How to Choose a Fleet Tracking System for Your Business

Despite what you may have been led to believe, telematics and fleet tracking systems are not one-size-fits-all solutions. To ensure your business receives the maximum benefit from a fleet tracking system, it is vital that you choose one that is right for your fleet.

At an enterprise level, there are many factors that you must account for, and which of these factors are most important to your business largely depends on the size of your fleet, how your drivers use your vehicles, and what they are used for.

To help you find the most useful and beneficial solution for your own fleet, we have put together this guide—use it for inspiration and to help your decision making.

What is a Fleet Tracking System?

A fleet tracking system is a combination of hardware and software that uses GPS to monitor the activity of your fleet vehicles—a fleet tracking system uses telematics technology to collect data from them. This information is typically collected in real-time (actively) so that it can be immediately used by fleet managers for strategic decision making.

For a fleet tracking system to deliver the maximum benefit, you need to use fleet tracking software that interprets the data collected from your fleet via hardware devices. This data is cleverly converted into easy-to-use and easy-to-understand reports and alerts that cover everything from bad driving habits to fuel efficiency and beyond.

Fleet tracking systems deliver many benefits and advantages to your fleet:

  • More efficient management

  • Optimised route planning and management

  • Reduced costs (fuel, insurance premiums, vehicle maintenance)

  • Improved communication with drivers and customers/clients

  • A culture of safer driving amongst your drivers

Active vs Passive Systems

There are two distinct types of fleet tracking system: real-time (“active” or “live”) and passive. Learning the differences between the two and knowing their individual advantages and disadvantages allows you to make an informed decision about the system that is right for your fleet.

Active Fleet Tracking Systems

An active (“real-time” or “live”) fleet tracking system records, stores, and transmits information and data about your vehicles when it is generated. True to its name, these systems constantly update in real-time with new vehicle data by using an active hardware tracker. This tracker transmits everything that has been recorded to a remote software panel via the cloud which can be accessed 24/7 from anywhere by yourself and/or fleet managers. This enables point-in-time fleet monitoring, often accurate to the minute, of everything from a vehicle’s location to out-of-the-ordinary events such as sudden harsh braking.

When used effectively, an active fleet tracking system will deliver high cost savings, real-time realistic solutions, and the ability to respond immediately to things as they happen—perfect for dynamic operational planning.

Other benefits of an active system include:

  • Live route monitoring which avoids unforeseen traffic, congestion, and delays

  • Real-time data that shows where your vehicles are at any point in time

  • Monitoring of driver behaviour (speed limits, braking, engine idling)

  • Real-time view of fuel efficiency and current fuel usage

The main downsides of using a live fleet tracking system include:

  • They are often more expensive than passive systems

  • You may need to pay a licensing fee for data transmission

  • Extra compliance may be necessary due to data privacy and/or vehicle tracking laws

Passive Fleet Tracking Systems

Passive fleet tracking systems, as you may have guessed, store the data that they collect rather than transmit it in real-time. Data is stored in a device known as a “receiver” and this data can only be downloaded once a vehicle returns from its journey. This is because there is no transmitter fitted to the vehicle that is capable of sending the information in real-time via the cloud.

Although data is not transmitted immediately, passive fleet tracking systems are still capable of providing an impressive amount of information. Examples of what passive systems can collect include exact route information, journey times, speed travelled, and vehicle telematics from drivers such as gear changes, harsh braking, and any time the engine spent idling.

Whilst these devices are often referred to as trackers, a more accurate term would be “data loggers” because that is what they do—they log, they don’t track.

Some benefits of these passive fleet tracking systems are:

  • They are cheaper than live, real-time fleet tracking systems

  • There are no subscription or license fees to pay monthly or annually

  • They are capable of accurately recording data and information

There are some notable drawbacks, however:

  • Passive systems do not provide any instant feedback or data

  • There is no real-time monitoring of vehicles or drivers

  • They cannot be used to recover stolen vehicles or locate lost or missing drivers

Due to these drawbacks, passive systems are more commonly used by businesses that are more interested in tracking information such as mileage and have little-to-no use for live data.

