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Vehicle Tracking Systems for Businesses Explained

 

Vehicles tracking systems have been used for decades, but it is only now that we are seeing them used on a large scale across many industries. Previously this technology was used in military arenas and was costly to implement. Nowadays the technology has become widespread and is cheap and reliable.
 
But what do vehicle tracking systems do? And why would they be a worthwhile investment for businesses?
 
In this we start with the basics, explaining what vehicle trackers do, how they work and why as a business owner you should consider them.

 

What is Vehicle Tracking?

 

Vehicle tracking allows you to monitoring your fleet of vehicles remotely. This can be from your main office (or even your own vehicle). There are many different types of vehicle trackers, and as you may well have guessed, plenty of software.
 
A vehicle tracking system combines the information from the monitoring tool (often a GPS vehicle tracker), relays it back to the central point (Office computer) and displays locations on software (normally a map screen with real time locations flagged).
 
It is at this point that I am going to start adding a couple of complexities so be warned, it is not all straightforward.

 

There are 2 types of vehicle tracking. “Active” vehicle tracking and “Passive” vehicle tracking.

 

Active vehicle tracking follows the vehicle continually. It provides updates and relays the vehicles current location back to the main software.
 
Passive vehicle tracking, monitors vehicles in a different way. Instead of consistently logging information a passive tracker may take readings at intervals. It notes location, direction of travel and speed. It may also monitor a vehicles information without making it readily available or relaying it back to software. The data can then be searched at a later point in most instances.

 

How do vehicle tracking systems work?

 

Most vehicle tracking systems work using a Global Positioning System or GPS. This works in much the same way as when you turn on location settings on your iPhone and it pinpoints where you are. The GPS vehicle tracking device will send out a signal to a satellite. which will then isolate where that vehicle is and relay back the information to the software.
 
For the purpose of this article that is as in depth as I am going to get. the actual engineering and process of a GPS system is technical, and some aspects are complex. Thus I am going to keep it simple and tell you the basic information you need to know.

What can you use vehicle tracking systems for?

 

Now we get to the fun stuff. The practical applications of a vehicle tracking system and how they can be a great investment for your company. Hopefully this list will encourage you to consider vehicle tracking system.

 

 

1. Knowing Where Your Vehicles Are

 

This is the simplest one, and one you had probably seen coming a mile off. The reason you might want to see where your vehicles are beyond checking up on your drivers are numerous. A good friend of mine is a transport manager for a large haulage firm with numerous lorries on the road every day. He explained that the vehicle trackers allow him to schedule work as it comes in. Instead of waiting for a vehicle to return back to the yard (and cost diesel as well) he can book in the lorries next job in transit. A lot of transport managers would love to have a lorry booked in advance for the week, but in the real world, jobs often come in on a rolling basis. Vehicle tracking systems allow transport managers to book in a drivers next job without them having to return to the yard. It also means that clients know exactly when they can expect the delivery to be made.

 

2. Retrieving Stolen Assets

 

Most vehicles now have some form of GPS vehicle tracking installed by the manufacturer. These trackers allow vehicle owners to have the confidence that providing the tracker remains intact that they will see their prized possession again. Police routinely recover stolen vehicles using this technology. But, it goes beyond the vehicles. In haulage fleets some of the trailers have tracking devices, some cargo even has tracking devices fitted. Ever noticed a lorry at the hard shoulder with the curtains of the trailer drawn back to show an empty trailer? This is to prevent curtain slashing, where by opportunist robbers will cut open the curtains. Cargo theft is big criminal business. Vehicle tracking systems on high value cargos are used by law enforcement all the time to recover goods.

 

3. Insurance

 

This is a twofold option. First insurers themselves retrieve as much data about vehicles and their usage as possible. This is then collated to form big insurance data. Entire systems format this information to generate risk assessments. The information is studied and analysed by actuaries who in turn form educated opinions of risk. Insurers then use that to price policies. It is not just crash information that is significant. Insurers want to know their safest demographic as well as their riskiest, this allows them to spread the risk over everyone’s premiums. It’s one of the reasons car/vehicle insurance doesn’t really tend to get that much cheaper over time.

 

Some high value cargo will not even be handed to a haulage company unless they have the correct insurance policy. Some cargo’s are so unique that insurers will insist on trackers. This is especially true of specialist underwritten policies from Lloyds of London and is often applied to sensitive cargo such as weapons/weapons systems.

 

4. Fuel Monitoring

 

Ask any transport manager, one of the things they are always griping about is having to continually fuel their lorries. Add drivers that syphon off diesel into the mix and it is no wonder that fuel is a big bugbear for hauliers the world over. Tracking a vehicle allows a transport manager to calculate the distance and speed the lorry has travelled. It will also be effective in giving an accurate MPG figure. It immediately alerts a transport manager to an issue with the vehicle or driver if they are getting 5mpg instead of the 10mpg they were expecting.

 

5. Fleet Monitoring

 

This is true of all types of fleet. From the mighty hauliers and their extensive fleets to small local taxi firms. Rental firms like Hertz even use fleet tracking systems to ensure they know where their rentals are at all times.
 
This extends to more specialist responses and uses for vehicle tracking system. Refrigerated units sometimes flag a vehicle if the temperatures are outside of the set parameters. Some trailers have trackers that give visual feedback as well as a location. Clients can actually watch their cargo in transit in some cases.

