Once you've determined that your business will benefit from GPS vehicle tracking, how do you know what you should look for in a GPS tracking provider?
Unfortunately, with such a wide range of powerful applications available, some companies have entered the GPS tracking marketplace to simply take advantage of unwary fleet owners. These companies offer the promises of GPS tracking, but lack the experience, financial stability, and development resources needed to deliver the true immediate and long-term benefits of GPS vehicle tracking.
The right combination of features will maximize benefits of a vehicle tracking system. These features include usability, tech development, and financial stability. There are two main things business owners should look for when choosing GPS tracking: the quality of the system and the quality of the provider.
Here are the main considerations to take when deciding if a GPS system will meet your needs:
Active vs. passive tracking: Active (real time) tracking means that the data from the GPS receiver is transmitted to a remote user at regular intervals. The best systems transmit data every 60 seconds. This gives you real-time location information. For passive tracking, all the GPS data is stored in the receiver and must be downloaded once all the vehicles return to the office.
GPS client software: Many GPS solutions utilize proprietary software that requires installation on your computer. Often, these solutions also need frequent manual upgrades and downloads. The best GPS solutions provide the information securely over the Internet. As long as you know the login and password, you can access your system from any Internet-enabled computer. Flexibility and 24/7 accessibility.
Mobile Access: Because the pressure to keep up with your business doesn’t stop when you are away from your office computer, your fleet tracking provider should be accessible via any Internet-enabled mobile device. The best tracking system providers will have a mobile app that allows you to access key information about your fleet anytime, anywhere. This way, you can receive alerts, investigate incidents in the field, and, if necessary, send the nearest technician to an urgent job.
GPS Receiver Hardware and Installation: You need to be certain the receiver can stand up to daily usage on your vehicles and is covered by an unconditional warranty.
Reporting: A GPS solution should provide you with the flexible data and reporting capabilities necessary to make informed business decisions. A good GPS solution will allow you to automate reports on a weekly or monthly basis, or generate reports instantly. The reports should be concise and easy to understand. The data can be organized to give you information about daily vehicle activity, speeding violations, violations of company driving policy, a complete list of vehicle starts and stops, excessive idling times, and much more.
Also look for a GPS solution that offers historical reporting. You should be able to access any GPS information gathered by your system from the time you started using it. In addition, you should have the ability to gather key metrics about your vehicles using data mining techniques. This allows you to compare employees’ performance.
User interface: The data information should be presented to you in a format that’s easy to use and easy to understand. Quality GPS solutions will also have a “dashboard” view that presents the information most important to you on one quick screen.
Alerts: Every GPS solution should include alerting features to notify you of unwanted behavior. Alerts should be flagged in relevant reports and you should also have the ability to be notified of any alerts via e-mail or mobile device as soon as a violation occurs.
Alerts can be triggered for excessive speeding, excessive idling, engine start-up or shut-down during off hours, unauthorized vehicle usage, specific geographical areas, or scheduled maintenance.
Mapping: The best GPS providers usually partner with well-known mapping partners—such as Google Maps—to offer you the most accurate and current mapping data available.
From your initial contact with a GPS company through the installation process and beyond, a GPS tracking provider should take extra steps to ensure it becomes a partner in your business’ success. When choosing a GPS tracking provider, consider these elements:
Experience: Be sure the provider you choose has been in the industry for at least five years, has a long list of satisfied clients, and focuses solely on GPS tracking.
System uptime: Technology can be tricky, but the best GPS providers can offer nearly 100% uptimes for their systems. Every minute that a GPS provider cannot deliver service is a minute in which you have lost control of your fleet resources.
System development: As with any technology, change happens quickly. Look for a GPS provider that has an in-house development team that actively and frequently incorporates new and innovative features. In addition, any system upgrades should be done automatically without any extra financial costs to you.
Mapping upgrades: Mapping is the backbone of any GPS solution. If your GPS provider does not include solid mapping with continual upgrades, then your GPS solution becomes useless. You need to ensure your GPS provider takes great effort to provide the latest, most accurate maps and regularly updates them as needed. Again, this should be at no additional expense to your company.
Customer service and support: If a GPS provider does not provide reliable customer service and support, then you are not getting the most for your money. Quality GPS providers have a team of trained, in-house staff available to answer all of your service and support issues, and it should cost you nothing additional—ever.
System training: While the best GPS solutions will give you immediate benefits straight out of the box, most businesses can only realize the full potential of GPS tracking by learning the intricacies of the system. GPS providers that truly care about their clients’ success realize this and will offer free unlimited training on their systems.
Hardware warranty: Reputable GPS providers will not be afraid to offer a warranty on their equipment should something go wrong. Cheap equipment can mean frequent repairs and considerable out-of-pocket repair costs for you. Any repairs or replacements should come at no charge to you.
Financial stability: You should ensure that your GPS provider is financially strong with high growth, profitability, and no debt. This is especially true in today’s economic climate. While this information may not seem a relevant concern, the worst case scenario is that your GPS provider will cease its services, thereby leaving you with sunk costs and no tracking. In addition, look for GPS providers that have strong partnerships with other industry leaders and associations. This is a sure indicator of a stable GPS company.
David Patterson is a freelance writer based in Spring Hill, Fla. He has written extensively about the impact of global positioning systems (GPS) tracking and other emerging technologies on businesses with mobile assets. His client list includes FleetMatics.