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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.

Telematics hardware and software bundles help you keep track of your fleet, understand driver behavior, issue status reports, and manage compliance with state and federal requirements. These services adhere to government compliance laws, like electronic logging devices, the International Fuel Tax Agreement and driver vehicle inspection reports (DVIR).

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.

To help you find the right GPS fleet tracking service for your business, we've compiled this buying guide to advise you on what to look for with these services. In addition, this guide answers common questions associated with fleet tracking services and offers background information on marquee features.

After analyzing more than 50 GPS fleet tracking companies, we determined what companies provide the best services. 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.

If you're looking to learn more about GPS fleet tracking services, check out our buying guide below.

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 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 efficiently and drivers are being safe and responsible.

GPS fleet tracking includes both hardware and software. The type of hardware your vehicle needs will vary based on the plan you select. Some services offer easy, plug-and-play devices that are about the size of a deck of cards. These devices plug right into your vehicle's OBD II port. Others require more advanced installation, which usually involves hooking up various sensors to the information centers of your vehicle.

In both instances, installation can usually be done on your own, or you can have the company install the hardware. The vehicle is tracked using a global positioning system (GPS). This information is then rendered on a software platform, providing you with a central hub for all the data from your vehicles to flow through. It gives users access to real-time updates and alerts using data 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, these services also provide 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. 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 on the road 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 and making sure drivers arrive on time.

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

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:

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

In addition to these types of services, some companies provide additional features. These can either be included in a standard offering or require additional payment.

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. 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 applications out there, so choose one with a simple dashboard that doesn't require technical skills or that has a steep learning curve. Many vendors provide in-person or virtual demos, so try one first 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 to see if an app is available for your preferred device.
  • Help/customer support: Find a vendor that lets you contact a representative 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, don't choose your GPS solution based solely on price. Choose the solution that best helps your business reduce costs and track your fleet. Choosing the cheapest service on the market could mean you end up with a service that doesn't perform as well as other, slightly more expensive offerings.

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 resolve?
  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?

Installing these devices and implementing this software may result in employee pushback. Drivers may not want to be monitored and could view this as a distrustful decision from management that violates employee privacy. Consider how you plan on informing your employees that you'll be implementing these services, should you decide to purchase a service.

The best thing you can do as a business owner or manager is talk your employees through 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.

Ready to choose a GPS fleet tracking software? 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

Matt D'Angelo is a contributor covering small business for business.com and Business News Daily. After graduating from James Madison University with a degree in journalism, Matt gained experience as a copy editor and writer for newspapers and various online publications.