A Comprehensive Guide to Fleet Tracking Systems


Chapter 4

It is no secret that fleet managers have a lot to thank for now that fleet management software and fleet tracking devices exist for them to use. But there are currently three types of fleet tracking devices that are available in the market and each one has its own benefits and downsides. You can easily save money by knowing what these fleet tracking systems types are still getting the information and data that you need to improve and manage your fleet.

The basic types of fleet tracking systems that you can find in the market today are cellular, wireless passive and satellite. Depending on which one you choose, you could either save on upfront investment or do away on recurring costs and get all the data you need when you need it.

1. Cellular / Hand-held Solutions

A cellular fleet tracking device makes use of cellular networks to receive and send location data and other types of information. A cellular tracking device is usually what most fleet managers choose because it is very affordable to set up, especially when compared to satellite or wireless fleet tracking devices.

You should understand that a cellular fleet tracking device is almost real-time. You can get updated location information in intervals of five, ten, or fifteen minutes, depending on the systems that you use or choose. However, you cannot get up-to-the-minute location data. That kind of lag might be acceptable to most but some fleet might need updated location data up to the very minute. Another consideration that a fleet manager should make is the fact that you might need to pay a monthly fee to your carriers in order to use their networks when transmitting data.

The most significant weakness of cellular and hand-held solutions is that there might be dead spots in your fleet’s routes. Dead spots are areas that have no cellular or mobile coverage. When a vehicle enters a dead spot, you would not be able to get location data until it moves out of the area.

Even with these limitations, a cellular tracking device is an ideal choice for smaller fleets, wherein you do not require up-to-the-minute location data. A small fleet would mean lower monthly fees to your carrier, and upfront costs are usually smaller, as well. This is also a great choice if you only need trip histories in order to ensure that your routes are efficient, or to make better decisions about your fleet.

2. Wireless Passive

Wireless passive fleet tracking systems work more or less similarly to cellular fleet tracking systems. However, this systems does not need you to pay a monthly fee to your carrier, which means that you will be saving on recurring costs. The downside to this systems, however, is that you are going to pay more upfront because you are buying the software, hardware and the database up front. This can prove to be significantly more expensive in the beginning, but will be more cost-efficient in the long run because you have no recurring fees to your carrier.

This is because instead of getting the location data transmitted over cellular networks, you would need to wait for your vehicles to return from the field in order for you to get the data you need or want. A wireless passive tracking device works like an event recorder or a blackbox, logging all the events that happen during the vehicle’s trip for the day.

As such, this is just perfect for fleet managers who do not need up-to-the-minute updates of their vehicles’ locations. But there are other downsides to it as well. For one, you have no access to the location data and other information about the vehicle if you should need it during the work day, and you cannot use this type of tracking device to recover stolen vehicles.

Newer types of wireless passive tracking systems, however, now include modems that allow you to receive location data. This should make it more attractive to the fleet managers who want to save on recurring costs and still enjoy vehicle recovery and other similar features.

3. Satellite Real-Time

Satellite real-time fleet tracking systems works with the many satellites that orbit the earth. With this systems, you get real-time location data for all the vehicles in your fleet when you need it. You could even check the locations of all your vehicles using a map on a single screen.

If you have a business that requires you to know where your cars, trucks and lorries are, then this is the systems you need. Like if you run a taxi dispatching service, or perhaps a trucking and delivery company, or a shipping firm, or if you have operations that would require you to get accurate data even in areas with no cellular coverage. No lags here, you get to know where your vehicles are at this very minute.

Out of the three types of fleet tracking devices, satellite-based systems is the best when it comes to getting the freshest and the latest data, but it could come with a hefty price tag. Because you are using satellite systems, this means that you no longer rely on your carrier to transmit data and that would mean that you are able to log and monitor vehicle location even when they are in an area with no mobile coverage.

However, monthly fees for satellite-based fleet tracking software may be sizable. This is because you pay more for the data that you transmit, and the bigger the data, the more expensive it is.

Another downside is that you are often given less detailed information. Because you are working with satellites and up-to-the-minute location, other types of information might be relegated to the back burner and may not be that detailed.

So getting the right type of fleet tracking systems for your company would mean that you, as a fleet manager, would need to know what types of information and data are important to your operations, and when you need them. Do you need up-to-the-minute location data? Then go for a satellite-based systems. If not, then decide between a cellular and a wireless passive systems.


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