Complete Guide to GPS Tracking for Containers

January 22, 2021

GPS tracking for containers

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Key Takeaways

GPS tracking devices offer an efficient way to locate your shipping containers in real time, ensure cargo security, and increase revenue. In this guide, learn about how container GPS trackers work, the benefits of a shipping container tracking system, the different types of asset trackers, and how to choose the best GPS container tracking solution for your fleet.

What are GPS trackers for containers?

GPS trackers are a cost-effective tool for keeping tabs on your valuable assets, including powered assets (like dry van trailers and reefers) and unpowered assets (like shipping containers). 

Discreet, ruggedized asset trackers can be attached to your shipping containers easily and quickly. Once installed, they use the Global Positioning System (GPS) to determine real-time GPS location. Typically, they transmit this data to your asset tracking software via 4G LTE cellular network connectivity, providing remote visibility for fleet managers and eliminating manual location checks, as long as your shipping containers are within cell service.

GPS tracking systems can provide real-time, interval-based, and historical location data on your assets. For overland shipping containers, GPS trackers make it possible to:

  • View the location of shipping containers in real time, or at a specified interval of time

  • Create geofences (virtual borders around an area) with alerts to enhance cargo security

  • Increase visibility across your supply chain and provide accurate information to clients

Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of GPS tracking for containers and tips for choosing the best overland shipping container tracking system for your business.

3 benefits of a GPS container tracking system

Maybe your business has considered GPS container tracking before, or maybe this is your first time evaluating asset tracking solutions. Either way, you’re probably wondering if the investment is worth it. 

If you’ve ever lost track of a shipping container or dealt with container theft, then you could be leaving valuable time and money on the table. A GPS container tracking solution can help.

Here are three benefits of investing in GPS tracking technology for your shipping containers:

  1. Save time: With GPS trackers, you gain complete visibility into the locations of your shipping containers within cell service and eliminate the need for manual inventory checks. Asset tracking devices typically use 4G LTE cellular network connectivity to remotely sync with your management software, so you can see a visual map of all of your assets in one place. With automated inventory reporting and other asset tracking software tools, you can reduce administrative overhead and save valuable time for your business. Example: Ghilotti Bros. has saved dozens of man-hours by eliminating lengthy yard hunts through real-time asset tracking.

  2. Reduce theft: With the ability to create customizable geofences—virtual borders around an area—you can rest easy knowing your shipping containers (or other assets) are exactly where they’re supposed to be. Customizable email or SMS text alerts make it possible to be alerted if a shipping container unexpectedly leaves a geofenced area. This can be particularly helpful for detecting theft or unauthorized use, enhancing cargo security even when your containers are not on-site. Example: Blue Lightning Logistics saved $200,000 by using real-time GPS tracking to retrieve three stolen assets.

  3. Generate more revenue: With GPS tracking, shippers can provide more accurate information to their clients on the exact location of containers. Not only can this help you improve ETA predictability and increase customer satisfaction—it can also serve as a competitive advantage to help you win new clients by setting you apart as a tech-forward business. Example: MacAllister used real-time GPS tracking and geofences to strengthen their customer service and improve ETA predictability by 80%.

What is the best GPS container tracking solution?

Once you decide to track your unpowered assets, the next step is to choose a solution that is rugged, customizable, and reliable. Samsara is an industry-leader in Internet of Things (IoT) sensors for connected operations, with solutions for not just overland shipping container tracking, but also trailer tracking, vehicle tracking, driver safety, and more. 

Here are a few reasons why Samsara’s asset tracking solution is a great choice for any business in need of GPS container tracking. Samsara offers:

  • Reliable GPS data with customizable check-in intervals: Samsara offers customers the ability to see real-time tracking data—unlike many asset tracking solutions that only offer “breadcrumb” style trails, with location updates limited to every several minutes. This real-time tracking (for overland shipping containers within cell service) can be incredibly valuable in case of a misplaced container or theft. And with customizable check-in intervals, fleet managers have the flexibility to have either real-time location information or be alerted via pings at specific intervals.

  • Long battery life: Battery life is incredibly important when choosing an asset tracking solution. Samsara asset trackers come with lithium batteries, which enable four to five years of battery-powered operation.

  • Ruggedized design: With a weatherproof and water-resistant design (IP69K rating) as well as anti-theft screws, Samsara asset trackers are reliable and tamper-resistant.

  • Plug-and-play installation: Samsara’s unpowered asset trackers can be installed on any asset in just minutes using either durable, high strength tape or anti-theft screws.

  • User-friendly software: Samsara’s asset tracking software offers easy-to-use reports and tools that can help your team save valuable time. 

  • Customizable geofences and alerts: Easy-to-use geofence alerts allow you to instantly detect and respond to theft and unauthorized use. Alerts are sent via email or SMS when assets move outside of designated areas or when motion is detected, and customizable ping rates allow you to configure the device to your needs. 

  • Open API: Samsara’s open API makes it possible to feed GPS data directly into your existing third-party tools. This means Samsara can integrate into your day-to-day workflow, enhancing the tools you rely on with additional data. 

  • 24/7 customer support: Finally, no matter what asset tracking solution you choose, it’s important that you’re able to talk to a real human for help when you need it. That’s why Samsara offers frequent product training webinars and 24/7 support—so you will always have the support you need from the Samsara team.

The different types of Samsara asset tracking devices

Whether you only need GPS tracking for your shipping containers or you’re also looking for a solution to track trailers, reefers, equipment, and more—Samsara has you covered. Samsara offers a variety of unpowered and powered asset trackers, so you can keep all your GPS tracking data consolidated on one platform.

Below is an overview of the different types of Samsara asset tracking devices. For more information, learn more about our asset tracking solutions or reach out to our team for a free trial.





Unpowered asset tracker

Powered asset tracker

Advanced powered asset tracker

Common use cases

Shipping containers, rental trailers

Dry van and flatbed trailers

Reefer and specialty trailers

Check-in rate

Customizable, default is 2x per day

Real-time or customizable

Real-time or customizable


Replaceable long-lasting lithium battery

Powered via cable and rechargeable battery

Powered via cable and rechargeable battery

Industry-leading IP69K weatherproofing


Reporting and alerts

Reefer temperature alerts

Two-way reefer control

Compatible with wireless door, cargo, temperature, and humidity sensors

Get a free trial of Samsara’s GPS container tracking solution

GPS tracking for containers is a great way to get better visibility into your supply chain, ensure cargo security, and reduce administrative overhead. With their compact size and ruggedized design, Samsara asset trackers can attach to any shipping container or other equipment you may want to track. 

To learn more about how Samsara’s asset tracking solution can help you successfully track your shipping containers, ensure cargo security, and save time, reach out for a free trial.