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Choosing a GPS Fleet Tracking System

A Business News Daily Buyer's Guide

Product and service reviews are conducted independently by our editorial team, but we sometimes make money when you click on links. Learn more.
  • GPS fleet tracking allows you to manage your vehicles and improve driver safety.
  • GPS fleet tracking requires hardware to be installed in each vehicle, which sends data to cloud-hosted software.
  • The solution you choose should track driver routes and patterns, manage fuel consumption and provide reports on key metrics.
  • This guide is for business owners who are trying to decide if GPS fleet tracking is right for their business and want to know what to look for when choosing a solution.

If you run a business that utilizes a fleet of vehicles, it is helpful to use telematics hardware and software to track them, improve driver safety and issue status reports. These solutions  prioritize efficiency, help you save money and can keep you compliant with important state and federal regulations, like rules for electronic logging devices, the International Fuel Tax Agreement and driver vehicle inspection reports (DVIRs).

The main function of these services, however, is to gather important data on your fleet so you can better manage your company. Telematics software provides insight into fuel efficiency, safety and a wide range of other relevant fleet information.

We've compiled this buying guide to help you know what to look for when selecting a GPS fleet tracking service. This guide answers common questions associated with fleet tracking services and offers background information on marquee features. 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.

 

Editor's note: Looking for information on GPS fleet tracking systems? Fill out the below questionnaire to be connected with vendors that can help.

Think of GPS fleet tracking 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 lets you keep an eye on everything from wherever you are. This type of solution helps to ensure that vehicles are operating efficiently and that drivers are being safe and responsible.

GPS fleet tracking includes both hardware and software. The hardware is used to track your vehicle and how it is being operated. The type of hardware your vehicle needs varies based on what you want to be monitored. Some services offer easy, plug-and-play devices that are about the size of a deck of cards. Others require more advanced installation, which usually involves hooking up various sensors to the information centers of your vehicle.

The vehicle is tracked using a global positioning system (GPS). The hardware sends real-time updates and data to the software, which serves as a central hub for all of the information.

Technology has revolutionized the way small businesses operate, and running a fleet of vehicles is no exception. By not taking advantage of these solutions in your day-to-day operations, you're missing out on opportunities to increase efficiency and save money.

This software not only allows you to keep tabs on your vehicles and other assets but also helps you with fuel management, delivery route optimization, vehicle and driver communication, and long-term logistic planning.

In today's economy, information is power. By using telematics software, you're opening up a new door to data and other information about your business and how you manage your fleet of vehicles or other assets.

Key takeaway: GPS fleet tracking hardware and software help you manage your company's fleet of vehicles by monitoring the vehicles' locations and how they are being operated.

GPS fleet tracking software can locate vehicles, set up routes and give directions to assigned destinations. It also provides information on vehicle diagnostics, maintenance tracking and safe driving behaviors. A lot of hardware devices are outfitted with accelerometers and other sensors, so if your driver harshly brakes or accelerates, it will be documented in the software. Some services even offer reporting on harsh turning and cornering. This technology also allows you to track idling time, which is vital information for improving fuel efficiency.

All of these software features provide you with a platform to track your fleet, manage vehicle health, understand your drivers' habits and track fuel efficiency. Most software comes with dispatching tools and scheduling capabilities to improve workflow. These features can also boost customer satisfaction – for instance, by providing more accurate ETAs. Other features include accident tracking, roadside assistance, anti-theft service, time clocks and attendance tracking.

Key takeaway: GPS fleet tracking services can pinpoint a vehicle's location, monitor fuel usage and track driver habits to ensure vehicles are being operated safely.

How much does GPS fleet tracking cost? Pricing for GPS fleet tracking services can vary greatly based on what you want managed and tracked and how many vehicles you have. Prices range from $15 per month per vehicle to upward of $30 to $40 per month per vehicle. In addition to the monthly costs, there is often a one-time fee for the hardware that goes in each vehicle. However, some providers allow you to rent the equipment for an added monthly fee. Many GPS fleet tracking services require you to sign a one- to three-year contract. However, some services offer free trials and money-back guarantees, giving you an opportunity to test the service before committing to a long-term contract.

Key takeaway: GPS fleet tracking software is typically offered on a monthly subscription basis. Prices start at about $15 per vehicle per month. There are also usually one-time fees for the hardware that goes inside the vehicles.

