Companies of all sizes use GPS vehicle trackers to make their fleets more productive. These improvements yield significant savings; firms who install GPS trackers for fleet management can see their annual fuel costs fall by up to 25%.
Benefits of using fleet telematics more broadly include vehicle security and improved customer service. Stolen vehicles are more likely to be returned if they have GPS trackers installed. Delivery services can also be far more transparent with their customers if they can track their drivers' delivery routes.
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How Does Fleet Management Differ from GPS Tracking?
Different terms related to fleet management are frequently confused. If you're considering buying a GPS tracker for fleet management, you should be clear about the differences.
Fleet management is the broad term for the practice of managing a company’s vehicle fleet. This can comprise of different functions, including fuel management, vehicle tracking, and driver management.
Fleet tracking, or vehicle tracking, is remotely monitoring information about vehicles. This typically includes their location, speed, driver behaviour and journey history. Fleet telematics refers to technologies that can send, receive and store this information.
Modern vehicle tracking systems in the US use GPS tracking technology to monitor vehicle location. The onboard GPS tracker records relevant geodata, stores it in a local or cloud-hosted database, and sends it back to the fleet owner.
Types of GPS Tracker
Real-time vs Passive GPS Tracking
Real-time (or active) GPS trackers send updates every few seconds, providing location and telemetry data in near real time. They rely on a combination of wireless and GPS signals to stay in constant contact with fleet HQ.
Staying abreast of urgent developments can be tricky, particular for managers of larger fleets. To this end, real-time fleet tracking is essential. For instance, using real-time tracking, fleet managers can:
- Give drivers early warning (and a competitive advantage) regarding route disruptions
- Identify and address errant driver behaviour before it adversely impacts operations
- Limit vehicles to certain geographical areas (‘geofencing’) and monitor compliance
- Track stolen vehicles and help the police to recover them successfully
- Lend immediate support to drivers involved in road accidents
Passive GPS trackers record exactly the same vehicle information as real-time GPS trackers. The difference is that rather than continuously sending data to your fleet management hub, passive trackers store data locally on each vehicle.
Passive GPS trackers are often a smart choice for small fleets of less than five vehicles. They’re cheaper than real-time trackers, just as accurate, and some have the added advantage of being portable. So, if you have high vehicle downtime, you can save money by rotating passive GPS trackers between vehicles.
However, real-time GPS trackers are fast becoming the industry standard, even for small fleets. There are three huge reasons for the steady trend towards real-time tracking:
- Falling production costs are bringing real-time trackers ever-closer in price to their passive peers.
- Passive vehicle trackers offer none of the on-the-fly possibilities of real-time trackers
- You have to manually plug each passive tracker into a computer to read the data stored on it. More and more fleet owners are opting out of this time-intensive, non-scaleable process. For a slightly higher initial spend, real-time GPS tracking saves a lot of time in the long run.
Standalone GPS vs Smartphone GPS Trackers
Standalone GPS devices focus solely on location tracking and satellite navigation. On one end of the market, you’ll be familiar with consumer GPSs from Magellan, TomTom and Navigon. These suppliers, and others, also offer GPS tracking solutions for businesses on a quote-by-quote basis.
Check out our picks for the top enterprise-level fleet tracking solutions of 2018.
As smartphones disrupted markets in the mid-2000s, so did smartphone GPS apps. In a short space of time, cheap smartphone apps took market share away from standalone consumer satnavs.
Conversely, standalone GPS trackers for fleet management experienced the inverse trend, actually growing in popularity. In fact, several limitations of smartphones make them unsuitable for most businesses’ fleet tracking needs:
- A typical 8-12 hour smartphone battery life simply isn't enough for round-the-clock fleet tracking
- Smartphone GPSs can't be hardwired to a vehicle's engine. This reduces their usefulness to most fleet owners. For example, you can't track engine starts and stops or tire status in real time with a smartphone app.
- It's easier to exploit smartphone weaknesses to tamper with tracking data than it is with standalone fleet tracking solutions
While smartphone apps fall short as onboard fleet tracking solutions, they’re still useful. Top fleet tracking systems include mobile apps that let you set up key alerts and track the performance of your fleet from anywhere.
Fleet Reporting Software Types
Fleet management software can help you to run your business better. However, when it comes to feature sets, bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better.
Different suppliers’ software packages may or may not offer value for money for your business. Whether or not they do depends on what your business really needs. For more guidance on common features, read our fleet management features breakdown.
ELD Mandate Compliance
As of 18 December 2017, all commercial fleets subject to FMCSA regulation must comply with the ELD Mandate.
The ELD Mandate at a Glance
Here are three things every fleet manager should know about the ELD Mandate:
- Some, but not all, fleet tracking solutions are ELD Mandate-compliant
- As of 18 December 2017, heavy financial penalties apply to non-compliant fleets
- If you're not sure if your fleet is compliant, contact your fleet management supplier
For more detailed advice, consult our dedicated guide.
