Vehicle tracking technology has been very popular for almost a couple of decades. Also known as GPS tracking, vehicle tracking is used by fleets for efficiency and cost-saving purposes, but also by businesses of any type and size that depend on the use of vehicles to develop their activity and wish to streamline their daily operations.
In this complete guide to vehicle tracking for fleet vehicle you will learn more:
Vehicle tracking, or GPS tracking, is a technology that combines the tracking of the location of a vehicle with a software interface that displays vehicle data. That data can be later used by companies as business intelligence in order to make informed decisions.
In order to capture vehicle data, a tracking device is installed inside the vehicles that have to be tracked. The device collects vehicle data of different types, from the turning on and off of the engine, to fuel consumption, to the working of vehicle-connected devices, to mention just a few, and matches the data with the location.
Location data is offered in most cases by the GPS (Global Positioning Service) radio-navigation system - hence the name GPS tracking - though in some other specific cases different location technologies can be used (for example, GLONASS, a satellite navigation system originated in Russia, or even other type of location technology).
The vehicle data collected is transferred in a software user interface that can be available in the form of an installed computer program or, as recent trends suggest, as a cloud computing service.
The vehicle data collected in the software might be made available for a smartphone app or be downloadable in excel or PDF format. The vehicle tracking system can also be able to create alerts looking for specific vehicle positions of vehicle activity.
Concerning its origins, vehicle tracking is not an extremely recent technology, as it started to be used around 1978, at the time when the first GPS satellite was launched into space. The first use of vehicle tracking was primarily for military purpose.
Despite the initial indifference and scarce interest for GPS tracking to be used by businesses or organisations for efficiency purpose, around late 90s progress was made in order to use the potential of tracking for GPS fleet vehicle tracking system..
This new interest led to the development of navigators (satnavs) for end users but also of the technologies that today can streamline the work of fleet managers and anyone responsible for vehicles.
Vehicle tracking systems usually rely on a hardware and on a software part.
GPS tracking hardware collects data in combination with the GPS coordinates of a vehicle (for example, specific vehicle information such as speeding is gathered together with position of the vehicle and time of the data collection).
GPS tracking software displays data collected in different forms to software users, such as location of vehicles on a map, specific details in table format, reports on activity starting and finishing and much more.
GPS tracking devices for fleet vehicles can be of different types:
Hardwired GPS trackers are extremely common and fleets using them go through a 3-wire-installation connecting to engine, power and ground sources in a vehicle.
Portable GPS tracking devices are also used as you can easily plug them, an example being the OBD trackers.
An example of a hardwired GPS tracker
A plug-and-play OBD tracker
In the next future vehicles will automatically come from the manufacturer with some type of vehicle tracking technology incorporated.
There is quite a good number of problems that vehicle tracking technology is able to tackle successfully if accompanied by an intelligent management.
Regarding probably the less specific ones, we can find for example:
This is just a quick overview of some of the issues vehicle tracking technology is able to address and solve for fleets.
Vehicle tracking systems may offer a different number of features, depending on their complexity or completeness. When thinking about more basic GPS tracking, software products typically offer these features:
For alerts or real-time location purposes, companies can usually set a geofenced area (a virtual perimeter) and decide whether all or certain vehicles should move within that area or not.
Alerts can be sent via email, sms and usually appear in the vehicle tracking software dashboard.
There is also a number of add-ons available for companies having drivers using different vehicles, willing to get other fleet metrics or having other requirements:
More complete vehicle tracking systems, also known as GPS tracking systems for fleet management, offer other advanced features:
Vehicle tracking technology needs a hardware component able to collect vehicle data, while a software program displays it into tables, maps and reports.
Very commonly GPS trackers are black boxes that are installed under the dashboard by means of a 3-wire-connection. Inside the trackers there is a sim card collecting vehicle data.
Other options include:
Choosing between traditional black boxes, OBD trackers and asset trackers might depend from the sector or expectations of your business. In the next future vehicles will come directly from the manufacturer with tracking devices (built-in telematics boxes), as trends are shifting to what is known as connected vehicles technology.
Vehicle tracking software basically collects vehicle data by means of the black box or the OBD or asset tracker installed on the vehicle and converts data into different types of reports.
Very typically it shows vehicles on a map where users can set a locations database as well as a geofencing perimeter, but can as well provide the data in the form of tables or downloadable reports (for example, tables would indicate the activity of a specific vehicle, where it has been, the starts and stops).
More complete vehicle tracking software (usually known as fleet management solutions) might include further information in the forms of charts, for example:
Installation is different depending on which tracking device you choose your vehicles to be equipped with.
Regarding hardwired black boxes, they are positioned under the dashboard and generally they need a 3-wire installation that can be carried out by your maintenance department. Basically, the power, ground and ignition of your vehicle are connected via wires to the tracker.
