If your business involves managing several vehicles over a large area, a vehicle tracking system
can help improve your operations. These systems use Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to monitor the location, speed, and direction of each vehicle in your fleet, eliminating the need for phones, pagers, and other communication devices. Businesses that use GPS tracking include bus and taxi companies, high-volume delivery, and asset tracking.
There are different types of tracking systems available, each one suited to specific applications. It's important to know which vehicle tracking system will work best for your type of operation. Here's a quick guide to GPS tracking, your options, and what it can do for you.
A tracking device can be considered passive or active. A passive device records basic vehicle information such as speed, location, direction, and heading. Some can also trigger simple functions like ignition and opening/closing of doors. Once the vehicle reaches it's destination, which is programmed into the device, the tracker can be removed and the data can be downloaded onto a computer. Newer devices have an automatic download feature using wireless connections.
An active device records information in the same way, but also transmits it in real-time to a central database. Transmission may be via cellular network or satellite; the latter is more commonly used in wide area operations.
Types of tracking units
GPS trackers can also be classified according to how they store and send data. There are currently three types: data loggers, data pushers, and data pullers. Data loggers are the only passive vehicle tracking system; that is, all they do is record data from the vehicle. They usually have an on-board memory where information is stored for later retrieval. Data pushers do the same, but instead of storing data, they "push" or forward it to a remote computer at regular intervals. Data pullers, the most advanced units, allow personnel at the database to retrieve information as necessary, regardless of the vehicle's location.
Besides a tracking unit, you will also need access to GPS to be able to track your fleet. Most companies use a fleet management service such as Fleet Trax (www.fleettrax.com) to take care of the technicalities. The service may also include subscription to a web-based database, where all the information is forwarded and retrieved.
GPS trackers can be used freely by private citizens, but large-scale use may require a search warrant. The concept of tracking has raised some concerns about personal privacy, as trackers can reveal patterns about a person's behavior and movement after some time. To avoid inquiries, make sure all drivers in your fleet are aware of the vehicle tracking system and understand how it works. Have them sign an agreement upon hiring, indicating their consent to being tracked.