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Real Time Fleet Tracking

Fleet tracking has revolutionized transportation. Whether as a standalone or coupled with an EOBR (Electronic On Board Recorder) plugged into a vehicle's diagnostic port, even a simple low-cost GPS device tethered to the right application or backend solution can provide a host of metrics that fleet managers can leverage to put individual vehicles or their entire fleets to more efficient and intelligent use.

As GPS has evolved, the field of telematics has evolved with it, offering more sophisticated and powerful options, and the ability to provide real time tracking. Below, we answer some of the most frequently-asked questions about real time GPS tracking.

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How Does Real Time GPS Tracking Work?

Tracking in real time is enabled by brief signals, or "pings," sent by the GPS unit to the satellite that's tracking it. Since most GPS units also include navigation functionality, the satellite is also pinging the GPS unit back with information like street names, turn-by-turn directions, and points of interest.

Telematics adds one more layer to the process, since the satellite connection is likewise pinging the fleet manager's tracking software, sending information packets on speed, location, and the other metrics needed by the fleet manager. When those pings are sufficiently close together, the vehicle's status can be tracked in real time.

Is It Truly "Real Time"?

The answer is, "almost." Several companies that offer telematics solutions will typically provide tiers of service that ping the vehicle's onboard GPS at one, two, or five second intervals. A fleet manager looking at the dashboard of his fleet management software isn't getting a view of his fleet that would be as accurate as watching a live video feed, for instance, but it's quite close; even pinging at five-second intervals is highly reliable in terms of seeing where each asset in the fleet is operating at any given time.

Depending on your needs, you can monitor your fleet in real time, receive alerts for critical events (arrivals, deliveries, itinerary changes, and the like), or play back data for individual vehicles or the fleet as a whole.

What Else Does the Software Do?

Services and options (and their costs) vary widely based on the hardware used and the service purchased, but the most common options are:

  • Mapping: Typically through Google Maps, OpenMaps, or a proprietary system, GPS mapping capabilities allow for navigation and tracking
  • Geofences: Clearly define the operating areas for your drivers, and prevent unauthorized usage
  • Breadcrumb Trails: Playback of a vehicle's travels
  • Fuel Management: Manage fuel consumption, and save money on refueling with overlays of gas prices
  • Dispatch: Vehicle routing can be set to maximize time or avoid traffic
  • Logging: Hours of Service, critical events, inspection sheets, and other compliance-related data can be logged automatically
  • Alerts: Alerts can be set for fuel levels, engine hours, maintenance, stops, idling, vehicle access, and a number of other metrics

How Might My Business Benefit?

Benefits of real time tracking
1.Monitor excessive idle times
2.Eliminate unauthorized use
3.Make your dispatch and routing more effective
4.Slash fuel costs
5.Increase productivity
6.Boost regulatory compliance
7.Keep drivers safe with in-cab and remote speeding and unsafe driving alerts
8.Track arrivals, departures and deliveries
9.Keep accurate records
10.Reduce theft and improve asset recovery
11.Maintain employee integrity

What Companies Offer Real Time Fleet Tracking?

Some companies, like Wheels, existed long before real-time fleet tracking was a gleam in a developer's eye, but have managed to keep pace with the times. Other companies, like Garmin, have become synonymous with GPS for consumer use but also have a robust presence in fleet management. Still others, like Live View GPS, offer a vast range of GPS products and services. The largest segment, however, belongs to companies like Element Fleet Management, MiX, Trailer Tracking, VehiclePath, Omnitracs, US Fleet Tracking, Merchants, GE Capital, Telenav, XRS, and Track Your Truck, which are fully dedicated to commercial fleet and asset tracking.

What Does This Look Like In Practice: A Case Study

One case study that illustrates how real time fleet tracking matters not only to organizations, but also to those they serve comes from Element Fleet Management's work with Canadian charity Second Harvest. What started as a ragtag collection of volunteers' personal vehicles has evolved in the last thirty years to a major nonprofit that employs its own fleet of refrigerated trucks. Because those trucks are responsible for the fast, efficient collection and redistribution of perishable food from local restaurants and grocers, time is of the essence.

GPS devices and tracking solutions provided by Element reduced the fleet's idle time by an average of 30% per vehicle per day, while also increasing each truck's speed, ground covered, and number of stops daily. Not only did the charity expand its outreach, it was able to do it at a significantly decreased operating cost. Better still, the organization now had even more hard data to show its donors and stakeholders exactly how their assets were being put to use.

Conclusion: Is It Worthwhile?

We have worked with telematics solutions for quite some time, and having seen the capabilities of many manufacturers' solutions, we can say with confidence that most businesses that operate multiple vehicles -- even if your "fleet" currently consists of two vehicles -- can benefit by utilizing telematics. With that being said, there is a reason that most software offers options to customize their GPS units' performance and the metrics they gather.

There is no template for fleet operation, which is why there is no one-size-fits-all option when it comes to what will be best for your business. While your fleet might, for instance, benefit from E-logs, EOBR and HOS recording, idle time alerts, or asset tracking, not every fleet finds that the precision offered by real-time fleet tracking is the most critical part of their telematics workflow. A bit of research goes a long way, and the resources you'll find here should go some way toward pointing you in the right direction.