Manufacturers usually recommend the installation of the tracker to be in a safe, dry, mechanically protected area not receiving direct sunlight or not at an extreme temperature.
For this type of tracker they also advise to install the GPS antenna and cables as far away as possible from the radio antenna or other electrical devices to avoid any possible interference.
As regards OBD trackers, they basically do not require installation but are plug-and-play trackers, you basically plug the black box into the OBD II diagnostic port of your vehicle and the tracker starts collecting vehicle data that is later reported in the software system.
As per asset trackers, they work with a battery and are designed to work to track mobile assets, so they do not need external wires or antenna and ensure protection against dust, water spray and temperature.
Despite the general idea that only logistic and transport companies use vehicle tracking, this technology can actually be used and is used by fleets of different sectors and industries and different sizes as well.
Potentially any company that uses vehicles in order to perform part of its activity can enjoy the advantages of using vehicle tracking technologies.
We have been dealing with cases of cleaning companies where the staff uses vehicles and the technology used for risk prevention and correct scheduling of tasks. Another example: companies in the construction with big fleets use them to make sure they know the position of their assets at any time and to protect them from theft.
The multiple features of vehicle tracking systems can benefit in different ways different companies, generally speaking all of them help reducing running costs and increasing efficiencies. According to the different needs of a fleet and a company, the system can also be further customised.
Regarding end users, so not those who drive for work, it is possible in some countries to have discounts on insurance premiums if you equip your vehicle with vehicle tracking technology.
Any company using vehicles can enjoy the benefits of vehicle tracking, there is no most suitable one, but there might rather be customised solutions for specific needs or industries.
Companies usually getting started with vehicle tracking technology have one or more of the following needs or issues:
There is actually no fixed size or limit.
While some people assume only big fleets can fully get the benefits offered by vehicle tracking technology, even smaller fleets can enjoy increase efficiencies and savings if they implement vehicle tracking.
Vehicle tracking providers usually offer the use of the software and hardware for a specific amount of time.
Some providers do offer the service under a contract, which can sometimes last long and become hard to cancel due to the presence of a penalty that must be paid. Other providers do offer the same type of service without the need of signing up for a long contract, just paying a monthly subscription to the service.
Most vehicle tracking software available is usually in the form of a cloud service accessible at any time from any device and usually combined with a smartphone app.
Other services a vehicle tracking provider could offer would be the tracker installation (it can be done by a technician, but in case of bigger fleets with an internal maintenance department, it is usually carried out by the fleet itself) as well as the sale of other items such as dashboard cameras or trackers of different type.
Software packages can also be sold in different modules and some particular features might be offered as add-ons to the technology (for instance, driver identification or PTO).
Vehicle tracking systems might differ in cost depending not only on the complexity and completeness of the software, but also if the cost includes installation or not.
Vehicle tracking providers could also offer a monthly breakdown of the price but then have a contract of 3 or more years as a condition with a high penalty to be paid if you want to cancel.
Remember to thoroughly check on contract, terms and conditions, if the hardware price is included and if installation is before signing up for a vehicle tracking provider.
In any case, the Return on Investment is much higher than the expense itself when it comes to vehicle tracking or fleet management solutions.
The software is designed to improve efficiencies and make global fleet costs decrease by means of actions that fleet managers can take towards vehicle use, fuel consumption, fuel card use, driver training to mention just a few.
Before choosing a vehicle tracking provider it is recommended to do an internal audit in order to understand the current fleet situation, examine type of activity and vehicle and outline the expectations you have from the implementation of a vehicle tracking solution.
Good providers of this technology are generally able to advise fleet managers on the best tracking solution or adapt it to the needs of their fleet.
Good vehicle tracking technology providers also do have a smooth implementation process and can exactly detail it to the fleet manager, and do provide post-sales support.
We advice to choose companies that do not tie you in a long-term contract and offer a cloud solution - remember to double-check on this when you work on contracting a vehicle tracking provider, make sure to know if the price is per month, if there is any cancellation policy, if the installation cost is included as well as the tech support.
Vehicle tracking technology usage in fleets has spread all around the world, embracing different sectors (not only those strictly related to transport or logistics).
Vehicle tracking technology has become the base for some car sharing programmes, helps food delivery companies displaying to users where orders are, bus timing apps work based on the position tracked by the technology device and at present day some governments (among them UK and China) have considered using vehicle tracking against the menace of terrorism.
It is completely legal for companies to track their vehicles, though collected data must only be used for the benefit of the company.
Vehicle tracking systems are legal, though we need to remind that companies deciding to use them have to respect Data Protection Act and notify drivers before installing the technology, making sure they are aware of the use of data and which data are going to be used or shared.
According to Data Protection Act, personal driver data needs to be processed carefully and lawfully in an adequate way. If vehicles are partly used for personal purposes they should have a privacy button, so that driver can switch the tracking option off when they are using the vehicle in their spare time.