Updated: Jan 31
While it may seem as though there are plenty of telematics solutions for fleet managers to choose from these days, that wasn’t always the case. When the idea of using GPS tracking to optimize fleet management was introduced in the 1960’s, managers did have access to smartphones, the Internet, or even personal computers.
The History of GPS Fleet Tracking
The very earliest telematics strategies were developed in the auto-making industry, as big names like Ford and Chevrolet used an electronic tracking and communication system to catalog new vehicles as they were manufactured; thus, fleet tracking emerged.
In 1978, an experimental satellite called Block-I was successfully launched into space, followed by 10 more launches of the same satellite model through 1985. Innovation and development slowed, causing GPS tracking to be largely nonoperational until 1994, when the last of 24 satellites were launched to make it an operational tool.
Throughout the 80’s and 90’s, although GPS was used primarily by the military, even more tech tools were introduced to help fleet managers leverage GPS and other tracking tech. The personal computer was made widely accessible and affordable, and Internet usage became mainstream, and the late 90’s also marked the first time GPS was used by consumers. In 2006 the final GPS satellite was launched, rounding out the current system we know and use today.
Current state of GPS Fleet Tracking
The most commonly used and most universal GPS fleet tracking system has three main components. Touch on any questions you have in these three areas to ensure you’re finding the right fit for your fleet.
The tracking device: This device is GPS-equipped and tracks vehicle data in real-time, but it doesn’t have to be limited to location-related information. In fact, it’s even better for your management strategy if these devices could also track fuel usage, idle time, mileage-per-gallon rates, and other factors that can be tweaked to optimize fleet management.
The tracking server: A server is where all of this important tracking information gets collected, waiting for the end user to access it. Depending on the software used to manage tracking this data, your server could either be in-house or through a third-party provider. Make sure to ask about this when considering a new tracking system.
The user interface: User interface is what fleet managers see when they’re ready to access tracking data. Is it easy to use and navigate? Will it require retraining employees? How can business process disruptions be mitigated or even avoided? This is an important factor to consider when choosing a new tracking system.
How GPS Tracking Solutions can benefit your fleet
Knowing now how GPS tracking systems work, it’s worth taking a closer look at the list of benefits it can offer to your fleet management strategy.
Fleet management cost reduction: Planning routes using tracking data means vehicles use less fuel, help drivers avoid overtime, and plan for maintenance before a truck breaks down
Resource optimization: Take the guesswork out of deploying the best-suited vehicles for any given route using historical and real-time data to help best delegate your team
Saving on insurance: Many insurance companies offer incentives or discounts for fleets with GPS tracking-equipped vehicles — you could save up to 35% on premiums
Better financial management: GPS tracking systems offer real-time data that can be used for budget, labor, and maintenance cost allocation without the guesswork
While there may be an initial cost for these upgrades, over time fleet managers will see ROI.
Optimizing fleet tracking systems once they’re in place
The most difficult choice you’ll make is which system to choose, but once you’ve decided it’s important to know how your GPS tracking system can work harder and smarter to supplement your fleet management strategy. If your system can track more than just GPS location, it’s important to take advantage of as much data as it will provide.
Tracking information that relates to vehicle maintenance should top that list. How many times have you had to take a vehicle out of service or paid the costly expense of vehicle downtime because of a mechanical or engine repair? With real-time data, you can foresee repairs and initiate service appointments before the issue becomes major.
Driver behavior is also something that factors into fleet management costs, so it’s important to find out if one of your team members is engaging in ways that would put your fleet vehicles at risk for accidents, damage, or citations.
Idle time falls under both of these umbrellas, and it’s undoubtedly something that contributes directly to fleet management costs. Studies have shown that reducing idle time can save fleets up to $12,000 per truck per year in maintenance and fuel costs. Even if your fleet already has strict idling guidelines in place, tracking systems can help enforce those policies.
Ready to make the move to a comprehensive tracking system that checks off all of your fleet must-have boxes? We’d love to talk more — get in touch to chat with an IdleSmart team member.
Interested in reducing the idle time of your fleet? Check out the Idle Smart Services and calculate how much fuel cost you could be saving!