Which Are ‘Better’?

Each type of system has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Whilst we are not in a position to say what is objectively “better”–this is entirely down to you and the specific needs of your business and its fleet—live fleet tracking systems have several obvious advantages over their passive counterparts. It all comes down to what you are looking for from a tracking system and what information you would like to monitor.

How to Choose the Right Fleet Tracking System

As you now know, fleet tracking systems come in all shapes and sizes, and not all of them are built to support enterprise-level operation.

Before you begin to narrow down your options and look at selecting a fleet management system, consider how a fleet management system can support your business and where using it could promote growth and benefit your bottom line.

Here are a few things that you should think about.

What Are Your Fleet’s Needs?

Only you can answer this question. A good way to approach it is to outline your business objectives and define what you need from fleet tracking software. Is cutting operational costs important? Or, is improving the safety of your drivers a more pressing concern? Are you also looking to improve your team’s productivity?

Assessing these areas is a great way to kick-off the process. By asking yourself all the right questions and covering all bases, you will end up choosing a fleet tracking system that fits your fleet whilst also being flexible enough to grow with your business—both planned and unplanned growth—and support it on its journey.

If you can, involve other key people like stakeholders and any fleet managers so that they can provide their input.

What Features Would Benefit Your Business the Most?

Once you have an idea of your fleet’s (and your businesses) needs, you can start to consider the features that would benefit it the most and contribute to your fleet achieving its objectives. Do you need a comprehensive solution that covers everything? Or, are you only looking to use certain features? Knowing what you need can help you reduce the cost of a fleet tracking system because you will only be paying for what you use.

Try to understand the technology behind your fleet tracking system, too. It tends to scale after implementation and knowing the technology can aid strategic decision making. If you’re a smaller commercial enterprise, for example, and you are undergoing rapid growth, knowing about business intelligence and big data and knowing what relevant tools are available as part of your fleet tracking system can help you plan smarter and make better use of your data.

The right fleet tracking system provider will help you figure out your businesses and your fleet’s current and future technological needs and then provide a solution that will not only match your current needs but that is designed to scale according to your vision.

What a Reliable Provider Looks Like

On the subject of fleet tracking system providers, learn to spot the hallmarks of a really good one so that you can avoid the bad apples. A great provider will not only help you select from their solutions but also provide ongoing support and consistent updates that bring new features, security patches, and more that build on the existing product with the same level of integrity that it provides with its newer ones.

Ideally, you want to go with a provider that has a solid core system in place with robust tech infrastructure that is capable of supporting the volumes of data that an enterprise operation generates. This ensures that the data and information that is collected is accessible and that it is safe even as you grow or if there is a system outage or breach. If you have any reason to believe that a potential provider is not prioritising the resilience of their products and systems, look for one that does.

What a Secure Fleet Tracking System Looks Like

Cybersecurity is becoming increasingly relevant and is something that all businesses should be taking seriously. When looking at procuring a fleet tracking system, look for a device that includes robust security features and other established security methods.

These may include strong encryption standards, authentication features, and inherent compliance with legal standards. This will safeguard against your businesses data from falling into the wrong hands. Don’t be afraid of grilling providers on security, either—ask them about their privacy policies, how they handle your data, and any contingency plans they have to protect against breaches.

Ease-of-use and How Hard an Application Is to Use

The more complex a fleet tracking system is, the longer it takes for you to get to grips with it, to make use of the data it is collecting, and to use it to accomplish tasks and meet your fleet’s objectives with it.

When purchasing a fleet tracking system, find one that is easy for you (and any others that will be using it) to work with and use. A system that is easy for you to use will help to optimise your work life and those of your fleet managers, stakeholders, and other colleagues that will be using it as a part of their day-to-day. After all, you want to encourage these people to use the system—you don’t want employees to dread and avoid using it to its full potential.