Author: [Guest] Mark Solomon, Senior Editor DC Velocity

It’s a big continent, and it’s becoming harder than ever to monitor a fleet of trucks once drivers leave the terminal. Rolling the dice by continuing to use a traditional manual process is a loser’s bet. Using data provided by Global Positioning System (GPS) software, fleet managers use satellite imagery to identify, locate and manage multiple commercial vehicles and assets in real-time. GPS fleet tracking devices have become invaluable compliance tools as the U.S. government tightens its rules governing a commercial truck driver’s hours of service. Fleets of all types implement GPS fleet tracking devices to reduce fuel burn by minimizing idle times, enhance efficiencies through better route planning, and improve customer service through more effective communication. Drivers may gripe that the technology makes them feel that “Big Brother” is always watching. Yet in a business where operational efficiencies can mean the difference between success and failure, fleet tracking devices are no longer a luxury or an option.

The value of GPS technology extends beyond tracking an asset’s location, however. An integrated program can leverage the technology to eliminate out-of-route miles, ensure drivers are executing as instructed, and improving customer service with faster and more reliable delivery times. Even smaller fleets benefit from GPS tracking software by empowering managers to make routing changes depending on road and weather conditions, and identifying faster and more direct routes to get their customers’ goods to market.

In all, a GPS tracking system enables users to take a closer look at all areas of its business, and to manage pro-actively in areas where re-active management had been the norm.

Advocates of a fleet tracking device say that users achieve three buckets of savings: Fuel, maintenance (89 percent of all breakdowns, repairs and vehicle replacements could have been avoided by managers being alerted to problems before they become disasters, according to one study), and a lesser-known area, insurance. One manufacturer said some clients have saved enough on their insurance premiums to pay for the cost of the system. The reason: Insurance carriers view a GPS fleet tracking solution as a way to decrease liabilities out on the road.

Fleet tracking devices are neither expensive nor obtrusive. For example, a palm-size device can be installed under a dashboard and does not require an external antenna. GPS tracking software will provide vehicle updates as frequently as every two minutes, and will send hourly location reports when the ignition is turned off, which prevents tampering with the system. The system is also equipped with a feature that alerts the user if a vehicle is moving without the ignition being turned on.

Perhaps the best thing that can be said for a fleet tracking system is that it reduces network variability, helping companies manage effectively in a difficult and unpredictable marketplace.