Smart Trucks: How Tractor Trailer Pairing Improves Driver Retention

Driver recruiting and retention is one of the American Transportation Research Institute’s Top Research Priorities this year–and for good reason. The average cost of losing one trucker can range anywhere from $5,000 to $8,000. Putting this into perspective, the average three-month turnover rate–74% in large fleets–applied to 100 drivers over three months could cost $370,000. 

Tractor Trailer Pairing

While better pay and more time at home are top of mind for many drivers, getting to the root of driver retention can also involve empowering truckers with tools and resources that make their jobs more enjoyable. Technology too can play its role; fleets can invest in features and functionalities that allow drivers to complete their daily tasks more easily. After all, nobody wants to feel unsafe behind the wheel of a tractor trailer or feel like they are wasting time unnecessarily. 

One area where fleet managers can provide relief to their drivers and improve retention is in yard management, where automated tractor trailer pairing can help keep truckers on the road–with the correct trailer in tow. 

Simplifying Yard Management 

Tractor trailer pairing–and yard management as a whole–is a crucial part of fleet operations that can have a direct impact on overall fleet performance, driver satisfaction, workflow efficiency, labor costs and delivery times. However, it is often still a manual process.  

Drivers walk around performing trailer pick-up checks and verifying they are picking up the right trailer using paper–a recipe for human error. This can be a drag for drivers who just want to get back on the road.

Truckers can (and do) pick up the wrong trailer. Yards can consist of tens of thousands of trailers that need to be manually verified by drivers before they couple them to their tractors. 

When a driver connects their tractor to the wrong trailer and leaves the yard, they will need to return once dispatch realizes the error and informs them. Once they re-enter the yard, they’ll need to park their truck and decouple it before finding the correct trailer.  

Often, truckers don’t realize the error until they arrive at their destination–which could be hundreds of miles away–carrying another driver’s trailer. This wastes time, fuel, workable hours, truckers’ patience and budget to get the driver back to the yard.

Making Life Easier for Drivers 

ORBCOMM is one of the first to address this clear market need with a tractor ID sensor that enables tractor-trailer pairing, allowing fleet managers to identify and verify which tractor is connected to which trailer without the need for manual confirmation from drivers. 

When both tractor and trailer are in line of sight and within proximity, the tractor ID sensor installed on the rear exterior wall of the truck will pair with the telematics device on the trailer via Bluetooth. Once this happens, the telematics device confirms the connection and transfers the tractor’s ID to the back office. With advanced Bluetooth filtering, the device can filter out nearby trailers to ensure the proper connection is being made–perfect for yards packed with trailers near one another. 

To reduce power and data usage, the tractor ID sensor remains latent when it is unpaired and once connected, pairing attempts occur at less frequent intervals, allowing fleet managers to get as many as 7 years out of a single lithium battery. In the back office, dispatchers can view when trailers are coupled and decoupled along with the specific IDs for each asset, simplifying the management of a once-complex trailer yard.  

Driver Happiness with Tractor Trailer Pairing

As fleet managers face heightened demand from retail, driver retention is set to remain one of the top industry challenges. It is no secret that the life of a trucker can be grueling; however, by investing in driver comfort with technology and other methods, fleet managers can help keep their staff happy and ultimately, their fleet on the road. 

With tractor trailer ID, dispatchers will know that the right trailers are attached to the right vehicles, making life more comfortable for them and their drivers, by preventing the driver from having to return to the yard to get the right trailer.  

To learn more about our IS 400 tractor ID sensor, visit the datasheet or contact us at

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