When it comes to technologies touting big impacts for small businesses, few have the same power as GPS fleet tracking systems. If your business relies on vehicles to get the job done, GPS fleet tracking can help uncover valuable insights and big cost savings.
Although there are some satellites involved, GPS tracking systems aren’t really rocket science. This article will explain:
- How fleet tracking works
- The different types of GPS tracking devices
- The benefits of fleet tracking
- Which is the best GPS fleet tracking system for small business
What is fleet tracking and how does it work?
Fleet tracking uses GPS technology to monitor and manage commercial vehicles to have a real-time awareness of where vehicles are at any given moment. Fleet tracking systems use telematics, a method of monitoring vehicles using a global positioning system and on-board diagnostics (OBD) to track vehicle locations on a digital map and collect data from the cars and trucks using a device attached to a vehicle. Businesses can then use that data to make strategic decisions about their fleet’s operations.
How do fleet tracking systems work?
To understand how GPS fleet tracking works and how it provides valuable information, we must first understand the technology that powers it. GPS tracking operates like any other location technology or Internet of Things (IoT) system. It boils down to three different types of location technology that work together to pass information and then make that data matter.
Connected devices are the key to fleet tracking. They’re location-detecting telematics devices that transmit real time data including location, vehicle status and maintenance data, trip histories, and other valuable details. Connected devices are usually GPS enabled, leveraging satellite or cellular networks, and other similar technologies
All that data has to go somewhere, and its first stop is the centralized server. The data is pulled from the hardware devices in your fleet and sent to a centralized server which is either at your business’ location or the service provider’s. If this is running smoothly, you shouldn’t even really know about this step, or be aware that it’s happening.
The software dashboard is a telematic system that allows you to see your vehicles’ exact locations and other important data about your fleet’s connected vehicles, such as vehicle diagnostics.
The types of fleet tracking devices
There are lots of location technologies on the market today, but it’s very important to be aware that not all tracking hardware is created equally. There’s a vast difference between the tag you put on your keys and luggage and the devices that can give you meaningful insights and save your business money.
What are the three types of tracking?
Installed GPS devices
It’s possible to hardwire GPS devices directly into vehicles. This is a more permanent option that prohibits switching the device out between vehicles if you need to, but is a tamper-proof solution that can be especially helpful for large fleets of big rigs and semi-trucks.
OBD trackers are small devices you can plug into your vehicle’s OBD port. If your car or truck was built after 1996, it’s almost guaranteed that your vehicle has one of these ports that enable you to tap into a vehicle’s computer.
These plug and play devices have access to all the vehicle’s diagnostic data and can be installed quickly. They can also be removed and put into other vehicles if needed based on your fleet operations. Their accuracy and consistency makes them very reliable, which is why Force Fleet Tracking uses them for industry-leading fleet tracking.
Bluetooth trackers are sensor tags that use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology to emit location data. They are often used in consumer tech like Tile tags that can help you locate your keys and other belongings as long as they are in range. Due to their low price point, it might be tempting to consider using them for a fleet tracking application, but they’re not well suited for the job.
Location technology isn’t the same as GPS tracking technology
A true GPS tracking system is able to geolocate devices based on a Global Positioning Satellite network. Bluetooth tags can be located, but only in relation to Bluetooth coverage. For Bluetooth to locate an asset, a cell phone has to be working and active nearby. Otherwise, you’ll only know where it was last detected. You’re also only getting a snippet of the information a fleet tracking system would provide.
Similarly, location technology that lies on cell service is problematic for a few reasons. If there’s no cell reception, there’s no tracking. The same thing goes for rural areas without much cell service and urban areas where your vehicles spend time in parking garages. You’re tracking the device, not the vehicle, so you don’t get any of the valuable diagnostic information, and if the device leaves the vehicle, your metrics will be inaccurate. The vehicle itself must become the connected device in order to share the information that will actually improve your fleet operations
Most importantly, tracking a business fleet using employee’s cell phones means those employees have to let you put the tracking app on their phones, and keep the location tracking app active during business hours. Most field service fleets find that employees are not eager to install these apps on their phones.
