As freight carriers increasingly turn to RFID to keep tabs on their cargo while in transit, they have to deal with “intermodal black holes” – routes or portions of routes where it is difficult or impossible to obtain regular scans of passive RFID tags. Trucking routes from distribution centers in Seattle to distribution sites in Alaska are prime examples of this sort of RFID vacuum.
Recent experiments by logistics company Horizon Lines, in cooperation with Safeway grocery retailer and the Austria-based RFID firm Identec Solutions, may have pointed to a solution for the problem. Last fall, Horizon placed active RFID tags on 5100 containers used on the Alaskan highway route. The tags have a read range of 300 feet and can be read while traveling at speeds of up to 75 miles per hour. Using two RFID scanners placed at strategic spots along the route, Horizon was able to track the tagged shipments throughout the delivery process.
Horizon says their new system lets them project the exact location of a load and the time of its delivery. They have been able to schedule its Alaskan operations more precisely and plan for exceptions, delays and high priority movements. The firm plans to extend the new RFID solution to other “black holes” in its shipping routes, both on U.S. highways and ocean routes between the continental U.S., Hawaii, Guam and Puerto Rico.