Developing a container tracking system

Basic Information


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Thematic areas

Urban logistics


The telematics-based container tracking system was designed to enhance the economic efficiency and security of intermodal freight transport while ensuring positive environmental impacts.

Implementing sustainable mobility

The new container tracking system was designed and applied by one of the biggest forwarding companies in Berlin (Zapf) for intermodal freight transport in order to reduce emissions, noise and energy consumption and improve efficiency.

The system was intended in particular to supervise rail freight transport within multimodal container traffic. Tasks included determining safety standards, improving the punctuality of deliveries, and introducing the possibility of locating containers at any time during transportation.


The container tracking systems of two suppliers were pre-tested and compared concerning technical parameters and reliability. One supplier was selected and in February 2003 five prototypes were tested and adapted following the identification of technical problems.

The container tracking system was presented at a TELLUS meeting at the Westhafen logistics centre. The features included location detection by global positioning system (GPS); autonomous power supply by cell system and buffer battery; loading space control/level indicator by ultrasound; and temperature, pressure and humidity control.


The last step in implementation would have been software adaptation and demonstration under real conditions with up to 500 container tracking systems. However, in June 2003, German Railways decided to limit container train operations to logistic nodes other than Westhafen. The operator of the Westhafen inner-city logistics centre tried unsuccessfully to organise shuttle container trains to these nodes, thus it was not possible to realise the final step in the TELLUS project.


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