Get started with ELD Mandate-compliant GPS tracking solutions
Fleet Management Procurement Advice
GPS Tracking Devices for Automobiles
Driver dispatch and scheduling are basic but important functions that car fleet owners shouldn’t neglect. They'll let you keep track of driver job queues and help you set realistic expectations for your customers.
Garmin, for example, supplies GPS tracking devices for automobiles that focus on managing resources effectively.
Our top tip: Make sure your GPS tracking solution includes dispatch and scheduling features.
GPS Tracking for Vans and Trucks
Mid-sized cargo fleet managers should optimize vehicle loads for different jobs. However, due to the number of variables involved, this can be a complex job. You need to consider the load weight, dimensions, sequencing, and special handling instructions from customers.
Fortunately, fleet management software can process this data and calculate optimal loads for each vehicle. More advanced software can generate recommendations for underutilised vehicles.
Our top tip: Pair GPS tracking with load optimization software to find the most fuel-efficient loads for each van and truck in your fleet.
GPS Tracking for Heavy Duty Trucks
Fuel costs make up the largest slice of operational expenses for heavy duty commercial truck fleets. Fleet management systems greatly reduce fuel costs.
They also make it much easier to complete IFTA fuel tax returns at the end of each quarter. In particular, owners of interstate fleets should use combined trip and fuel reporting to streamline this onerous task. According to Nick Hann, President of JWH Transport, Fleetmatics fuel tracking eliminates a day of office admin each week. This frees drivers and other employees to focus on other work.
It’s as simple as running a quick report to show you the mileage and fuel consumption by vehicle in each state.
Our top tip: Trip and fuel reporting are fleet management must-haves for heavy duty fleet owners.
Best GPS Trackers 2018
When looking for GPS trackers for your fleet, compare prices first and see which one is best for your business. To get you started, we have reviewed some of the most popular models currently available.
Lytx DriveCam GPS Trackers
DriveCam helps reduce risky driving behaviour by up to 70%, making this vehicle tracking solution a literal life saver.
- Champions driver safety
- Respects driver privacy
- Offers predictive insights
- No dispatch management
Omnitracs GPS Trackers
Omnitracs caters to budgets large and small with its Roadnet Telematics range.
- Easy installation
- Superb customer support
- Affordable monthly plans
- No inventory management
Garmin GPS Trackers
Garmin fleet management software is supremely easy to integrate with third party products.
- Unparallelled partner network
- Slick user interface
- Plentiful product support
- Newer models no longer support older software
JJ Keller GPS Trackers
JJ Keller’s Encompass range continues to impress in 2018 with incredible portability and ease of use.
- The market leader in regulatory compliance
- Strong mobile suite
- Simple HOS logging
- Complex pricing
- Lacks some telematics features
Zonar GPS Trackers
Zonar’s real-time tracking solutions are a shrewd buy for tech savvy fleet managers wanting advanced insights.
- Robust hardware
- Best-in-field geofencing
- HD GPS interface
- No real-time tire management
- Lacks automatic mileage tracking
US Fleet Tracking
The Oklahoma City-based US Fleet Tracking has been fleet management provider of choice at the last ten Super Bowls.
- Speedy (<1 second) real-time refresh rate
- Flexible pay-as-you-go pricing
- Company listens to user feedback
- No inspection management
ARI Fleet Management Services
ARI combines analytics software with strategic consulting services in a holistic fleet management package.
- ARI's unmatched expertise
- Proven effectiveness with large global clients
- Costlier than most pure SaaS solutions
LiveViewGPS Vehicle Tracking
LiveViewGPS fleet management solutions reduce fuel consumption, boost driver efficiency and cut maintenance bills.
- Great dispatching functionality
- Sensibly tiered pricing
- Slightly clunky user interface
Other GPS Trackers
CES: GPS-150 Tracker
The latest GPS tracker unit manufactured by CES is the GPS-150. The system uses some of the most sophisticated vehicle location technology available and includes an integrated modem allowing it to communicate through any wireless device.
The GPS-150 is designed to be low maintenance but high performance which ultimately makes it one of the most reliable and efficient trackers available.
It can either accumulate data to be transferred at pre-programmed times, or it can provide up to the minute location to the fleet manager.
It works in conjunction with intuitive CES software for reporting as well as the CES mobile display terminal which allows drivers to send and receive messages to and from the dispatcher.
Prices for the CES tracking system will vary depending on the size of your fleet but prices can start from under $25 per month. If you already have a tracking system that requires upgrading, CES often offer significant trade in prices for your old hardware.
X5 GPS Trackers
The X5 GPS is a high performance tracker which specializes in live data, meaning you can have accurate vehicle locations transmitted to your dispatch team in the fastest possible time.
However, this speed has not compromised accuracy as the X5 technology is accurate to a distance of 8 inches.
Furthermore, X5 have developed a new web based vehicle tracking system which means that you can access your fleet from any internet connected PC in the world and the software is capable of tracking hundreds of vehicles at any one time.
Other features available in this model include the ability to disable the vehicle starter and two way communications with your drivers.
Unusually in the tracker market, X5 offers month by month services, meaning you will not be tied into any long term contracts and prices start from under $30 per month.