GPS Fleet Tracking Services: A Buyer's Guide
Credit: Oleksiy Mark/Shutterstock

Maintaining and keeping track of your business equipment is no easy task, and it's even harder when your equipment's on wheels. Whether your business has two cars or a fleet of 200 vehicles, a GPS fleet tracking solution could make things easier for you.

While you may not be familiar with these systems, you probably know about personal GPS navigation systems; you may even have a Garmin or a TomTom plugged into your car for use on long drives or trips to unfamiliar destinations. GPS fleet tracking services use the same technology to track company vehicles and transmit information. This gives you real-time updates to monitor things like where your drivers go, how many times they stop, how fast they drive and more.

So how do you know that a GPS fleet tracking solution is right for your business? If you've got vehicles to keep track of, it's probably a good idea.

"Any business with company vehicles wanting to improve efficiency and productivity would want to explore a GPS vehicle tracking system," said George Karonis, founder and CEO of GPS fleet tracking service provider LiveViewGPS. "A GPS vehicle tracking system is the modern-day equivalent of placing a full-time manager in every company vehicle."

And GPS fleet tracking solutions do much more than just track your vehicles' locations. A GPS solution can help keep you in the loop about vehicle maintenance, expenses and more.

"Most businesses with a fleet of vehicles ranging from as little as five to many thousands do not have visibility and insight into fleet operations without GPS fleet tracking," said Ryan Driscoll, marketing director at GPS fleet tracking service provider GPS Insight. "If you don't know where your vehicles are at all times, if you think your fuel costs are high, if you are suspicious of overtime hours, if you unintentionally overlook maintenance, you need GPS fleet tracking."

Companies with mobile workforces need insight into how their employees and assets are performing, and not just where they're going, said Todd Ewing, director of product marketing at Fleetmatics, which provides GPS fleet tracking systems.

Editor’s Note: Looking for a GPS fleet tracking system? If you’re looking for information to help you choose the one that’s right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our sister site, BuyerZone, provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free:

Pros

GPS fleet tracking systems can give business owners and managers a lot of valuable insights.

These systems provide total fleet visibility, which improves productivity, reduces fuel consumption and costs, and increases efficiency, Driscoll said.

Karonis explained that GPS fleet tracking systems can decrease your expenses, because not only do these systems keep track of your employees' billable hours, they also track vehicle mileage, idle times and routes traveled. This prevents your employees from misusing your equipment and racking up fuel costs.

Another advantage, Karonis said, is that you can improve your company's customer service quality.

"[GPS tracking solutions] give you the ability to offer your customer exact arrival and departure times, along with the amount of hours spent on site. This will eliminate any overbilling, and offer a quick response to the question we [businesses] always get: 'How far away is your driver?'" Karonis said.

A GPS fleet tracking system can help improve fleet safety and security, as well, Ewing said. With a GPS solution, you can use intelligence drawn from vehicle data to monitor harsh driving and improve driver safety, he noted.

And for business owners who are interested in going green, Ewing noted that a GPS solution can help shrink your carbon footprint.

Cons

Our experts agreed that while GPS fleet tracking services don't necessarily have any cons, one major issue often arises when installing the systems: employee pushback.

"Installing a GPS tracking system in fleet vehicles can sometimes be a sensitive topic, as some may consider it an invasion of privacy. When installing a new system, it's important that managers educate drivers on the specific reason behind it, whether it's related to a business goal or safety issue," Ewing said.

While Karonis agreed that employee pushback can be a problem, he offered a few different ways to handle the issue.

"I have learned that there are two different ways to deal with this situation," he said. "One is to be up front and honest with your employees, explain to them exactly what you are looking to accomplish, and how this system is going to help you do that. The second way is to install these units discreetly. With this option, you will be able to find out exactly what your drivers are doing, and who your problem employees are. Then, [have] a meeting to explain that you have been tracking their vehicles, and how this system will be used moving forward," Karonis said.

Choosing the right system

"[GPS tracking systems] have become so affordable, and the benefits are so dramatic, that any size fleet can gain from their use," Karonis said. "After taking a chance to weigh the pros and cons, any business owner should be able to find a way to improve his [or her] business model by including the use of a GPS tracking device."

But how do you find the best system for you? First, make sure it has the features your business needs.

Ewing said that a fleet management system should offer several features at no extra cost, including integration with fuel cards, dashboards that have trending on-key metrics, communication and navigation options, and ongoing customer support. He added that your provider shouldn't charge you add-on fees for key reporting issues.

"Reporting should save you money, not cost you money," Ewing said. "The solution you select should provide a reporting suite for no extra charge. All vehicle tracking systems should have extensive reporting options included in the basic monthly cost."

But, while the system you choose should fit into your budget, you shouldn't choose your GPS solution based solely on the price.

"All GPS tracking companies are not created equal," Driscoll said. "Don't choose the cheapest product out there, or you will get what you pay for — a low-quality product. It is about choosing the best solution that will help with your business challenges and deliver the most return on investment. Yes, it may cost more up front, but the benefits will far outweigh the cost. Choose a GPS tracking company that will be a long-term partner for location intelligence, not just a vendor that tells you where your trucks are."

Karonis also suggested that customers opt for a system with no long-term contracts.

Before you buy

Before you purchase a GPS fleet tracking solution, our experts said you should ask yourself these 10 questions:

  • Are there any processes we could automate in regards to payroll, driving logs, routing or call scheduling?
  • Is our business operating in the greenest way possible? Will this system help us continue to do so or make improvements?
  • Can we rely on our employees to consistently and accurately log hours worked and service-calls met?
  • Have we experienced or are we worried about theft of our equipment or our vehicles?
  • Are we overspending on our mobile workforce?
  • Do our fuel cost put a strain on our bottom line profitability?
  • Can this system address the problems we're trying to solve?
  • Will this system improve our customer service quality?
  • What features do we need now, and what might we need in the future?
  • What type of return on our investment will we get with this system?

By asking yourself these questions, you should be able to identify what you need out of a GPS fleet tracking system. Combined with your research, your responses should help you make an informed decision about which GPS fleet tracking system provider, if any, is right for your business.

Originally published on Business News Daily