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Time for telematics

Intermodal Telematics BV (IMT) is expecting to see a significant increase in the number of tank containers that are equipped with telematics and remote monitoring systems in the coming years.

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A Peacock Leasing composite tank with IMT telematics unit
A Peacock Leasing composite tank with IMT telematics unit

Managing director Dethmer Drenth claims IMT is the market leader in tank telematics systems. The company is currently about half way through a major project to install its system on Hoyer’s fleet of 36,000 tanks, which will be the single biggest installation in the industry so far. One of Hoyer’s customers is Bayer Crop Science, which first used IMT tracking and monitoring features on tank containers in Germany in 2016. Bayer has now decided to make Hoyer part of its Connected Container project, which will see tank containers monitored in the US and then worldwide.

For Hoyer, IMT developed a special non-invasive filling level measuring system, with sensors and integration with Bayer’s Connected Container platform. For another customer, Hamburg-based TWS, IMT has developed a new sensor called the FE17-EX that is an ATEX approved “full empty sensor”. Using two sensors welded to the outside of the tank container at 20% and 80% fill heights IMT can determine and report the exact time when a container is filled or emptied, which is valuable data for scheduling tank movements and other processes.


Drenth expects other tank operators will embrace telematics as cargo owners start to demand more information on the location of their cargo, its condition, and the services they are paying for. Tank container operators can also use telematics to accurately identify the status of tanks, including the point at which they are filled or emptied.


Getting leasing companies onboard is more challenging. They are generally reluctant to invest in telematics because they cannot see a return on the investment, in the form of being able to charge a higher per diem for an asset. However, Drenth said he expects this to change as leasing companies realise telematics creates an opportunity for them to do business directly with end users, rather than working through a tank container operator. Even tually, he added, a new business model for tank container leasing could emerge.

Whether this happens or not, IMT believes it will not be that long before all tanks have telematics systems, and all decisions on tank container operations will be made using data to identify the location and status of the assets. The ongoing cost of cellular connections to carry the data has been cited as an issue previously, but IMT can install a system that operates for as little as €3.85 per month.


On the hardware side, Drenth said sensors for tank containers are more complicated than for dry and reefer containers because of the hazardous nature of the cargo. The IMT telematics system is based around its Communication & Location Terminal (CLT), which includes a location sensor, motion sensor, shock sensor, and the communication system. The CLT sends its own data, as well as data from other sensors on the tank container, and manages over-the-air updates.

Communication & Location Terminal, exhibited at Intermodal Europe in Rotterdam
Communication & Location Terminal, exhibited at Intermodal Europe in Rotterdam

Other sensors are available for pressure, temperature, heating and empty status. All the sensors are rated to IP69K and are available with an ATEX certification as an option. Where batteries are required, IMT uses an internal battery with an expected lifecycle of 10 years.


On the software side, IMT offers a ‘generic’ platform, which is being continuously developed, and is designed to be customised for customerspecific needs and preferences. All data can be managed and presented from the IMT application, or integrated and exchanged with other business applications as required.




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