 

FEATURES OF A VEHICLE GPS TRACKING SYSTEM

 

To conclude our miniseries of fleet tracking system articles we thought we should round off the lot with a look at 20 vehicle tracking features and what they can do. Some features are supplier dependent, but we thought that having an idea of what the systems can do will give you a better understanding of what you want them to do for your fleet.

Fuel Card Integration. You can integrate your fuel card with your fleet tracking system to combine rates and mileage. This will help you actively monitor expenditure to the nearest pound in real time.

 

Satnav Integration. Got a GARMIN satnav? You can collaborate your route planners with some fleet management systems allowing you to become the ultimate puppet master and adjust driver routes in real time.

 

Mobile Application. Most fleet management systems also come with a mobile app, allowing your transport manager to either work from the road themselves or work remotely, say from a poolside in Spain?

 

Geofencing. Is your truck not emissions compliant for London? No problem, most fleet systems allow you to limit where a vehicle can and can’t go. Giving you the peace of mind that the route is not going to cause you a whole lot of bureaucratic headaches.

 

Driver ID. Each driver will be allocated an ID with most systems that allow you to track the driver data across multiple vehicles if need be. We all know in the ideal world that a driver stays with one tractor but in the real world we know this rarely happens all of the time.

 

Alerts. Alerts will flag up like message boxes, telling you important information as it happens. An example of tis would be that Driver 2 has made his delivery and is now onto the next job. Helpful alerts make sure you’re not confused about which job a driver is on.

 

Anti-Theft. Simple really, if your vehicle goes missing then simply use the tracker to locate it. If you have a fleet of new Volvo lorries this small outlay in cost is going to be a drop in the ocean compared to the on road value if it is stolen.

 

Goods in transit anti-theft. Works the same as the tractor but for the trailer. A vehicle tracking device can be placed on both and then paired up. There have been instances when a fleet manager has called his driver during a rest break and informed them they have been robbed because the trailer is on the move without the tractor unit.

 

Tachographs. All fleet management systems have the functionality to encompass tachographs as well. Meaning that you can always be comforted to know that you’re compliant. What’s more is it is in real time. So if ever the traffic commissioner pays a visit you can show him on the screen as it is all happening.

 

Telematics data. Like the black boxes that insurers put in your car, fleet trackers can tell you all manner of information including braking reaction times, speeds and acceleration data. Giving you an accurate picture of how your drivers re treating their vehicles beyond the yard gates. Telematics will also flag dangerous or illegal driving through the alerts system which will mean you can tackle it before it becomes a legal nightmare.

 

Saved routes. Does a certain van always do the same route on a Monday? Simply program routes in and re-use them as needed. Or if they are at regular intervals then tell your system that and lo and behold the next time it is all done for you.

 

Performance reports. This is a great way of checking fuel consumption and MPG; performance reports give you all you need to know about how efficiently each vehicle is working.

 

Maintenance reports. Much like performance reports but focusing more on mechanical and technical issues that will flag up in real time and allow you to assess the vehicle when it returns to the yard.

 

GPS tracking. The feature you would expect all fleet tracking systems to have. This tells you where each vehicle is in the world, in real time.

 

Route Planning. We mentioned being a puppet master with the Satnavs, but you need the facility to route plan inbuilt in your fleet management software to do this.

 

Traffic alerts. Get up to date traffic information as it develops, including incidents, road works and even slow moving or stand still traffic. When route planning having a system that can plan around delays is phenomenal.

 

Fleet Management Software. This is the hub, where you access all of the information, both real time, future routes and historical information held for compliance or audit purposes.

 

Driver leader boards. Some providers encourage a bit of healthy competition to get the best from them. Finally Andrew can celebrate that he is the most economical driver for the week just gone.

 

Fuel savings. Some software goes as far as to tell you where driving improvements can be made to maximise that all important MPG. It uses driver telematics and fuel efficiency figures to create an overall profile.

 

Accounting suites. Some fleet tracking systems combine everything and do all of your accounting for you. We can hear the fear of transport managers everywhere wondering how soon it is before the job role is obsolete, but for now you will still need to help the system along considerably so don’t get overly worried just yet.

 

There are many other nifty and unique features available from a range of providers. Some of them make your job significantly easier, while others give you that little extra to think about. When considering a package, it is important that you prioritise features as being in 3 categories. The ones you need for your business, the ones beyond that category that you would like but don’t need. Finally highlight the ones of little to no value. Being able to have a clear picture of what you want will mean that you also have a package built up in your mind. The provider that then provides that bespoke package at the cheapest rate is likely to be your winner.

 

Some features like the driver leader boards may seem like a novelty, but they actually do have a morale boosting effect on the work force as well as a more conservative fuel consumption which results in a more productive and efficient team. So carefully consider each feature, as it is likely to have far reaching implications beyond an initial opinion.

 

We hope you have found our miniseries helpful in selecting your next fleet tracking system. More than anything we have tried to make things straightforward and transparent to enable you to make the decision that best suits you. If you have questions, then fill in our quote form and you will be contacte by leading providers who can answer all your queries!

 

Also, don’t forget to check out our 10 recommended vehicle tracking suppliers

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