With the kind of cost-effectiveness, hauling capacity, and reliability that it brings in, rail freight transportation has without a doubt caught up the global freight transport market. The only hiccup that remains is the absence of a failsafe rail parcel tracking system. Let’s explore how IoT can make rail freight the best of both worlds.
Rail freight is one of the most cost-effective modes of bulk transport; a single freight train can transport more than 70 trailers worth of cargo in a single haul.
Despite the low cost of long-haul shipping however, rail freight transport isn’t always an ideal option.
“A majority of shippers say they are willing to resort to more rail freight if certain criteria such as real-time data and on-time deliveries are better taken into account – which would be guaranteed with future digital freight trains”.
- The Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer
(The French National Railway Company)
Although there are ways to track rail shipments, they are generally superficial, and quite unreliable.
Some of the most common options to track rail freight are:
- Rail Cargo Tracking Portals — which are limited to a specific lane, rail company, or freight forwarder. Getting live tracking information from systems like these isn’t always an option, what you get is data that tracks a freight train’s progress through milestones like a railway station or crossing, data that may be several hours, or even days old.
- Tracking Through Freight Forwarders — who in turn rely on rail tacking portals or their own field personnel to keep track of your cargo. Besides the downside of depending on someone who may have a conflict of interest when it comes to reporting their own inability to track or keep your cargo on track, you’re still not getting any real-time, reliable, or verifiable tracking data.
- Deploying Personnel — which may not always be an option, and if it is, it’s going to be an expensive one. Getting your own people — whether they’re in an office or in the field — to keep track of your rail cargo may help, but asking them to stay on top of things 24x7 is a tall order; after all, they’re not machines.
It’s high time you find a way to stop relying on others, a broken chain of information, and the other caveats of second-hand tracking.
There is another option, a better option, something that seems like it’s straight out of James Bond’s playbook.
The easiest, simplest, and most reliable way to track your rail cargo is to use a portable GPS shipment tracker — something that travels with the cargo and keeps you updated about its location, condition, and any other useful information — all with the ease of checking your email.
One of the perks of living in the information age is the development of technologies that, well, can help you get pretty much anything done.
Technologies like GPS tracking, wireless communication networks, and a reduction in the size (and cost) of electronics have given logistics managers a powerful tool that’s just what the doctor ordered – a portable GPS shipment tracker. These devices are small, small enough to fit on pallets or within packages, which makes them easy to transport on a shipment and back. These devices are wireless, which means there’s no complex installation or removal necessary, just tag a shipment, and the tracker keeps you updated via the Internet. These devices are power-packed, they can last for months on a single charge, with enough juice to power several on-board sensors that can tell you more about your shipment than just its location.
Step 1 — Use Wire-free Shipment Trackers
Get rugged, stand-alone GPS tracking devices that go with your cargo and tracks it from first to last mile, providing you LTL/package-level visibility. Ensure long battery life, so you never lose track of your cargo.
Use sensor-packed trackers for condition sensitive cargo – The tracking system that you use must also be capable of gathering information on the physical condition of the assets like temperature, humidity, shock, and tamper.
For item-level monitoring, use Bluetooth tags – Monitor at item level using tags that can be easily attached to your assets and can track them.
Step 2 — Ensure Constant Network Connectivity
The devices must have constant cloud connectivity to provide timely information. If at any point during the rail cargo’s journey should the device lose its original network connectivity, there must be a backup network on which it can lean.
Step 3 — Figure Out Reverse Logistics
Make sure that your service provider also takes complete responsibility for handling the reverse logistics of devices.
Step 4 — Ensure That the Data You Have Is Actionable
The information that you receive needs to be timely, accurate, and complete for you to take any required corrective actions in time, and before the damage happens. Make sure that the monitoring system you use sends out timely alerts to relevant people.
Step 5 — Set Up A Control Tower
Make sure to add the final piece of the puzzle to the process – the supply chain control tower – an integrated data portal that uses human touch and predictive analytics, helping you act smartly upon disruption.
The complicated loop of freight transportation today calls for an infallible tracking system using which you can get live information about your assets, monitor their condition, and take corrective action immediately without losing even one precious moment, especially in a multimodal arrangement.
If you can find a way to track your cargo in real-time and get first and last mile visibility without losing connectivity even if it’s riding various modes in an intermodal transportation setup, you would never lose track of it in any situation.
By investing in a smart rail cargo tracking system, you can get a lot more information than just fragmented location information about your cargo.
Thus, taking the benefit of what rail cargo offers, a dependable low-cost freight transport service – and adding to it what it lacks – a reliable, real-time, independent rail cargo tracking and monitoring solution – is what can make this a complete win-win situation.