A guide to fleet tracking systems

There are several types and levels of technologies involved in various fleet tracking systems. They all empower you to better monitor and manage your vehicles, but which system is the best for your fleet? This guide will help you make an informed choice.

COO utilizing fleet tracking system IOT via celluar connection

The rise of sophisticated data and telematics systems has made a significant impact on the world of fleet management in recent years. From monitoring fuel usage trends and vehicle maintenance needs to keeping tabs on driver behaviors and beyond, our industry’s ability to gather and analyze data is growing all the time, with advanced information & communications technologies becoming more affordable and user-friendly than ever.

As a fleet manager, you likely understand the potential wealth of data at your fingertips, but answering the questions required to select the ideal fleet tracking service and telematics system for your company may feel overwhelming.

What is the most essential data to capture? Should you go with aftermarket fleet tracking devices, or harness the power of original equipment manufacturer (OEM) hardware? Should you spend more to collect comprehensive, in-depth data, or would a more basic, cost-effective system meet your needs?

While finding the right fleet or truck tracking system hinges on a number of factors specific to your business and fleet, this guide can help you better understand the basics to make a more informed decision for your company.

Fleet tracking: the basics.

Put simply, a fleet tracking system is a telematics solution that allows businesses using fleets to monitor their company assets (like vehicles, equipment, and drivers) and capture important data about them. These systems can use a combination of GPS technology, Bluetooth capabilities, onboard sensors and diagnostics, cameras, and more to collect vehicle and driver data and transmit it to a user interface for analysis.

Vehicle location and tracking.

Your vehicles are one of the most important assets to your business—so it’s important to know where they are at all times. A fleet tracking system gives you that much-needed level of visibility into the real-time location of your vehicles and drivers, which you can use to improve security and safety, maximize vehicle utilization, and optimize route planning.

Locations aren’t the only thing you can track with a fleet tracking system, though. In addition to tracking when, where, and how long each of their vehicles is being driven, more fleets have been leveraging geofencing solutions in recent years. With this technology, you can create a virtual boundary around a specific geographic area (called a geofence) and get notified whenever a fleet vehicle enters or leaves that designated boundary. Incorporating a geofencing solution into your fleet tracking system can encourage your drivers to stay safe and within their designated territory, deter unauthorized or off-hours vehicle use, verify driver timesheets and projects, and even recover stolen vehicles.

A wealth of data.

These systems can collect an incredible amount of valuable data, including (but not limited to):

  • Vehicle location
  • Speed
  • Fuel consumption
  • Idling time
  • Odometer readings
  • Engine performance
  • Driver behaviors (harsh braking, acceleration, after-hours usage, etc.)
  • Vehicle alerts

Used correctly, a fleet tracking system can help optimize fleet performance, monitor vehicle health, assess driver safety, and track a company’s mobile workforce in real time. These capabilities are particularly useful for businesses searching for an effective way to meet goals related to compliance, productivity, safety, and insurance costs.

While harnessing the power of data has quickly become a must for most fleet managers, unlocking the value of a fleet tracking system doesn’t end with the hardware. You still have important decisions to make about how you collect and analyze the data from the hardware. Let’s take a closer look at the options.

OEM vs. aftermarket—which GPS tracking technology is right for your fleet?

Once you have decided to move forward with a fleet tracking system, there are two primary technologies to choose from—OEM hardware or aftermarket devices. Each option has its own benefits and drawbacks, but they operate in similar ways, using a combination of a GPS tracker installed in the vehicle, an Internet of Things (IoT) platform or server to centralize the data, and a user interface or dashboard that visualizes information about your fleet. Let’s take a look at both.

OEM options for fleet tracking.

After decades of technological and digital advancement, many OEMs have recognized the value of data and begun investing in the integration of telematics in their vehicles. In fact, 82.7% of all vehicles manufactured in 2024 are expected to have telematics embedded in their designs, adding cars and trucks to the growing list of items connected to IoT. OEM systems consist of proprietary GPS fleet tracking hardware embedded within the vehicle, as well as software (like a cloud platform and dashboard) that manages and reports the data collected.

Aftermarket options for fleet tracking.

Aftermarket devices also use a combination of hardware to capture data and software to process and deliver it but are not built into the vehicle when it leaves the factory. Instead, these are manufacturer-agnostic systems that are produced by a third-party provider and installed after the vehicle is already purchased.

There are several companies that produce aftermarket devices that can be installed in essentially any vehicle. Depending on the system you choose, the device can be hardwired underneath the hood or the dashboard, or you can opt for a plug-and-play system that connects directly to the OBD-II. Once installed, you’ll be able to collect valuable data on fleet efficiency, driver behavior, engine diagnostics, and necessary maintenance.

How to make a well-informed decision.

When it comes to telematics, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Your fleet is unique, so you’ll need to consider your fleet size, financial constraints, and business goals to make the right decision for your company. If you’re starting the process of selecting a fleet tracking service, below are a few steps to guide you in the right direction.

Know your priorities and objectives.

Selecting the right system begins with pinpointing what you want to achieve with it. Are you trying to improve driver safety and reduce accidents? Lower costs associated with maintenance, repairs, and insurance? Or do you want to optimize routes or boost productivity? Homing in on these objectives will give you a good understanding of how sophisticated or simple your system needs to be.

Identify the data you need.

Some datasets might be nonnegotiable for your business. If you’ve identified improving driver safety as a key priority, you may decide that your fleet GPS tracking system MUST generate driver scorecards. While things like vehicle health, mileage, and fuel consumption are standard-issue across most solutions, certain platforms offer advanced features that are worth considering, including:

  • Real-time GPS tracking: The ability to track drivers in real time, which can be helpful for improving safety and productivity.
  • Predictive Maintenance: Leverage telematics data to identify and prevent vehicle failures before they occur.
  • Customer support: 24/7 support in the event of a system failure.

Understand the costs.

Affordability has been a major barrier for fleet managers in the past. Fortunately, the cost of telematics solutions and fleet tracking systems has become far more reasonable in recent years. When selecting the right solution for your fleet, it’s important to weigh your company’s budget and financial goals against the potential benefits of a fleet tracking solution. Foregoing a bare-bones system that only captures a few data points in favor of a more expensive one that collects a wealth of data can often save your company money in the long term through reduced downtime, lower insurance costs, and improved fuel usage.

Prioritize turning data into insights.

A fleet GPS tracking device can capture a huge array of important data—but without a dedicated point person to analyze it and identify areas for improvement, that information is essentially useless. If you’ve decided it's time to deploy a fleet tracking system, don’t forget to identify an individual or team skilled at mining data for actionable insights.

If you would like further information or help with selecting the right fleet tracking service for your business, contact us at Mike Albert to talk with one of our fleet data and telematics experts.

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