Since testing the container tracking system began, much has been learnt about what happens to containers after they leave the Tacoma terminals. “People have assumptions about cargo scheduling, routing and delivery, but when you dig into the data, many of those assumptions may turn out to be false,” said Rob Collins, the port’s manager of transportation and supply chain planning.
A side benefit, according to Collins, is that systems of this type could lead to greater security in the intermodal supply chain. “The system illustrates when cargo is moving and when it is standing still and cargo in motion is inherently more secure,” he said.
The centrepiece of the system is a portable tracking device originally designed for truck trailers and vehicle fleets. The system uses GPS, wireless and internet technologies to provide actionable data related to location, speed, direction, starts, stops and other metrics.
The tracking device, which measures five inches by three inches by three inches (12.7 cms by 7.6 cms by 7.6 cms), transmits data wirelessly through cellular communications to a server. The data then becomes available to the port over the web. When no cellular service is available, the device stores the data for later transmission. The devices outfitted for containers can run independently for days or weeks at a time.