Atlas Amplifier PDF — Winter 2004 (1.9 MB)
Not many years ago, the only way Atlas logistics managers could verify a trailer's location and status was a daily telephone call from the driver, a call typically placed at a pay phone somewhere on the road. The advent of cell phones made communication much easier; and global positioning systems in cabs now make it possible to locate a tractor with pinpoint precision.
"But knowing the locations of trailers is another matter," says Glen Dunkerson, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Atlas Specialized Transportation Group." And this information is important. We need to know where our equipment is, and our customers need to know where their goods are."
The solution is an untethered trailer asset management system. In July, Atlas World Group's Board of Directors approved the investment of one million dollars for a system developed by QUALCOMM® that will provide regular updates on the locations of every trailer in the Atlas system. Atlas will be the first van line in the industry to implement this technology across its entire fleet.
Last year, Atlas joined a consortium to provide direction into how this new product would be implemented in the industry. The final product answers several specific concerns.
"We were looking for a solution that would provide improved security and better trailer utilization," says Atlas President and COO Jim Stamm. "We also needed a system that would integrate seamlessly into our operations. This solution answered every need."
"This technology will be the industry standard and we're excited to be the first van line to adopt its widespread use," said Glen.
Hardware mounted in a sealed capsule on the exterior front of a trailer transmits regular updates on its location. The timing of updates can be programmed over the air, so there is no need to disturb the protective environment.
"In many instances, a daily update for a trailer is more than sufficient," says Glen. "However, in cases where we may be transporting high-value goods or operating on a highly critical schedule, we may program the unit to send hourly updates, for example. We can make these changes remotely, over the airwaves."
There are 4400 trailers in the Atlas system. Plans are to have one thousand equipped by year's end, with every trailer operational by the end of 2005. Qualified technicians with Atlas Terminal Company and at strategically located shops around the country will perform the installations. "We'll also be cooperating with other consortium members to get equipment installed, and to help them with theirs," says Glen.
Once the fleet is fully equipped, Atlas will activate an online system that gives users access to near-realtime information. "This will allow us to make the best use of our equipment," says Glen. "We will serve more customers, more efficiently and more profitably."
But perhaps the most important benefit of the new system is the improved customer service it brings.
"If you've ever shipped anything of value, you've probably wondered at one time or another about the location of your belongings," says Jim. "Now we can answer that question with absolute certainty for our customers, whether their belongings are in Topeka or Peoria."