Oversight of your fleet is critical for giving you peace-of-mind and improving the operational efficiency of your drivers and vehicles. In this blog, we explain how Fleet Tracking works and what to consider when choosing a GPS tracking solution for your business.
What is Fleet Tracking?
Fleet Tracking is a system that utilizes GPS tracking technology to keep tabs on the location and activity of a business's fleet of vehicles such as vans, trucks, trailers, and/or cars, etc.
It is sometimes referred to by different names, such as AVL (automatic vehicle location), Fleet Monitoring, and Live Vehicle Tracking. Fleet Tracking is done through devices with GPS-enabled technology.
Terms to know:
GPS: Global Positioning System
GNSS: Global Navigation Satellite System
OBD: On-board Diagnostics
What is the purpose of fleet tracking?
The purpose of Fleet Tracking is to help companies understand where each of their vehicles and/or drivers is at any given time.
The 3 main reasons for this are:
1. Tracking vehicles and quickly retrieving them in the event of a theft
2. Oversight of drivers and vehicles while out on the road
3. Giving accurate locations of goods and ETA’s to customers awaiting drivers
There are other reasons why you might implement Fleet Tracking in your business, but these are usually the main ones. We'll look at some other reasons you might consider it later.
How do fleet trackers work?
It’s been around for quite a while, but GPS technology is still quite remarkable in how it works. It relies on something called the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) network. The GNSS is a network of satellites that emits microwave signals which are sent through to a variety of GPS tracking units. At one point in time, these devices were clunky-looking gadgets and were built-in to the vehicle.
However, as technology has advanced, GPS has become more accessible and was widely embraced within other devices too.
Today, nearly all of us use the GPS functionality in our smartphones. Everything from Google Maps and Social Networking Apps to Fitness Trackers on our phones utilize the in-built GPS.
Fleet Trackers also works by utilizing GPS technology on smartphones. In this case, the driver simply carries the GPS device with them, and it pings the GNSS network as they travel, constantly communicating the geographical location.
In the case of fleets, this information is returned to a source such as a business owner's laptop, a transport manager's computer, or even to a screen on the logistics or sales team floor in an office. This helps them to keep tabs on vehicles and drivers, manage their business, and answer customer queries in an instant.
GPS vehicle trackers work by sending signals between satellites, GPS enabled devices, and dedicated. This is then displayed on a computer screen over an internet connection
Mobile App GPS Trackers vs. GPS Tracking Devices
When it comes to choosing a GPS Fleet Tracking Solution, you have 2 options to choose from;
1. Dedicated GPS Tracking Devices
2. Mobile App GPS Trackers
Which option you go for, really depends on your individual needs.
So, let’s take a look at the 2 options.
Mobile App GPS Trackers
Go back just 15 years, and you might just remember those earlier days of using Google Maps on your smartphone. It usually got you there, but it could be laggy and sometimes took you on a route that might not necessarily be the best one.
Fast forward to today, however, and it’s fair to say that it is a near-flawless piece of technology (I certainly feel confident enough in it that I put in locations hours away and trust it to navigate me straight there).
While Google has worked to bring the App to where it is today, it doesn’t entirely explain the marked improvement in its capability.
GPS chips have rapidly improved over recent years, and today's SmartPhones have an accuracy range of anywhere from 30 centimeters to 5 meters.
Coupled with improvements to the arrival of 4G and 5G technology standard for broadband cellular networks, there is now a way to communicate location data even quicker and more reliably.
With these advancements, many fleet tracking solutions utilizes this existing GPS technology that every company has. After all, if each of your drivers already has a smartphone, why would you invest in standalone tracking devices?
At SmartRoutes, we utilize this technology, and our Live Vehicle Tracking feature is incorporated into our SmartRoutes Mobile Driver Apps. By building this into the app itself, it means that you can see where any of your fleet or drivers are located at any given moment.
GPS Tracking Devices
It might seem like tracking devices are becoming obsolete with the advancement of smartphone GPS technology, but they still have their role to play in fleet management. As good as smartphone technology is, dedicated tracking devices can still provide far more data to fleet operators.
GPS Tracking units work by plugging into a vehicle's OBD port. Similar to smartphones, these devices use GPS chips to identify the location of the vehicle to a satellite at any given time. The main difference is, that these standalone devices use the nearly always very best chips to improve accuracy, and also include vehicle diagnostics and driver behavior alerts (hard-braking, rapid acceleration, etc.)
