business caused confusion at U.S. ports, where a chassis shortage has led to long truck lines, congested terminals and higher shipping costs.
At the Port of New York and New Jersey, for example, three competing chassis providers don't interchange equipment, a few container lines still offer chassis and some truckers provide their own chassis, said John Nardi, president of the New York Shipping Association.
"It's a real mishmash," Nardi said at a Federal Maritime Commission hearing on port congestion in Baltimore Oct. 1. A task force Nardi co-chairs identified chassis availability — or the lack thereof — as a top cause of delays at the second-largest U.S. port complex.
A chassis shortage is causing massive congestion at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach as late peak-season container volumes hit the largest U.S. port complex. Truckers and terminal operators say chassis are in short supply or in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Orbcomm's new system, dubbed the GT 1100-CTS, first helps locate chassis, and that could then lead to improved flow of trucks and containers at port terminals. The system is designed to track individual chassis — loaded or unloaded — as they move through ports.
The GT 1100-CTS includes a tracking and monitoring device combined with a proximity sensor and custom mounting bracket. The device and sensor are installed on a chassis in a manner that protects them from contact with the container during chassis loading.
The tracking device connects to both the tractor's power source and has a solar rechargeable battery. That ensures uninterrupted connectivity with chassis in the field and long service life, Orbcomm said. The system also can determine whether a chassis is loaded or unloaded.
Web-based software provides fleet managers with near real-time alerts on chassis location, activity at geo-fences, and container loadings, Orbcomm said.
Orbcomm has been tracking trailers, railcars, containers and other assets since 1993, using low-earth-orbiting satellites and partnerships with cellular providers. The chassis tracking system complements the company's other machine-to-machine or M2M systems.
Eventually, those systems will be able to "talk" to each other, sharing data to help make supply chains as close to transparent as possible for logistics managers.
"You're starting to see much better potential clarity from the manufacturing floor to the customer door," Craig Montgomery, Orbcomm senior vice president of marketing, told this summer.
As M2M technology allows greater connectivity between containers, devices and even pallets of goods, "we're moving from track and trace to monitor and control," Montgomery said.