Whether you run a construction business, have your own small logistics firm, or employ drivers to deliver your fresh produce, if you own a fleet it is important to know where your vehicles are – and if they will make it to their destinations on time.
GPS vehicle tracking systems use GPS hardware installed in your vehicles, in conjunction with software and a fleet management platform, to track locations, monitor vehicles and driver behaviour, generate vehicle diagnostics and collect real-time vehicle data which is used to generate reports.
If you are looking to grow your business and improve your bottom line, a vehicle tracking system is a must. By helping you manage a growing fleet of vehicles, these systems streamline your fleet management processes and help your business save money which can be used for re-investment and growth. They also deliver a whole range of additional benefits which we are going to cover in this short guide on what to look for in a vehicle tracking system.
Before looking into vehicle tracking systems any further, you need to be able to identify which system is going to be right for your business. To do this, you need to account for multiple variables.
The first thing you should think about is the size of your fleet. If you only have a very small fleet or a couple of drivers, you may not need 24/7 live tracking or a vehicle tracking system that also monitors the finer elements of driver performance.
By choosing a system that only includes what you need, you can avoid paying for extra benefits and features which will cost you money and deliver little-to-no benefit. The bigger your fleet and the more drivers you have, the more it stands to benefit from a comprehensive tracking solution that covers everything.
A vehicle tracking system doesn’t need to eat up all your capital or put cash flow at risk. Between highly technical hardwired systems, plug-in, active, passive, and satellite devices, there is a vehicle tracking system configuration to fit every budget going.
That being said, it is still important to know how much capital your business can afford to put forward so that you can be matched with the right system which gives your business the most for its money.
Some companies have more of a need for real-time tracking than others, and it is important to assess whether this is a feature that you will benefit from. While the same can be said for any vehicle tracking system feature, real-time features can be quite expensive because more advanced infrastructure is used to make them work.
If your fleet travels long distances, in congested areas, or delivers directly to customers then you may need real-time tracking more than a company where fleet vehicles are only used by drivers to get from A to B, for example.
Again, some companies have more of a need for this than other. Tracking driver behaviour requires a hardwired vehicle tracking system that collects diagnostics and data from vehicle components such as the engine. Many of these vehicle tracking systems can be used to monitor drivers without them necessarily knowing that you are watching… however, they are likely to figure this out over time.
Driver monitoring, even where drivers are aware that the systems are watching them, can be very beneficial. They allow you to identify and correct bad driving behaviours and habits, improve fuel efficiency, and reduce insurance premiums. We will discuss this further later.
Depending on which industry your business operates in, it may have to comply with stringent regulation or legislation through the logging of data and other fleet-related information. If yours does, this would necessitate the use of a vehicle tracking system with an integrated electronic logging device and extra security features such as driver ID ignition.
One thing that you’ll come to find when you start comparing vehicle tracking systems is just how many different providers that there are.
Over the years, lower costs and fewer barriers to entry have brought more vehicle tracking system providers to the market. Whilst this sounds good, it can be bittersweet because it means business owners like you have to spend more time comparing different systems and sifting unsuitable ones out.
One way you can tell the difference between a “good” system and a perhaps not-so-good vehicle tracking system is by looking at what features are included.
If you aren’t using any form of fleet or vehicle tracking system, you may be surprised to learn about the savings that the right system can deliver.
Vehicle tracking systems with driver management functionality can help you eliminate payroll waste by providing accurate hours to the minute, stamp out inefficient driver habits by monitoring their behaviour, and save money on fuel. Mapping systems and alerts are also great features to see because these tie into driver management and help them get to where they are going on time via the fastest route with minimal disruptions.
Not all fleets have the same vehicle tracking needs; your company can have wildly different needs to another. Therefore, vehicle tracking systems that are flexible, feature multiple applications, and are highly customisable are essential for getting the most value out of them.
However, there are some vehicle tracking system providers that cannot provide high degrees of flexibility because they license software from third-party providers and developers. If you know that your company has very specific tracking needs that can only be achieved through highly-customised tools, features, and reporting, make sure that whichever provider you go with can facilitate this – vehicle tracking system providers that develop their own software often can.
The last thing you want to do is invest in a vehicle tracking system, only to find that it clunky and confusing to use – a system that collects lots of data and monitors drivers is of little use to you if you can’t access and interpret this information.
Make sure that the systems you are considering come with some form of tool – often called “fleet management software” – that you can access at any time and from anywhere. “Bonus points” should be awarded to any provider whose system includes mobile access through a mobile-friendly website or app.
We’ve said a lot about what a vehicle tracking system is and what makes a good one, but do you really need one? Our answer to this is yes – all fleet operators should use vehicle tracking systems to make the most of the benefits that they offer, such as:
When drivers know that their driving is being monitored and that they may be scrutinized for poor performance, they are far more likely drive in a much more careful and controlled manager. This is something that you want from your drivers, especially if they are hauling large trucks across great distances.
Drivers that behave more safely on the road and take care when driving are far less likely to be involved in an accident. Safer driving also reduces maintenance costs, helps your vehicles last longer, and reduces your fuel spend (more on this shortly.)
Insurers love it when vehicles are fitted with vehicle tracking systems. This is because they know that these systems promote safer driving, help stolen vehicles get recovered (or prevent theft from happening in the first place where driver ID systems are deployed), and collect vehicle diagnostics which can be used to diagnose and remedy maintenance issues before they manifest into potentially accident-causing faults, amongst other things.
In some cases, the initial cost of acquiring and implementing vehicle tracking systems in your fleet can be offset by the annual saving on insurance – this is a win-win situation!
How vehicle tracking systems help your vehicles last longer is two-fold.
Firstly, problem drivers and habits soon become a thing of the past which mitigates the chances of an accident occurring.
Secondly, responsible driving places less of a strain on the vehicle. This means that the vehicle spends more time on the road earning your business money and less time in the garage undergoing maintenance for problems like worn out gearboxes and tyres.
Fuel is often the biggest expense for any fleet, so it makes sense for fleet operators to do all they can to boost fuel efficiency and get more MPG out of their vehicles.
Vehicles that are driven responsibly – for example where drivers use the right gears, avoid speeding, and don’t accelerate harshly – waste less fuel. Over time, this can amount to thousands of pounds in raw cost savings. When vehicle tracking systems are used in conjunction with other fuel-related products such as fuel cards, even more money can be saved through competitive pricing and exclusive provider deals.
For larger fleets in particular, administrative workloads and related expenses can be substantial. Vehicle tracking systems can, in many cases, help ease the record keeping burden and even automate large chunks of it. All data that is relevant to your fleet is recorded and stored in the cloud for you to access, organise, and use as and when you need it in the way that you want to.
Verifying hours worked, checking vehicle mileage, scheduling maintenance, tracking service locations, and more can all be done using vehicle tracking systems. By plugging in other integrations such as fuel cards, you can even eliminate headache-inducing work such as expenses processing and fuel expenditure calculations.
As we mentioned earlier, the market for vehicle tracking systems has opened up considerably to a range of new suppliers. This has happened because the costs of hardware and communication technology have fallen. Although this is good in some respects because it gives you plenty of choice, it also means that you must put more time and effort into comparing the different suppliers and systems available.
Finding the right vehicle tracking system needn’t be hard work, though!
Using iCompario, you can search for and compare the best vehicle tracking systems and providers with an easy-to-use online interface.
iCompario is operated by fleet industry experts and offers a free comparison service for all businesses across the telematics industry and more. Many of their experts have over three decades’ worth of experience in the fleet industry and work very hard to unlock cost savings for their customers by matching them with the right products for their business.