The Ultimate Guide For Everything About Fleet Tracking Systems



Chapter 1

What is a fleet tracking system? How does it work?

The job of fleet managers worldwide became much easier when fleet tracking systems were introduced. And once you understand what fleet tracking systems are and how they work, it is easy to see why.

A fleet tracking system makes use of location technology in the vehicles being tracked and software programs that gather the data from these automatic vehicle location devices to help you pinpoint its whereabouts.

At the moment, two of the most common vehicle tracking systems technologies are GPS and GLONASS.

  • GPS is short for Global Positioning systems, a satellite-based navigation systems that gathers both location and time information. Because it is based on space satellites, it is able to gather these information in any weather conditions and from anywhere in the world for as long there is a direct line of sight to at least four GPS satellites.
  • GLONASS, on the other hand, is a satellite navigation systems that is operated by Russia’s Aerospace Defence Forces. GLONASS is widely seen as an alternative to GPS and is the second navigational systems that has coverage worldwide and high precision.

There are systems that use a combination of GPS and GLONASS technologies, to help ensure that there are more satellites than they could connect to. This is especially true in urban cities where there are a lot of buildings that could be obstructing GPS systems from the satellites in space.

Components of fleet tracking systems

There are three components of a typical fleet tracking systems: the tracking device, the tracking server and the user interface.

  1. The tracking device: This is the GPS- or GLONASS-equipped device that is fitted into your trucks, cars and other vehicles. The device captures the location and time from your vehicles and relays it to the central server. The other types of information that these devices track include the amount of fuel you have, the temperature of your engine, geocoding, the altitude, tire pressure, headlight and taillight status, ignition, battery status and the number of GPS satellites that are open to it, the emergency button status, idling information, the RPM of the engine, and the GPRS status, among others.
  1. The tracking server: This receives and stores the data being transmitted by your tracking device. The server serves up the information that the user wants.
  1. The user interface: This is what fleet managers see. They work with the user interface in order to access the information stored in the server and generate reports easily.

Real time data and passive tracking


Fleet tracking devices can either be passive or active. Passive systems store all the information from the device. When your truck arrives at the office, the tracking device is removed and the information and the data are downloaded to a computer and stored there. Active fleet tracking systems, on the other hand, connects to a satellite or cellular network and transmits all that data while the vehicle is in transit.

If you need real time data, you would need an active fleet tracking systems because the data is transmitted as soon as it is gathered. This will be a little bit more expensive, but will help you know where your vehicles are up to the current minute. But if there is no need for you to have up to the minute locations, then opt for the most cost effective passive tracking systems.

Reviewing the data. A detailed list of what is tracked.

Maps. You can view the locations of all your vehicles in one view. You can also know if they are stationary, or if the vehicles are moving. You can view a subset of your vehicles or the entire fleet. And you get this overview all in one screen. When dealing with location information, you can even set up routes to see if your vehicles or drivers are still within their specified routes or not. Depending on your software and your business, you can view maps of the entire United States or even the whole world. You will also be able to zoom into a particular city and even call up a street view.


If you are looking for a particular vehicle, you can just enter the vehicle’s ID number, route or zone. This saves you time and effort when you are trying to rack just one driver or vehicle.

Vehicles. You could also get a detailed view of the vehicles in your fleet, including whether they have been fitted by a tracking device, what type of tracking device, and the serial number of the tracking device installed on the vehicle, as well as information that is specific to the vehicle itself, such as the VIN, the license plate, odometer and engine hours.


You could also set up your driver feedback systems. You can set the device to sound an alarm when the engine RPM exceeds a certain number, when idling longer than a certain period of time, when breaking a specified speed limit, when it senses dangerous driving on the part of the operator, when the seatbelt is not used and when reversing. Additionally, you can set up groups and subgroups for your vehicles and drivers for easier monitoring.


Engine and Maintenance. The Engine and Maintenance sections gives you a detailed look into engine faults, engine measurements and diagnostics, fuel usage, as well as setting up maintenance reminders and recording maintenance done.


Activity. Apart from all these, you have the activity data. These information are divided into several categories, such as risk management, speed profile, drivers congregating, work hours, IFTA report, accidents and log data, and HOS.