To choose the system that's right for you, first make sure it has the features your business needs. Most fleet management systems offer a variety of features that come in a standard offering. They should include the following:

  • Integration with fuel cards
  • Driver safety tracking
  • Dashboards that show trending on key metrics
  • Communication and navigation options
  • Ongoing customer support

Some companies provide additional features that are either included in a standard offering or cost extra.

A good GPS fleet tracking solution will also offer the following:

  • Alert systems. This means notifications are sent via text and email when something isn't right with vehicles and drivers. 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 applications out there, so choose one with a simple, intuitive dashboard. Many vendors provide in-person or virtual demos, so try one before making a commitment.
  • Mobile access. Not all GPS fleet tracking applications support mobile device usage. If you need anytime, anywhere access to your software, make sure it's cloud-based, or check if there's an app for your preferred device.
  • Help/customer support. Find a vendor that lets you contact a representative anytime you need help, whether via phone or live chat. Other types of support include help-desk ticket systems, email support, documentation and how-to videos.

While the fleet tracking system you choose should fit into your budget, don't pick one solely on price; select the solution that best helps your business reduce costs and track your fleet. If you choose the cheapest service, it may not perform as well as slightly more expensive offerings.

Key takeaway: The GPS fleet tracking system you choose should be easy to use, offer mobile access, include alert notifications, integrate with fuel cards and track driver safety.

As you look for a GPS fleet tracking service, keep these details in mind:

  1. What type of vehicle and driver information do you want to track?
  2. How many vehicles do you need to track?
  3. How much do you want to spend on monthly fees and upfront costs?
  4. Are there any processes you could automate regarding payroll, driving logs, routing or call scheduling?
  5. Is your business operating in the greenest way possible? Will this system help you continue to do so or make improvements?
  6. Can you rely on your employees to consistently and accurately log hours worked and service calls met?
  7. Have you experienced, or are you worried about, theft of equipment or vehicles?
  8. Are you overspending on your mobile workforce?
  9. Do your fuel costs put a strain on the bottom line?
  10. Can this system address the problems you're trying to solve?
  11. Will this system improve your customer service quality?
  12. What features do you need now, and what might you need in the future?
  13. What type of return on investment will you get with this system?

Key takeaway: Before deciding which GPS fleet tracking system is right for you, be sure to consider what you want monitored, how many vehicles you want tracked, what your budget is and whether a system like this will be able to address any problems you are having.

Here are some of the benefits of using GPS fleet tracking software:

  • Vehicle management. By keeping tabs on your vehicles and assets, you can plan better routes and optimize driver performance.
  • Fuel management. By managing routes and vehicle location, you can get more detailed information about fuel consumption and make adjustments accordingly. Telematics software includes a feature for fuel management and consumption that allows you to save money and plan how your vehicles use fuel.
  • Driver safety. Telematics software lets you track and rate driver performance, thus increasing the safety of your overall fleet.
  • You can set up specific and customized alerts so you can constantly prioritize vehicle locations, driver safety and fuel usage. In addition, telematics software includes a wide range of other alerts that you can set up to optimize your fleet's management.
  • Telematics companies give you the guidance to comply with important state and federal vehicle fleet regulations. By working with these companies, you ensure you're staying compliant with relevant rules and regulations.

Key takeaway: GPS fleet tracking systems help you manage your vehicles and their fuel consumption, improve driver safety, and stay compliant with state and federal regulations.

Despite all of these benefits, there are a few downsides of GPS fleet tracking software:

  • Morale. Implementing this software may result in employee pushback. Drivers may not want to be monitored and could view the decision to use GPS fleet tracking systems as a sign their employer doesn't trust them and a violation of employee privacy. If you decide to use a fleet tracking system, consider how you plan to inform your employees that you'll be implementing it. The best thing you can do as a business owner is explain the rationale and logic behind the decision. Also, be transparent about what the software does, so they're clear on exactly what's being monitored and how.
  • Cost. Depending on your business's financial situation, it may be difficult to take on the additional expense of telematics software. It's important to weigh the costs and benefits before making any decisions. Implementing a fleet tracking system may require a significant upfront investment, but you'll likely save in the long run by cutting fuel costs and optimizing route

Key takeaway: GPS fleet tracking systems could hurt employee morale and put a strain on your bottom line.

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

Editor's note: Looking for information on GPS fleet tracking systems? Fill out the below questionnaire to be connected with vendors that can help.

Matt D'Angelo

I'm a staff writer for Business.com and Business News Daily. I cover various small business topics, including technology, financing and marketing.