Fleet tracking and fleet management software is a godsend for fleet managers today. Without it, their lives would be a whole lot more difficult than it needs to be, and they would not be able to manage their fleets efficiently. Fleet managers would have to make decisions without getting the complete picture and they would have less control over their fleet drivers.
Having a fleet tracking system in place would allow fleet managers to better service customers, save money and manage their fleets more efficiently. But as with any other technology, there are different variants and options available in the market today. As fleet tracking systems become ever more popular and necessary in managing big and small fleets for the company, how do you know that you have chosen the right system? This question is even more pressing if you take into consideration that there is quite a significant amount of money involved in your decision. Make the wrong choice and you will not be able to maximize your fleet tracking and management system, which in turn would mean that you would not get the expected return on your investment.
There are basic types of fleet tracking systems that are available in the market today. What are these?
MultiTrack by SkyNet is an example of a cellular-based fleet tracking system.
Cellular fleet tracking systems make use of cellular transmissions to send and receive data and information. One very attractive feature of this system is that it usually costs less to set it up than wireless or satellite fleet tracking systems.
However, cellular systems are severely limited in that you cannot get up to the minute location information on your fleet vehicles. There is usually a minimal lag because data is sent via a set interval of about five to ten minutes, depending on the service you sign up for. You might also want to consider that you pay your carrier a monthly fee for the use of their networks for your data transmission, which means that you won’t get the expense-benefits of one-off payment.
That said, cellular fleet tracking systems are still a good choice for smaller fleets that do not need up to the minute location reports. For instance, if you only want to see historic route information for better scheduling, or if you are trying to make decisions about how to make your fleet more efficient. Having a small fleet would also mean that you would keep your monthly fees to a minimum, and maybe even save you some money required upfront by other system types.
SkyTRX’s Trac King uses a passive wireless fleet tracking system to monitor a vehicle’s complete movement.
Passive wireless fleet tracking systems work similarly to cellular types, but with two key differences. One is that you do not pay a monthly fee. Instead, you need to pay more upfront to get your hardware, software and database up and running. Because you are buying both hardware and software, and you need to have a database in place, it can be more expensive initially. But you do not have to pay for carrier charges forever.
A downside to this is that you do not get any kind of transmission when your vehicle, lorry or truck is on the road. You would have to wait for it to return before you can get the data. So basically, this acts more like an airplane’s black box, recording the events of the day’s drive.
Similar to cellular systems, passive wireless is great for those who manage fleets that do not need updated location data. You will not be able to get the right types of information when you most need it. You also can not use it for vehicle recovery should your truck or car be stolen.
However, the passive wireless systems are continuing to evolve. Some manufacturers are installing additional modems that allow the system to transmit data. These modems allow fleet managers back at the office to get real time information. The newer models also provide other types of information, such as times and places when the vehicle stopped, the speed of the vehicle and other details. Now that the passive wireless systems are improving, some businesses are opting for it because of the no monthly charges that they have to pay.
Iridium satellite modem
Then you have systems that based on satellites. You could get up to the minute location tracking for all of your fleet. With the advances in mapping technology, it would be possible to see all your vehicles on a map on your computer or mobile.
Satellite based fleet tracking systems are perfect for those forwarders, trucking companies and shipping firms that have operations all over the country or even worldwide.
However, the type of information available on satellite systems is not as detailed as the ones you get from cellular or passive wireless systems. Plus, it could be very expensive to use as well. The monthly fees that you pay would depend on the types of information you require from the system, and that could put a significant dent on your budget.
Active vs. passive systems
Aside from the mode of data transmission, you also have another categorization for your fleet tracking systems: active and passive.
Active systems gather and store information about your fleet, including location, braking, engine data, speed and other types of relevant information. These information are then sent to you in real time, meaning that active systems are what you need if you need fleet data on the fly. Meanwhile, passive systems, as we have explained in passive wireless systems, do not send anything. Instead, it records all the gathered data onto the device itself for later retrieval.
While most fleet managers would instantly choose active systems, they might want to consider something: their routes’ connectivity. Simply put, is GPS or mobile connectivity available in their areas? Or would their fleet be passing through dead spots, or areas that have no GPS or carrier signal? If that were the case, using an active system would mean loss of data.
The good news is that most fleet tracking and management software providers now combine the two systems in their offerings. Because most fleet managers want real time access to their data, these hybrid systems are by default active systems. But once the vehicle goes through a dead spot, the device would record all the information it could and then sends these when connection is established again.
Fleet Management Software: Web based, installed or mobile
All the data that you get from your fleet tracking units would not be as useful without the fleet management software that analyzes the data and presents it to you in forms that you would easily understand. And when it comes to software, there are three distinct types: Web based, installed or mobile software.
Installed fleet management software is when you have the program installed in your office computer. This is a great option if you want to customize the software that you use and you are basically operating out of the office.
However, if you need to be able to access your data even when you are not at the office, you might want to opt for either mobile or Web based fleet management software.
Web based fleet management software on the other hand lives on the cloud. You get a software as a service platform that you can access from your browser with an Internet connection. You also have mobile apps that you can download from your phone’s app store.
Both of these options allow you to check on your fleet’s location anytime, anywhere, just as long as you can get on the Internet. However, unlike installed fleet management software, you might have some requirements that may not be available on the mobile app or the Web based platform. Because these platforms are usually one size fits all, it might take a while before your desired features are added to the service.
As you can see, there are a lot of options that you can choose from when deciding on a fleet tracking and fleet management system. You would need to take into consideration your operations, as well as your needs in order to come up with a decision on which way to go.
Knowing the different classes of fleet tracking and management units and software out there can help you make sure that you decide on the right system. The good news is that technology is always improving and more and more new systems are taking what’s good with one type and incorporating it to their own offerings.