Returnable Transit Items and RFID

Returnable Transit Items

Asset tracking is one of the most common applications for RFID technology, but shipping assets are sometimes overlooked when it comes to RFID tagging. These assets are sometimes not tagged with RFID tags because they are typically moving to and from customers locations. Because RFID does not have the range capabilities of GPS tracking, some companies do not immediately see the benefit of tagging these assets - which could end up being a mistake.

Shipping Asset Examples


Shipping Containers

Plastic Crates

What is RFID Returnable Transit Item Tracking?

Returnable Transport Item Tracking or RTI Tracking, is keeping track of individual shipping assets that help hold, manage, or store products during transport. These shipping assets are commonly used across many industries, below are some examples seen everyday.

Food Shipping Totes for Produce

Pipe Shipping Totes for Trucks & Trains

Cargo Containers for Overseas Shipments

Electronic Equipment Cases for Shipping

Shipping assets, like the examples above, are expensive. It is important for companies to get as much use as possible out of each asset, in order to save money. A common problem is shipping assets being lost or thrown out when they reach their destination, which is why it is important to create a chain of custody for each asset. If you can identify where an asset has been, with what products, you can hold the receiver responsible for its safe return.

How Can RFID Tagging Shipping Assets Benefit a Company?

The goal of RFID tagging individual shipping assets like reusable totes, shipping racks, cargo carts, or plastic pallets is to save money by creating a chain of custody for the assets. Reusable shipping assets are not cheap, but if they are used frequently and properly maintained, they can easily pay for themselves in just a few uses. For instance, let’s take a look at plastic vs. wooden pallets:

Reusable Plastic Pallets Reusable Wooden Pallets One-Use Wooden Pallets

Average Cost for One

$80 - $110

$30 - $40

$10 - $20

Average Lifespan

Up to 10 years

3 - 5 Trips

1 - 3 Trips


100 - 200 Round Trips (1)(2)

15 - 20 Trips (1)

1 - 3 Trips

Average Cost Per Trip






Repair every 2-4 Shipments


Environmental Concerns


Fungus, Rot, Insects, Bacteria

Fungus, Rot, Insects, Bacteria

Heat Concerns


Must be heat-treated to ship overseas

Must be heat-treated to ship overseas





Are they RFID Taggable?




Commonly Used RFID Tags


Like all RFID applications, the key to tracking or managing inventory items or assets is assigning each item with a unique ID. Once each shipping asset is RFID tagged with a unique ID, each can then be digitally managed and a chain of custody can be created. Once the tag is in place, shipping managers can:

  • Assign shipping assets to specific present and future orders/jobs
  • Assign shipping assets to specific products/product cases
  • Associate tracking numbers with specific shipping assets
  • Create a shipping timeline for a specific shipping asset and its cargo

Learn More About RTI with These Articles



Shipment/Order Verification

Vehicle Identification


Near Field Communication (NFC)

Internet of Things (IoT)

Interact with Vehicles

Tracking Assets

File Tracking

Hospital Asset Tracking

IT Asset Tracking

Laundry & Textile Tracking

Preventative Maintenance

Returnable Transit Items (RTI)

Tool Tracking

Transportation Asset Management

Library Asset Management

Managing Inventory

Herd Management

Hospital Inventory Control

Luxury Inventory Tracking

Logistics & SCM

Retail Inventory Management

Vehicle Inventory Management

Data about People

Attendee Tracking

Race Timing

Sports Metrics

Tracking Attendance

Data about Objects

Telemetry & Sensor Monitoring


Vehicle Data

Access Control: Buildings

Access Control: Vehicles

Access Control: Neighborhoods

Event Management