Fleetmatics Guide to GPS Fleet Tracking
Increased easy access to the global positioning system (GPS) has given businesses with vehicle fleets a powerful technological tool to help them gain control of their mobile assets. Prior to GPS tracking, fleet owners had no way to know for certain where their vehicles were located or how their vehicles were being used.
With GPS fleet tracking, fleet owners now have the ability to know the precise location of every vehicle in their entire fleet. But GPS tracking goes far beyond being a simple location device. GPS tracking has been used by businesses to significantly decrease costs, reduce fuel consumption, improve employee productivity, increase asset security and much more.
In fact, the far reaching effects of GPS tracking can even be felt in the back office through the elimination of manual timesheets and the streamlining of payroll procedures.
Unfortunately, with such a wide range of powerful applications available, some companies have entered the GPS tracking marketplace to simply take advantage of unwary fleet owners. These companies offer the promises of GPS tracking, but lack the experience, financial stability and development resources needed to deliver the true immediate and long-term benefits of GPS vehicle tracking.
Do You Need GPS Tracking?
If your company utilizes vehicles as a daily part of doing business, then you will certainly experience tangible benefits from using quality GPS tracking.
The ability to precisely track the location of your vehicles and the data-gathering capabilities of quality GPS solutions provide proven benefits that ultimately increase your bottom line. GPS vehicle tracking introduces efficiencies into your business that can reduce costs while increasing the ability of your company to do more business at a higher level of customer satisfaction.
A recent study by the Aberdeen Group (a research firm that studies the effects of technology on business) found 13.2 percent reduction in fuel costs that businesses experienced a 23 percent increase in the total number of service calls completed per day per technician once GPS vehicle tracking was installed in their fleets.
While the benefits of GPS vehicle tracking are well documented, the confusing and conflicting claims of GPS providers can make the decision to install a GPS solution a daunting task for any business owner. Armed with the right information about GPS tracking and by knowing your unique business needs, choosing a GPS solution that best serves your business can be a relatively simple process.
How GPS Tracking Works for You
GPS fleet tracking first gained wide-spread popularity in the European market and has emerged as an essential business tool in the United States. Once fleet owners install GPS tracking in their vehicles, they quickly discover how important the technology is in streamlining and improving their entire operation in ways they never imagined.
GPS fleet tracking uses the global positioning system to monitor and track vehicles in a business fleet. The GPS itself consists of up to 32 satellites that transmit microwave signals to individual GPS receivers. The system provides information on location, speed, direction and time.
Using GPS technology for business fleet applications requires a GPS receiver installed in each vehicle to be tracked. Quality GPS solutions monitor a wide range of vehicle information including speed, engine start up and shut down, routing and idling.
The information from each vehicle must then be transmitted to a remote user. Depending on the GPS fleet tracking system used, the information can be transmitted in real-time (active tracking), or stored on the receiver to be transmitted all at once at a later time (passive tracking).
Remote users can then view maps of vehicle locations and routes, or access available reports on vehicle status via the Internet or specialized software.
The exact features and benefits of GPS fleet tracking vary by provider, but the following are a few ways GPS vehicle tracking can be used to improve your business:
- Fleet Routing and Dispatching: With proper mapping software, fleet owners know the exact location of every fleet vehicle. This gives dispatchers the ability to effectively direct drivers to any job site. In addition, you can locate and dispatch the closest vehicle to any job site. Better routing and dispatching reduces fuel usage, reduces vehicle mileage and increases the number of jobs completed in a day.
- Employee Productivity: Studies show that with GPS tracking installed, employees work more effectively and stop utilizing company vehicles for personal use. Improved routing and dispatching also decreases the amount of time employees spend between jobs, giving them more time to work during the day.
- Customer Service: GPS tracking solutions can incorporate a number of features that help improve customer service. Better routing and dispatching helps you get to your customers more quickly. You will also be able to determine when a vehicle arrived on a job and when it left, providing accurate and verifiable proof of services.
- Fleet Security: Undoubtedly, GPS vehicle tracking can help improve the security of your fleet. In the event a vehicle is stolen, a hidden GPS receiver can help you recover a vehicle and any onboard equipment quickly. In addition, some systems offer features that alert owners immediately if a vehicle is used during off-hours.
