Tracker on Board: How portable tracking devices can help your fleet

April 18, 2022

Loss Control, Commercial Transportation


Using portable tracking devices to keep an eye on trucks and cargo can help reserve capital and lower BASIC scores – not to mention preserve your fleet equipment.

By Nancy Ross-Anderson

Fleets commonly use GPS units hardwired to a truck’s engine for tracking. But many struggle to track loose equipment, including the chassis itself.

Losing equipment and cargo is costly for fleets and consumers. The National Insurance Crime Bureau reports that cargo theft in the U.S. is a $15 billion to $35 billion industry. Carriers are always trying to find a solution for tracking their non-cab equipment. Some have borrowed an idea from the non-trucking world: tracking devices.

Enter: The portable tracking device

Portable tracking devices are small, durable and can be made to adhere to equipment — think about the tech products that help you track down your car keys.

These relatively inexpensive and tiny devices are a boon to fleet carriers. Take the port segment, for example. It’s not uncommon for chassis to be left at a port, leaving a fleet searching for them. Port chassis are also notoriously poorly maintained, which could lead to the loss of any non-attached equipment. Poor safety ratings, i.e. higher DOT scores, are another result of poorly maintained and missing equipment, leading to potential DOT investigations and rising insurance costs.  


A portable tracking device is a great solution since chassis aren’t attached to trucks and can’t be hardwired to a device in the same way as a GPS unit.

Several companies such as Apple, Samsung, Zen Lyfe, and Tile have portable tracking devices on the market that can be used to track loose fleet equipment. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Apple Air Tag is a quarter-sized water- and dust-resistant tag that uses GPS for tracking. The device is part of Apple’s “Find My” network so users can log in anywhere. The tag needs to be placed where it won’t be knocked off but still visible to the sky. You can use Bluetooth if you’re in range; if you’re not, Find My network helps you track the item. Augmented reality (AR) visually guides you in the right direction. The device comes with a one-year battery.


  • Samsung Galaxy Smart Tag+ only works with a Galaxy phone and connects to the SmartThings app. Small and squarish in shape, it has a hole so you can hang it from any item you want to track. The latest version uses Bluetooth ultra-wideband technology and SmartThings Find (with access to other Galaxy device users) to track items anywhere. It also uses AR to guide users in the right direction. Battery life is about six months.


  • Zen Lyfe Smart Tag, a Bluetooth tracker, comes in different sizes ranging from mini (about .25 oz.) to “luggage finder” (about 1 oz.). Use it with a cellphone; the locator range is anywhere from 130 feet to 160 feet depending on the tag’s size. The battery lasts about a year and is replaceable.


  • Tile Pro works with Android and Apple devices. The water-resistant device has a one-year replaceable battery, uses Bluetooth, and has a 400-foot locator range. Tile has an additional yearly premium subscription service that offers some warranty and battery replacement benefits.

These devices all offer relatively inexpensive ways to track your vehicles, chassis and cargo. For more information on tracking or securing your fleet trucks and equipment via risk transfer, reach out to IAT Insurance.