Port of Tacoma tracks shipments from port to final destination


Along with BNSF Railway, ocean carrier Yang Ming Line and Edmonton, Alberta-based Safefreight Technology, the developer of the technology, the Port of Tacoma began testing the container tracking system in June.

Believed to be the first system developed for tracking containers inland on rail from a US port, it allows Port of Tacoma intermodal planners to better understand inland rail issues and, ultimately, work with railroads and shippers to improve the speed and reliability of freight.

"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, Port of Tacoma's manager of transportation & supply chain planning. He added that a spin-off benefit is that systems like Safefreight's could ultimately lead to greater security in the intermodal supply chain.

At the core of the Safefreight system is a portable tracking device that was originally designed for truck trailers and vehicle fleets. However, unlike tracking devices for truck trailers that can be re-charged frequently or wired to a truck's power system, the SecurityGuard devices outfitted for containers can run independently for days or weeks at a time.

The system uses GPS, wireless and Internet technologies to provide actionable data related to location, speed, direction, starts, stops and other metrics. The device transmits data wirelessly through cellular communications to a Safefreight server. When no cellular service is available, the device stores the data for later transmission.

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