Vehicle Tracking Systems: FAQs and Misconceptions
Where is my driver and vehicle? Have they made that delivery yet? At what speed are they travelling? Which of my delivery vans is closest to York? Short of putting an exceptionally talented clairvoyant on the payroll, the only way to answer such questions is with a vehicle tracking system.
Until recently these systems were of practical concern only to companies and organisations with large fleets of vehicles. But as GPS and mobile technology gets ever more affordable, increasing numbers of small and medium sized businesses are looking into fitting their vehicles with tracking systems to monitor vehicle use and location.
Whether you have 5 vans or 500, if you’re looking into procuring vehicle tracking you’ll need to arm yourself with some basic facts. To that end, here’s our rundown on FAQs and common misconceptions about tracking systems.
How does a vehicle tracking system work?
Using GPS and mobile technology, a vehicle tracking system will allow the end user to access the location of their vehicles via the tracking provider’s website. In most available systems the user will also be able to get real time data on the vehicle’s speed, ignition status, whether any equipment (e.g. crane, loading arm) is in operation and even whether the doors are open or closed. The user can search for the nearest vehicle to a given location and access detailed journey histories. There is usually an option to receive email alerts when the vehicle makes it to certain destinations or when it is used outside of normal operating hours or even when it leaves a given area. The transmission of this kind of information is often known as telematics.
Sounds flashy, but why is any of that useful?
You’ll no longer have to worry about calling a driver while he/she is at the wheel because you’ll know when the vehicle is in motion. In fact, you’ll never have to call a driver to ask where they are again. You’ll be able to compare the performance and efficiency of all your drivers by comparing their journey histories, average speeds, times etc. You’ll be able to much better coordinate your customer response times by immediately selecting the closest agent/engineer/salesperson/driver. You’ll know when your vehicles have been used outside of work or misused. Most importantly, you’ll be able to use all this information to improve fuel efficiency and cut unnecessary costs.
Do they work overseas?
Most systems can track vehicles anywhere in the world but because they utilise mobile networks this may entail extra charges from the provider. If you expect to be using vehicles overseas regularly then you should ask about how this will priced.
Can I track vehicles from my smartphone?
The major providers have all published mobile apps from which you can access all the usual tracking features.
Do I have to purchase a vehicle tracking system, or do I lease it?
There are always ongoing charges with vehicle tracking systems because you’re using data networks to send and receive information. The charges vary between suppliers – some will have higher initial outlays for the installation of equipment, others will have almost no upfront charges but a higher subscription fee or a minimum term contract. It’s best to get several quotes to find the best deal for your business.
I only want anti-theft tracking, is that possible?
Purely anti-theft tracking systems are available for heavy plant and machinery. These use radio based tracking similar to consumer anti-theft devices. For regular fleet vehicles you only really have the option of a telematics tracking system as described above. These are suitable for tracking stolen vehicles but provide all the extra features mentioned previously. Most tracking systems also allow remote disabling and immobilisation.
Do I have to tell my drivers that the vehicles are being tracked?
There is no legal requirement – the vehicle is company property after all. However, knowledge of the tracking system’s existence will act as a deterrent to misuse and is an incentive towards increased productivity, so you’ll probably want to tell your drivers it’s there.
Common Misconceptions about Vehicle Tracking Systems
- I want to buy a system for export.
A vehicle tracking system utilises the services of GPS and mobile network providers. As a result you can’t just set them up in any given country – you’ll need to find a service provider in that territory.
- I want a tracking system to keep tabs on my relative/lover/pet.
Telematics tracking systems are for fleets of commercial or public service vehicles (usually a minimum of three). Consumer tracking devices are available from automotive retailers, but you’ll have to check on the legality of using them on others.