Radio-frequency tags have become a must for the nation’s rail operations. Now, motor carriers are discovering plenty of uses for tags both on the road and in the yard.
A few years ago, radio-frequency (RF) tags or transponders were used only in the rail industry and then, only as a means of tracking rail-cars. Today, however, tags have begun to catch on in the trucking industry, where private fleets and for-hire carriers alike are testing tags to speed up highway inspections and customs clearance and to identify equipment and loads.
Although only a few companies are experimenting with these devices right now, many industry experts believe tags will soon see widespread use. In the near future, they predict, tags will become as commonplace as bar codes when it comes to automatic-identification equipment used in distribution. “This technology is going to [revolutionize] the way some people manage their fleets,” predicts Jim Mathis, a vice president of engineering at trucking software maker Industrial Computer Systems in Evergreen, Colo.
Tale of the Tag
What is an RF tag? Basically, the tag consists of an antenna and microcircuit for data storage. The antenna can transmit the stored information – such as a trailer ID – via radio waves to a reader. Because radio waves are used, a tag reader does not require a direct line of sight to capture and decode information stored on the device.
The tags themselves come in two basic types – passive or active. Passive tags rely on energy from the reader to initiate communication. Active tags, on the other hand, use internal power to send signals to the reader.