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The benefits of fleet tracking
Once your fleet vehicles are connected, you can start to reap the benefits of fleet tracking.
Reduce vehicle fleet maintenance costs
Vehicle health monitoring and predictive maintenance scheduling can help reduce your overall fleet maintenance costs and avoid downtime due to unexpected repairs. Fleet tracking software that connects via the OBD port has access to all the same diagnostics that your mechanic would. This means that you can keep tabs on your vehicles’ health and schedule preventative maintenance.
Your fleet tracking software should tell you as soon as one of your vehicles needs attention, and it should also help you prevent issues proactively. For example, Force’s fleet tracking system monitors for battery health, fuel consumption levels, factory recalls, and diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs), then breaks the issues down into plain English.
Improve driving habits
One of the ways to prevent unnecessary maintenance expenses is by nipping bad driving habits in the bud. After all, fleet management isn’t just vehicle tracking—it supports driver management too.
Fleet management systems alert you to dangerous driving behaviors like harsh braking, speeding, and idling time, all of which cause wear and tear on your vehicles and can lead to accidents. Having driver data means you can have corrective conversations and identify opportunities for training.
The Force platform alerts you to hazardous or unauthorized behaviors, like if a driver exits their geofenced area, unplugs their tracking device, or engages in unsafe activities. Beyond real-time speeding and disturbance alerts, the system also stores detailed trip histories with start and end times, mileage, speed, routes, and driving behavior. Gone are the days of ‘the boss doesn’t know what the boss can’t see.’
Prevent accidents with driver safety
Once you can identify bad driving habits, you can manage them and build a culture of safety.
Force continuously assesses driver behavior, scoring them out of 100 for each trip, and each trip contributes to a rolling average. This RoadScore, combined with other alerts like speeding and harsh braking, shows business owners which drivers need training and provides an opportunity to reward safe drivers.
Improve fuel efficiency and save money
Fleet tracking software can help you improve fuel efficiency in a few major ways. You can build efficiency into your fleet by leveraging the tracking system to improve dispatching, idle reduction, reduce unnecessary fuel consumption, and ensure drivers aren’t taking the scenic route. This means savings across your business: fuel, maintenance, repairs, administration, and more.
Even seemingly innocuous driving habits like idling time can have a massive impact on your bottom line, which can be identified and mitigated with Force’s idling reports.
Force gives you the key to make better decisions when it comes to dispatching efficiently, meaning you get to the job faster, get more jobs done, and drastically reduce fuel costs along the way by sending the closest person. As an extra bonus, some insurance companies offer cost-saving initiatives to businesses with GPS trackers installed in fleet vehicles.
Increase customer satisfaction
Happy customers are good for business. They’ll become return customers and refer you when their friends ask for recommendations. With Force’s fleet tracking system, you can increase accountability and improve the customer’s experience by texting them a real time tracking link which lets them temporarily track the driver en route to the job site. That also means that if a client claims your team didn’t show up, you have the GPS data to prove whether or not they did, and when.
What about Bluetooth trackers or phone tracking apps
Force Fleet Tracking is a GPS fleet tracking solution that does more than just tell you where your cars and trucks are. Unlike a Bluetooth-based tracking device like Tile or mobile phone apps like Fleetio or Live 360 that require constant network coverage, Force’s tracking technology equips you with easy-to-action insights that have a real impact on your business’ bottom line. A Tile may be able to find itself through Bluetooth connection, but if there’s no cell coverage in a garage, your drivers will be out of luck. Similarly, there’s all kinds of data gaps with phone-based apps.
By not relying on a proxy tag or mobile app, there are no issues with drivers taking phones out of the vehicle or losing cell connection. Ultimately, OBD telematics devices are the superior option for fleet tracking–they work all the time and they transform the device into the vehicles, making the vehicle itself connected. And you’ll never waste technician or dispatcher time texting ‘where are you?’ ever again.
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Take advantage of all that GPS fleet tracking has to offer
If you’re ready to lower your operational costs, we’ll send you GPS tracking hardware for each of your vehicles for free to get started. After your 14-day free trial, you’ll be paying some of the lowest rates in the world for access to state of the art tracking technology. You’ll feel the Force difference right away.