The most important are:

  • Risk Management. There are several types of data that you could find here. First, you have the initial information on each of your vehicles, including the distance traveled, the idling time, how many times the vehicle has been idle for more than five minutes, the number of trips made after hours, and the number of stops that the vehicle made. It can also inform you about speeds that exceed your specified speed limits as well as the vehicle’s average speed. You could easily view all these information for any time period you want. For instance, you can create a report that would detail all of the above information for the current week, the past week, the current month, the past month, or any custom period you. You can set exception rules, create reports by device or by driver, include or exclude historic data, and hide all the zero distance rows. And when the report is generated, you can run the report to individual devices, the entire fleet, the company, and other groups you set up, automatically. You can also download the data in either an Excel Spreadsheet or a PDF file. Furthermore, you can use all of these data to assign a basic driver score, which could be the basis for demerits and promotions.


  • Speed Profile. This will give you the details of a particular trip. It also shows you if there are dangerous driver behaviors, such as harsh cornering, overspeeding, and hard acceleration, that you should take note off. You can even drill down to each trip and find out the vehicle’s speed each step of the way, as well as the time and location of any bad behaviors that the tracker detects.


  • Work Hours. You also have access to the actual number of hours worked by your drivers for each of their trips. The work hours report can even show you the non-customer duration that was spent on the trip.


Using the data you get and making the most out of it. How to act on it.

trackedIf you just want to see how your vehicles and drivers are doing at any particular time, you can check out the dashboards, which give you an overview of all the data you have on hand. The dashboard often gives you graphical reports that highlight critical behaviors and events all on one page for your entire fleet. At one glace and on a single page, you can get the driver score, the activity reports, the idle time, the stops and the business and personal use of your vehicles.

The beauty of fleet tracking software is that it enables you to see all the vehicles in your fleet on one page, but then allows you to investigate further. And this is when you open up the different modules to see more details about a particular behavior, trip or vehicle.

But the best way to work smarter is by using the software’s features. You can set up rules and exceptions. Exceptions are recorded when a vehicle event breaks a rule that you have set. Every time an exception is triggered, three things can happen:

  • You and specific people are identified. This way, you’ll know any driver misbehavior so that you could immediately correct it.
  • The driver of the vehicle is alerted. This gives them feedback and allows them to learn from their mistakes and correct their behaviors.
  • The exception is simply logged and recorded.

You can also run reports that will detail all exceptions to see the trends that happen to your fleet. Usually, exceptions touch on safety, productivity or fleet operations.

You can automate or customize your fleet telematics software further by using the software development kit (SDK) to integrate the fleet telematics systems to your own IT network. The SDK allows you to create your own reports, build applications for your fleet and import data from the fleet tracking to your own IT.

How often is the data updated?

dataDepending on your plan and whether you are using active and passive tracking, the frequency of updates varies. For passive tracking systems, you need to wait until the vehicle comes in for you to be able to download the data from the device and update your systems. Active tracking can be set for different time intervals, including anywhere from 1 to 15 minutes. For most real-time tracking options, you can refresh your map every 15 seconds to show the updated location of your fleets.

A closer look at how GPS works

gpsHow does a tracking device know your location? There are two dozen satellites that orbit the earth that actively transmit signals to the ground. There are more that are on standby to replace one of these 24 if they bog down. All satellites orbit the Earth twice a day or once in every 12 hours. Your tracking device uses these satellites to triangulate its position.

The device sends signals to at least three of these active satellites. Take note that at one point, it is possible for your device to link up to twelve satellites given that two dozen of these circles the Earth twice a day. In determining its location, however, all you need is three satellites to help it pinpoint its location.

Each of these satellites is aware of its locations and of each other’s locations. Your tracking device would receive signals from the satellites and then the receiver would calculate the time it took to get the signals from each satellite, check each satellite’s position and come up with your location.

This type of triangulation gives you a very precise and accurate location data. In fact, using only three active satellites and looking at a map application, such as those provided by Google, you would find that you are shown at the exact point where your vehicle is, whether you are at an intersection or in the middle of the road.

Cellular and satellite fleet tracking devices


There is another distinction for tracking devices and it is based on what they use for the network on which they send their data.

One is cellular fleet tracking, wherein the location data and other information are sent over cellular networks. You would be working with AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and other mobile telecommunications networks.

The other is satellite fleet tracking wherein the data is sent via satellite.

There are benefits and disadvantages from using both. Cellular transmission is more affordable than using satellites, but if you are traveling across borders or in rural areas where cellular reception is choppy, intermittent or absent, you might have problems with your data. Getting real time data and information might not be feasible when you go through areas with no cellular signal. You can avoid that by using satellites to transmit the data, but it can cost significantly more to do so.

And so, there are now hybrid systems available that combine cellular transmissions and those done via satellite. That is, the systems uses cellular networks by default, and when there is no signal, it switches to satellite-based transmission.