- Payroll and Overtime: Quality GPS fleet tracking solutions provide the ability to automate timesheets. You will know exactly when an employee starts work, how long they take for lunches and breaks, and when they stop working for the day without relying on manual timesheets. Accurate, verifiable timesheets will streamline payroll processes and help you avoid paying excessive overtime pay due to timesheet falsification or unintentional errors.
- Fuel Consumption: Almost everything monitored by GPS vehicle tracking can work to help reduce fuel costs. Efficient routing and dispatching, reduced speeds, reduced idling and eliminating unauthorised vehicle usage all decrease the amount of fuel your vehicles burn.
- Vehicle Care and Maintenance: Some GPS tracking providers feature alerting functions to let you know when vehicles are due for routine maintenance. In addition, GPS tracking usually decreases the amount of kilometers you have to put on vehicles.
- Driver Behavior: GPS vehicle tracking can relay a variety of information regarding driving behavior including vehicle speed, engine start-up and shut-down and idling time. This information can be used to enforce driving policy and curb unwanted behavior like excessive speeding, tardiness and extended vehicle idling.
Most businesses with vehicle fleets find that the various cost-cutting benefits and operational efficiencies of GPS fleet tracking outweigh any costs for the system. Businesses can experience a positive return on investment (ROI ) after using GPS tracking for as little as six months, with a vast majority reaching positive ROI in under a year. In fact, with proper management of the system, customers can see an immediate ROI simply by reducing excess overtime for just one week. There’s no doubt that GPS vehicle tracking can help businesses with vehicle fleets. The only real decision is not “if” GPS tracking is right for your company – it’s “which” GPS tracking is right for your company.
Choosing the Right GPS Solution
While there may seem to be hundreds of choices when deciding which GPS solution to install on your fleet, the fact is that very few offer the right combination of the features you need to achieve the maximum benefits of a GPS system. These features include: usability, technology development and financial stability. There are two main things business owners should look for when choosing GPS tracking: the quality of the system and the quality of the provider.
While the technology behind all GPS vehicle tracking systems to gather location-based data is the same, it’s how the tracking data is transmitted, what data is transmitted and how all that data is presented to the user that differentiates quality GPS tracking from inferior products. Here are the main considerations to take when deciding if a GPS system will meet your needs:
Active vs. Passive Tracking:
Active tracking means that the data from the GPS receiver is transmitted to a remote user at regular intervals. The best systems transmit data every 60 seconds. This gives you real-time location information. For passive tracking, all the GPS data is stored in the receiver and must be downloaded once all the vehicles return to the office. Be cautious of system with “updates” every 5, 10, or 15 minutes as this isn’t truly live, and often times you can be charged for additional pings if you need to locate your vehicle between intervals.
Real-time tracking has become the most popular method despite its higher cost because of the huge benefits to having real-time information to make on-demand management decisions.
GPS Client Software
Many GPS solutions utilise proprietary software that requires installation on your computer. Often, these solutions also need frequent manual upgrades and downloads. Another drawback to proprietary software is that the GPS solution can only be used on computers with the proper installation.
The best GPS solutions provide the information securely over the Internet. As long as you know the login and password, you can access your system from any Internet-enabled computer. The flexibility and 24/7 accessibility of an Internetbased solution makes it the far superior choice when deciding on a specific GPS solution.
GPS Receiver Hardware and Installation
Generally GPS receivers do the same job. However, you need to be certain the receiver can stand up to daily usage on your vehicles and is covered by an unconditional warranty. In addition, the receiver should be installed inconspicuously to avoid tampering or theft. More about GPS hardware can be found in the “GPS Providers” section of this guide.
A GPS solution should provide you with the data and reporting capabilities necessary to make informed business decisions. This is what really sets quality GPS solutions apart from the competition. One key to reporting is flexibility. A good GPS solution will allow you to automate reports on a weekly or monthly basis, but also give you the ability to generate reports instantly.
The reports should be concise and easy to understand. The data can be organized to give you information about daily vehicle activity, speeding violations, violations of company driving policy, a complete list of vehicle starts and stops, excessive idling times and much more. Essentially, all the information gathered by the GPS receiver should be accessible in an easy format when and where you need it.
Also look for a GPS solution that offers historical reporting. You should be able to access any GPS information gathered by your system from the time you started using it. In addition, the best GPS solutions give you the ability to gather key metrics about your vehicles using data mining techniques. This allows you to compare the performance between two employees, or compare an employee’s performance against the company average in areas such as speeding, idling, kilometers driven and engine-on or off times.
