A Comprehensive Guide to Fleet Tracking Systems


Chapter 6

The main component of your fleet management systems is the tracking device that would collect location information and other types of data on your vehicles and drivers. There are two main kinds of tracking devices:

  1. Plug and play OBD II port devices
  2. Hardwired tracking devices

1. Plug and play OBD II port devices

OBD II ports were designed primarily to test the vehicle’s level of emissions. However, these ports have also been used for scan tools and code readers, that is when the check engine light goes on, you can plug the code reader to your OBD II port and it will record the trouble code that your car, truck, lorry, or any other vehicle is sending. The code can then be read to pinpoint what is wrong with the vehicle. The scanner or code reader will also reset the error when the issue is fixed, turning the check engine light off.

OBD II ports, or on-board diagnostics ports, have been a requirement for most cars sold in the country since the mid-1990s. You have a 16-point connector that is mounted near your vehicle’s instrument panel. It detects errors in four categories: U for computer, B for body, P for powertrain, and C for chassis.

After the initial release of code readers, the market was deluged with aftermarket gadgets that connect to the OBD II port. These devices gather and transmit useful information, such as engine speed, temperature, fuel economy, and vehicle speed. These devices help you know your vehicle’s performance and efficiency, as well as indicate the driver’s behavior and skills.

When it comes to fleet management, there is the plug and play GPS tracker that can even offer live tracking. Because it is plug and play, installation is often a breeze – quick and easy. You can install the device yourself and just in a matter of a few seconds. This means that you can save from costly installation fees that a fleet management device vendor might levy on you.

Plus, it offers better compatibility for a wide variety of, if not all, vehicles. What’s more, you can easily transfer a plug and play GPS tracker from one truck to another and it can provide real-time tracking information when you need it. This means that you can use plug and play tracking devices if you think that hardwired devices are not going to be practical because you need to move the tracking device from one truck to another often. Hardwired devices will cost you a lot of time and money when used in situations where there is frequent installation and uninstallation, such as in short-term rental vehicles that are upgraded in a regular basis, or when used to monitor the performance and location of subcontractors or those firms that have owner-drivers. With plug and play OBD II devices, you can easily remove the tracker when the vehicle is not in use for your business.

In short, plug and play OBD II fleet tracking devices offer you more flexibility in that you can put it on one vehicle today and then in another tomorrow.

Depending on the plug and play OBD II device that you use, you can still get the whole range of telematics data that you need. You can get detailed reports on vehicle locations, driver behavior, harsh driving, excessive idling, speed, engine statistics, and other vehicle specific data. That data is sent to your dashboard to help you manage your fleet easily.

Plug and play OBD II fleet trackers can be battery powered and portable. These devices are compact enough to be used almost everywhere. Battery life could last anywhere from several days to weeks on a single charge. There are also battery-operated devices that also detect motion, so they only use power when the vehicle is in motion, helping you get more out of your batteries. There are, however rare, plug and play OBD II tracking devices that draw power from your vehicle’s battery. These are more convenient because they can last longer.

2. Hardwired tracking devices

There are times when a hardwired tracking device is ideal for your fleet. For instance, if you own your own trucks or if you only need to track a single vehicle. As the name suggests, you would need to install it to the truck, car or lorry using basic automotive electrical work. The main advantage is that the tracker draws power from the vehicle’s battery and there is no need to charge the device. What’s more, because you cannot remove it, it is not easily lost. Unlike plug and play devices, hardwired tracking devices are not clearly seen by the driver.

As such, hardwired tracking devices are perfect for cases of vehicle theft. Because the thief will not be able to know that the vehicle is being tracked, they would not expect to be caught so soon. And they cannot get rid of the device that easily if they should find it.


Installing a plug and play OBD II device is pretty straightforward. You would first need to locate the OBD II port on your vehicle. The OBD II port is available in all vehicles that were released after 2000 and it is usually located under the dash on the driver’s side. The OBD II port is often hidden behind the cover.

Just remove the cover of the OBD II port and connect your plug and play tracking device by inserting it into the plug slot. After this, the device can now start tracking your vehicle’s location and transmit the data that you need to manage your fleet.

The trackers usually come pre-programmed and ready to use upon installation. On the other hand, hardwired devices often need to be installed by the vendor’s installers, or their approved subcontractors. Depending on the device that you choose, installation time could vary from as short as 30 minutes to hours on end. With a big fleet of several dozen or hundreds of vehicles, that will take up a long amount of time and installation would be best done in phases to ensure as little interruption to your operations as possible.