Tracking Fleet Vehicles: The Complete Guide

May 5, 2022
Fleet management organisations rely on tracking systems for many important reasons. We will deep dive into how to track fleet vehicles and what it involves.

With advanced technology, a fleet tracking system can collect vehicle location data. The software takes this data and information can be overlaid on a map via a user interface. This points you to the exact area the vehicle is in. Two main systems exist to do the tracking: GPS, or GLONASS.

GPS or Global Positioning System finds a location via satellites and the use of time data. A system only needs four GPS satellites to be in line with the device to give accurate location data.

GLONASS
is a Russian Aerospace satellite navigation system for their defence force. It can work instead of GPS, for precise location information.

Both systems also work together to increase the number of satellite connections. Ideal for dense urban environments.

Core Parts That Make Fleet Tracking Possible

Three major parts make tracking fleets possible. The device to track, the server it works on and the end interface that users view.

Tracking Device - this needs implementing in each vehicle within your fleet. Either GPS or GLONASS communicates the vehicle location to a server. Telematics devices not only cover location but also collect other vehicle information. Fuel level, oil, coolant temperature, tyre pressures, speed and battery charge are some examples.

A Tracking Server provides a central store for the fleet data sent over the air. Accessible using a web browser and hosted anywhere in the world. It is beneficial to host it closer to your fleet operations for faster data transfer.

End-User Interface - fleet management operators view this from a device such as a computer or a smartphone. The end interface can be accessed via an app or web browser too. Many companies offer this service to build your user interface from a set of APIs.

Active or Passive Data Transfer

Devices that track fleets have both passive and active possibilities. Passive data involve keeping it local to the device. Where fleet management can move the tracking device from the vehicle. Transferring the data for storing. 

Active does not need this. It transmits live data via mobile phone networks and satellite systems. Ideal for tracking when the vehicle is out in the field and in use. Active is a more expensive setup. But most vehicles in today’s market have a built-in telematics system with a tracking device.

Which Data is Traceable?

With fleet tracking, live location data can be overlaid onto a map to track every vehicle. With active systems constantly updating, users can work out where the vehicle is going or if it's parked up. Route data can be overlaid as well. To determine if drivers are sticking to the provided route or straying from it. Live support is possible with Google street view - operators can help their drivers remotely. 

Vehicle data is traceable too. Whether you need info on the tracking device installed. Or bespoke data for the vehicle, such as its VIN or registration plate. Data such as mileage readings and engine use can be transferable at the same time.

An alert can be set for the driver if they have high engine revving, leave it running for too long or if they drive over the speed limit. A fleet management system can be set up to have sub-groups of vehicles too. This is better fleet handling - ideal if your fleet is large.

Fleet Vehicle Tracking


How to Setup a Fleet Management System

Data gathered from telematics devices need to be displayable in a user-friendly format. Several options exist to incorporate a bespoke solution. Or, "off the shelf" solutions are available for a generic fleet management system.

To get started it is important to have clarity on the goal for managing your fleet. Once this is in place, understand what vehicles you need to trace. If they are luxury limousines or delivery vans for example. Vehicle selection is important, as it gives an understanding of their built in technology.

Drivers and operators are then informed they are being tracked. Ensuring they take the right steps to manage their vehicles.

Software can now be implemented to onboard all the fleet vehicles that you wish to track. Many companies offer bespoke solutions. Using advanced APIs, it is possible to integrate many vehicle brands into one easy package. To display whatever vehicle information you need. Generic software also exists that gives a breakdown of the vehicle data available, usually for a monthly subscription fee.

Either of these solutions can be useful in providing reports, graphical data and analysis. Highlighting any dangers that your fleet drivers are experiencing, fuel consumption and much more. An algorithm based scoring system for the drivers can be created too.

Software to track your fleet is beneficial. As it is a central dashboard to show all your vehicles at once. Allowing for deeper analysis to compare different driving styles and vehicle behaviour.

They allow for setting up policies and allowances, for example when a policy is not met you can:

  • Be informed as soon as this takes place, which fleet managers can solve instantly.
  • Drivers are informed in the field as soon as it happens. Either correct any misbehaving activity or ensure it does not happen again.
  • Shown up on the history of the driver or vehicle that this event occurred.

SDKs or Software Development Kits are taking fleet management to the next level. Tailored to your business, SDKs allow fleet management companies to autonomously deliver reports. They have a custom dashboard and layout for analysing available vehicle data. This solution can be incorporated in-house for your business too. Ideal as it is not hosted by an external company, meaning you are in complete control.

Fleet Vehicles


Are Fleet Managers Needed?

A fleet manager may be worth hiring for your business if you are managing a lot of vehicles. They have many useful functions to enable smooth operations of your fleet. Especially if vehicles and transport are big elements of your business.

Fleet managers help maintain the company's fleet. Typically they:

  • Help buy the fleet vehicles. Including working out the funding for this and shopping around for new vehicles.
  • Make sure records are up to date - service history, mileage, accident data and any damage to the fleet.
  • Set and book in services to maintain the vehicle
  • Analyse and report on fleet data. Anything from fuel-saving, to journey optimising. This could be the most important step in running a healthy fleet. Saving the business a lot of time and money in the long run.

Other responsibilities include onboarding drivers, keeping their records updated, selling vehicles, managing pool vehicles, and organising any repairs.

Conclusion

Tracking fleet vehicles has major advantages to your business. Ideal for those that manage a lot of vehicles, as transportation is a large business expense. Analysis can be made on the way your fleet operates. Owners are looking to continuously improve and cut costs, with fleet tracking an important element of this. This guide will get you on your way to tracking fleet vehicles and give an idea of how to get started today.