The amount of data generated by GPS tracking can become daunting. The information should be presented to you in an easy-to-use and easy-to-understand format. The interface should highlight specific information for your unique business needs. Make sure any GPS tracking solution you look at is easy to navigate. Quality GPS solutions will also have a “dashboard” view that presents the information most important to you on one quick screen. In addition, solutions should have some level of customisation.
Every GPS solution should include alerting features to notify you of unwanted behavior. Alerts should be flagged in relevant reports and you should also have the ability to be notified of any alerts as soon as a violation occurs via email or mobile device.
Alerts can be triggered for excessive speeding, excessive idling, engine start-up or shut-down during off-hours, unauthorised vehicle usage and when a vehicle enters or exits specific geographic areas.
Many GPS solutions also provide alerts to notify you when vehicles are due for scheduled maintenance. These alerts can be scheduled based on a specific length of time, kilometers driven, or engine-on time.
This is an area where the differences between the good and the bad can become readily apparent. The best GPS providers usually partner with well-known mapping partners – like Google mapping – to provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date mapping available.
The best GPS mapping features allow you to zoom all the way down to street level and provide street, terrain, satellite and hybrid street/satellite views. In addition, you should be able to get real-time traffic information via the mapping in order to help drivers avoid traffic congestion.
Mobile Phone Compatibility
The reality of today’s business is that you may often times be on the road and away from your computer. Reliable GPS solutions will offer mobile phone compatibility so you can still track your fleet while you are on the road.
While the information available on your phone may not match the in-depth tracking available with the full software, you should still be able to know the location of your vehicles, view the system’s “dashboard” and access basic reports.
The key to choosing a GPS fleet tracking provider is to find a company that delivers a GPS solution with expansive features while also committing to client satisfaction. From your initial contact with a GPS company, through the installation process and beyond, a GPS tracking provider should take extra steps to ensure they become a partner in your business’ success. When choosing a GPS tracking provider, consider these elements:
Be sure the provider you choose has been in the industry for at least five years, has a long list of satisfied clients and focuses solely on GPS tracking. Be wary of companies that have only been around a short amount of time as they are just looking to cash in on the latest technology craze and cannot provide you with the support and infrastructure needed to upkeep a quality vehicle tracking system.
Technology can be tricky, but the best GPS providers can offer nearly 100 percent up-times for their systems. Every minute that a GPS provider cannot provide you service is a minute that you have lost control of your fleet resources. Check the up-time record of the provider you are looking at. If they claim anything less than 99 percent up-time, then look elsewhere.
As with any technology, change happens quickly. Look for a GPS provider that has an in-house development team that looks to frequently incorporate new and innovative features. Be careful though – these new features should be of value to you, not just additional information that will not benefit your business. In addition, any system upgrades should be done automatically without any extra financial costs to you.
Mapping is the backbone of any GPS solution. If your GPS provider does not include solid mapping with continual upgrades, then your GPS solution becomes useless. You need to ensure your GPS provider takes great effort to provide the latest, most accurate maps and regularly updates them as needed. Again, this should be a seamless upgrade with no additional expense to your company.
Customer Service and Support
If a GPS provider does not provide reliable customer service and support, then you are not getting the most for your money. Quality GPS providers have a team of trained, inhouse staff available to answer all your service and support issues and it should cost you nothing additional – ever.
While the best GPS solutions will give you immediate benefits straight out of the box, most businesses can only realise the full potential of GPS tracking by learning the intricacies of the system. GPS providers that truly care about their clients’ success realise this and will offer free unlimited training on their system. If you don’t understand how something works, or want something to work better, a system expert should be available to give you the direction you need.
Reputable GPS providers will not be afraid to offer a warranty on their equipment should something go wrong. Cheap equipment can mean frequent repairs and considerable out-of-pocket repair costs for you. Your GPS provider should provide solid tracking hardware backed by a guarantee against installation or manufacturing defects. Any repairs or replacements should come at no charge to you.
You should ensure that your GPS provider is financially strong with high growth, profitability and no debt. This is especially true in today’s economic climate. While this information may not seem a relevant concern, the worst case scenario is that your GPS provider will cease its services, thereby leaving you with sunk costs and no tracking. Scrutinise the financials of any GPS provider you consider doing business with so you can enjoy the long-term benefits of GPS tracking. In addition, look for GPS providers that have strong partnerships with other industry leaders and associations. This is a sure indicator of a stable GPS company.
This article was provided by Fleetmatics