How Can My Company Track Cargo Shipments?

By RFID Journal

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Ask The ExpertsHow Can My Company Track Cargo Shipments?
RFID Journal Staff asked 13 years ago

We are a small freight forwarder, and are interested in a cargo-tracking solution that would show a customer when its package was shipped, as well as where it was in transit and when it was delivered. What would we need in order to set something like this up, and what are the approximate costs?




In order to make this work, you would need to set up a tagging station to print and apply an RFID tag to each package shipped. I assume that you would want to use a tag embedded in a label on which you could print a bar code and human-readable characters. That way, if a tag were to fail, you would have two backups.

First, you would require software to associate each tag with information about the corresponding item. In addition, you would likely need to set up portals where the packages will be loaded onto trucks, so that you would know that a package had left the depot or transshipment center. And you would require handheld readers for every truck.

What's more, you would probably need a wireless link so that information could be updated as soon as goods were delivered, and you would require software that would manage all of the collected data.

It is difficult to provide an approximate cost without knowing the number of transshipment points that you have, as well as the number of dock doors and trucks, and the number of packages you handle. But I can offer a rough estimate of what each element might cost, giving you a ballpark figure for fully installed equipment. The actual expense could vary quite a bit, depending on a variety of factors:

• RFID labels—about 20 cents apiece

• Tagging station—$10,000, including PC, software and label printer-encoder

• RFID portal—$7,500, including frame, antennas, running coax cable and power

• Handheld—$5,000 each, including software, cradle and wireless upload link

• Enterprise software—$50,000 to $100,000 (though this is the hardest element to estimate, as it depends on the number of facilities, users and so forth)

Again, these are very rough estimates. Most vendors will offer volume discounts if you purchase a large number of tags and readers. If you require additional information, feel free to e-mail me at

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal

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