The other main benefits of these devices are their resistance to tampering from drivers, and a constant power source from the vehicle itself. With smartphone GPS, it can be easy for drivers to switch off the GPS function in their settings and go rogue. With installed tracking devices, however, it can be more difficult for drivers to tamper with.
SmartRoutes Mobile App sends live GPS locations from the Driver Mobile App to the Desktop-based Live Tracking Dashboard
Benefits of fleet tracking
By using GPS trackers for your fleet, you can gain a full insight into the day-to-day operations of your vehicles and drivers. The ability to see where your drivers are at any given moment can be beneficial and provide peace-of-mind for you and your customers.
Not alone can fleet tracking be useful for transport managers, route planners, and business owners, but Customer Service and Sales Teams can also use it to quickly respond to customer's queries about arrival times.
Most modern fleet trackers will also allow you to extract monthly reports on driver and route statistics. It can often identify hidden costs and inefficiencies with vehicles & routes taken. These can be useful when doing business analysis and identifying areas where drivers could benefit from extra training.
Finally, many insurance companies will offer incentives and discounts to fleets that are equipped with GPS Trackers. It makes sense that having GPS Trackers installed in vehicles can result in quicker retrieval in the event of theft, but it also encourages drivers to be more responsible when they know they are being monitored.
SmartRoutes live vehicle tracking
SmartRoutes Live Vehicle tracking functionality can also help with showing you live delivery statuses as well as and give a better overview of day-to-day business on the road.
What is the best fleet tracking solution?
As our blog focuses largely on Delivery Route Planning, you are likely considering a live fleet tracking solution for your courier, logistics, or in-house delivery operations. The needs of Delivery Fleet operators can be a little different from other use cases, so let’s take a look at some of the things to consider when looking at fleet tracking.
Managing a delivery fleet can be a challenge whether you're an experienced logistics professional or a small business owner. Constantly changing routes, driver-vehicle rotation, and hired vehicles can make it difficult to track vehicles and know which drivers are where throughout the working day.
For this reason, you may want to side with Smartphone App Tracker rather than built-in devices. Apps are great for delivery drivers as they track the individual drivers rather than the vehicles. If your drivers regularly switch vehicles or you hire in vehicles for extra capacity, managing and switching tracking devices between vehicles can become a pain.
With an App-based tracker such as SmartRoutes, you can quickly switch drivers between vehicles from your Desktop-based Route Planning Dashboard.
Ease of Setup
The solution that works is often the most simple one. Like we just mentioned, switching trackers between vehicles and removing them from hired vehicles can become a pain when it comes to delivery fleets.
The beauty of mobile apps is that they can be downloaded in a matter of seconds with minimal fuss and cost. In the delivery industry, this can be a big bonus as relief and part-time drivers, and third-party contractors can be set up with GPS tracking in a matter of seconds.
This means no messing with devices and OBD ports, and the driver can switch on the app again at any stage in the future when they work for you and when you require tracking.
It’s worth considering what your GPS trackers can do for your delivery business beyond telling you the location of your vehicles.
Reporting on time spent at each stop, for example, can help you to identify how long it takes drivers to deliver parcels on average. This can help with resource planning for busy periods in your calendar.
Similarly, utilizing the GPS data for providing customers with accurate ETA’s is another delivery-specific function that can be useful. At SmartRoutes, we provide SMS and Email notification functionality, which can update customers on when goods are to be delivered.
This can also be valuable to support and admin staff as they handle queries about deliveries. Your team simply needs to look at the Live Route Dashboard in their web browser to quickly see where a driver is, and what the current ETA is.
SmartRoute Live Routes Dashboard can help you provide customers with accurate ETA’s based on a driver's live GPS
The challenge of fleet tracking
Fleet Trackers aren’t without their problems, whether you opt for GPS mobile apps or standalone tracking devices.
While it can be of great benefit to track your fleet for the reasons we’ve outlined, it can also be an annoyance to drivers. There is a ‘Big Brother’ feel to having your every move tracked throughout your working day and can lead to drivers becoming less receptive to tracking.
If drivers see the trackers as being a spying eye in their vehicle, there can be a temptation to tamper with devices and switch off GPS signals on their phones.
Striking the balance between the practicality of fleet tracking and keeping drivers happy is key to making it a success. Being transparent with drivers about the need for vehicle tracking can be beneficial. Letting drivers know that their every move isn't being watched, but rather that the trackers are for safety and operational efficiency can help alleviate the concerns of drivers.