Truckers use UK RFID technology to track containers

Trucking firm Horizon Lines has successfully piloted active radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to stop its containers “vanishing”.

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Trucking firm Horizon Lines has successfully piloted active radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to stop its containers “vanishing”.

Containers can be monitored while in ships and trains, but historically they have vanished into “black holes” when moved by road, the firm’s chief information officer, Rick Kessler, said.

The freight cannot be tracked using “passive” RFID tags, because these do not have their own power source and must be close to a reader to use its power to transmit data. The lack of readers on remote highways means containers with passive tags disappear from monitoring systems.

In a pilot scheme, Horizon placed “active” RFID tags, which use an internal power source to contact readers, on 5,100 containers. The active tags have a range of about 300 feet and can be read while moving at speeds of up 75 miles per hour.

The US road haulage firm used tags from UK supplier Identec Solutions. The implementation, completed last autumn, required two readers to be placed at strategic spots on the main truck routes in Alaska.

The system allows containers full of goods to be tracked from Safeway's Seattle distribution centres up to its stores in Alaska. Horizon can track the exact location of a load and the time of delivery, allowing it to schedule operations more precisely and plan for any exceptions, delays or high priority movements.

Kessler said Horizon is now looking at tagging every container in its fleet, creating supply chain visibility all the way from Puerto Rico and Hawaii to the US mainland.

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