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Choosing a GPS Fleet Tracking System: 2015 Guide

Choosing a GPS Fleet Tracking System: 2015 Guide
Credit: Chernoskutov Mikhail / Shutterstock

Choosing a GPS fleet-tracking software program doesn't have to be complicated. Here are three things to focus on when selecting one for your business:

  1. What type of vehicle and driver information do you want to track?
  2. How many vehicles do you need to track — just a couple, a dozen or an enterprise-size fleet?
  3. How much do you want to spend on monthly fees and upfront costs?

We will help you answer these questions below, but if you already know what you need and just want to see our recommendations for the best GPS fleet-tracking software, visit our best picks page.

Think of GPS fleet-tracking software as your virtual ride-along. Instead of hiring a manager to sit in the passenger seat and monitor vehicles and drivers on the road, GPS fleet-tracking software lets you keep an eye on everything from wherever you are. Using GPS fleet-tracking software, businesses can make sure vehicles are operating optimally and that drivers are being safe and responsible.

GPS fleet-tracking software works in tandem with a piece of GPS hardware installed in the vehicle. It uses global positioning systems (that's what GPS stands for, by the way) via satellites to track vehicles and drivers in real time. It gives users access to real-time updates and alerts using data that is sent directly from the vehicle to the software operator.

Like regular GPS systems, GPS fleet-tracking software can locate vehicles, set up routes and give directions to assigned destinations. However, the software takes this to the next level to by also monitoring vehicle conditions. This includes things like tracking fuel consumption and mileage and identifying maintenance and equipment issues, which ultimately helps you lower operating costs

In addition to tracking vehicles, GPS software also tracks driver behavior to help ensure safety and accountability. It logs everything from speed to driving patterns and aggressive maneuvers (such as fast turns and hard braking). It can also record idle times and alert you for specific events, like when a driver is speeding or has gone off-route.

Most software also comes with dispatching tools and scheduling capabilities to help improve workflow. These features can also boost customer satisfaction, for instance, by providing more accurate ETAs and making sure drivers arrive on time.

Other features include accident tracking, roadside assistance, anti-theft service, time clocks and attendance tracking.

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:

buyerzone widget

To choose the system that's right for you, first, make sure it has the features your business needs.

Most fleet management systems should offer a variety of features that come standard, at no extra cost, said Todd Ewing, director of product marketing at Fleetmatics, which provides GPS fleet-tracking systems. They should include:

  • Integration with fuel cards
  • Dashboards that have trending on-key metrics
  • Communication and navigation options
  • Ongoing customer support

Other key capabilities to look for include:

  • Alert systems— Notifications via text and email when something isn't right with vehicles and drivers. Also, choose a provider that lets you set alerts for specific occurrences, such as if the driver has gone off-route or is engaging in unsafe driving habits.
  • Ease of use— There are some very complicated software out there, so choose one with a simple dashboard that doesn't require technical skills or much of a learning curve to use. Many vendors provide in-person or virtual demos, so try one first before making a commitment.
  • Good signal— What good is a GPS software if it keeps losing its signal? Make sure the vendor you choose won't drop connectivity outside of the city or in places like tunnels and parking garages.
  • Mobile access— Not all GPS fleet-tracking software have mobile apps or a mobile Web version. If you need anytime, anywhere access to your software, make sure it's cloud-based or that an app is available for your preferred device.
  • Third-party integration— This can help you save tons of time by automatically syncing data into your accounting, payroll, time attendance and other related software.
  • Help/customer support— Find a vendor that lets you contact a real, live person anytime you need help, whether it be via phone or live chat. Other types of support include help-desk ticket systems, email support, documentation and how-to videos.

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," said Ryan Driscoll, marketing director at GPS fleet-tracking service provider GPS Insight. "It is about choosing the best solution that will help with your business challenges and deliver the most return on investment. 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."

You should also keep in mind that some services require long-term contracts and might want to avoid those if you're not sure you’re going to stick with the system, said George Karonis, founder and CEO of GPS fleet-tracking service provider LiveViewGPS.

Before you purchase a GPS fleet-tracking service, 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, and 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 costs 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 find the right GPS fleet-tracking system.

Our experts agreed that 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," Ewing said. “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."

Karonis agreed that employee pushback can be a problem, and 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 upfront 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.

Ready to choose a GPS fleet-tracking system? Here's a breakdown of our complete coverage:

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:

buyerzone widget

Updated Aug. 20, 2015. Additional reporting by Brittney Helmrich.

Sara Angeles
Sara Angeles

Sara is a tech writer with a background in business and marketing. After graduating from UC Irvine, she worked as a copywriter and blogger for nonprofit organizations, tech labs and lifestyle companies. She started freelancing in 2009 and joined Business News Daily in 2013. Follow Sara Angeles on Twitter @sara_angeles.