Deciding which vehicle tracking system is right for your fleet is vital to ensure you receive the maximum benefits. There are a number of factors to take into consideration when choosing a tracking system. Which factors are most important to your business, will largely depend on how many vehicles you have and how you’re using them. So think carefully about what’s of prime significance for your business.
There are a number of advantages by installing a tracking system in your fleet:
- More efficient management of the fleet
- Always opting for the best routes around a given area for your fleet
- Reduction of insurance premiums by improving the chances of vehicle recovery in the event of theft.
- Improved communication with customers by providing real time information of the location of the delivery vehicle
The two main tracking system types are real time vehicle tracking (also known as ‘active’ or ‘live’) and passive vehicle tracking. Learning the differences, benefits and limitations of each type will allow you to make a better decision on which system is right for your requirements and your business.
Real Time Vehicle Tracking Systems
An active, live or real-time tracker is capable of recording, storing and transmitting various types of information about your vehicle. True to its name the system will provide constant updates in real-time of vehicle data from an active tracker to a remote user at regular intervals, letting you react to situations as they unfold. The transmission intervals will vary from system to system but the best systems transmit data every 60 seconds. A real time GPS tracker does not need to be removed and similar to a data logger, all the data downloaded will be transmitted wirelessly either to a tracking software or made available through an online interface.
Advantages of an Active tracking systems
Used effectively, your business efforts will result in great cost savings and realistic real-time solutions, which will outweigh the ongoing costs of operating an active tracking system.
- Real-time data - You know where your vehicles are at any point of time
- Route Planning - Diverting vehicles around localised congestion at short notice
- Wide array of GPS tracking data available (especially useful for businesses dealing with container shipments and deliveries)
- Delivery Tracking - Real time tracking systems enables couriers to provide their customers live location data regarding their deliveries
- Monitoring Driver Behaviour (speed limits, breaks, safety etc.)
Disadvantages of Active Tracking Systems
- Active tracking systems cost more than passive systems.
- Includes a monthly or annual licensing fee on top of fees for transmitting and processing real time data
- Privacy issues might arise with vehicle tracking laws and policies
Passive Vehicle Tracking Systems
Passive tracking systems store collected GPS data in a receiver and can only be downloaded once the vehicle returns to the office or base, because there is no transmitter to send the information whilst out on the road. The information in these passive tracking devices can be impressive, providing exact information about journey routes, speed and vehicle telematics from drivers, such as time spent idling. Passive devices are still often referred to as trackers, but in reality they are more of a data logger, rather than a tracker.
Advantages of a Passive Tracking System
- Exact records of vehicle location
- Monitoring driver’s behaviour, speed and efficiency throughout the journey
- Useful monthly reports
- Cheaper than real time GPS trackers without any continuing subscription fee
- No need for any support after tracking system is up and running
Disadvantages of a Passive System
- No instant feedback or statistics when the business needs it
- No real time monitoring of a driver or vehicle
- Stolen or missing vehicle recovery not possible
Due to these disadvantages , passive tracking systems cater to businesses, who need to track the mileage of their vehicles and don’t need any live data.
Types of Real Time Vehicle Tracking
There are three types of live vehicle tracking systems:
GPS Vehicle Tracking
GPS tracking systems are one of the most commonly used tracking systems in vehicles. It consist of a data logger with a GPS system that records a vehicle’s location and speed. This information is transmitted via satellite back to the company head office via the tracking system operator’s data center. GPS trackers are very small and discreet, with newer systems that can even be fitted inside a bicycle’s handlebars!
A huge advantage of GPS systems are that vehicles are hardly ever out of range from the datacentre, unlike cellular systems, which may not be able to send data in from remote rural areas with poor cellular coverage.
Cellular tracking systems record the vehicle’s location, speed and telematics, and send the data via a mobile phone network to the head office or your chosen data center. A major advantage of cellular systems is the low initial setup cost, which is the cheapest compared to all other systems. In addition to that, mobile tracking can offer some features, which are included in a basic vehicle tracking systems as well.
However, one main disadvantage about cellular tracking involves rural areas with poor mobile signal. The fleet manager will not always receive the data sent back to your office in real time.
An RFID system is best used for small scale operations and underground jobs, such as in a tunnel, mine or underground train station construction site.
A common example of an RFID system is the chip used in your car key. This key will report into your car’s immobiliser and only allow the car to switch on, when it’s close to the RFID reader. They can be used in this way – to only allow certain people to use the vehicle - but also for vehicle tracking around a set geographical area.
RFID systems for fleet owners consists of tracer chips on every vehicle and RFID readers in key locations around a site, in order to receive a report every time a RFID tracked vehicle passes a reader. They can’t generally be used while on the national road network, though are mainly used on bus routes to monitor your fleet passing specific locations around a town for example. Generally they are used in defined areas such as ports, airports and tunnel systems.
Since you are purchasing the infrastructure as well as the RFID chips, these can cost significantly more than GPS or Cellular systems. However, for specific areas RFID can be extremely useful:
- Tracking vehicles in mines and tunnels for safety and economic reasons
- Ensuring only certain vehicles pass into specific areas using gate automation
- Managing traffic, perhaps in a port while unloading ships or trains
- Theft prevention via ‘geofencing’ so a vehicle reports in or is immobilised when leaving a designated area
- RFID technology ensures only specifically allowed people can operate a vehicle
Passive or Active Tracking System for Your Business?
Defining whether real time or passive vehicle tracking is more useful really depends on how and when you want to use the acquired information. If you’re trying to figure out which type of commercial tracking device you’ll need for your business vehicles, make sure to determine first which needs your business have that you would like your tracking system to meet.
As a general rule, if you want the ability to be able to respond quickly to the changing needs of your drivers out on the road, a real time GPS tracking package is best suited. This kind of information in addition to vehicle diagnostics can be invaluable in helping fleet managers to flex their workforce and create a far more useful working environment including rescheduling workloads or re-prioritising throughout the day.
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. By taking action as a result of this data, such as sending drivers on training courses to learn better techniques, altering routes, or switching the order of deliveries, it’s estimated by some companies that as much as a fifth can be saved on costs.
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