What is a vehicle tracking system?

Tracking and telematics systems help businesses to manage road safety, security, driver behaviour, navigation, communication, fuel efficiency, and more. It makes the lives of transport managers and HGV drivers easier.

Vehicle tracking systems, fleet tracking systems, or software and fleet telematics are systems that track and manage vehicles around the clock using the internet, smartphones, and other digital sensors. They provide live information about a vehicle’s location, travelling speed, routes taken, places stopped, acceleration, deceleration, idling periods, as well as a register of past data.

Tracking and telematics systems can help business owners improve record-keeping and stay compliant. They also help drivers improve their driving style and efficiency. Furthermore, unexpected situations on the road, such as bad weather or a major traffic jam, can be handled easily and in real time with two-way communication.

Real-time fleet tracking allows transport managers to always have full visibility of all their vehicles, which is particularly important if a truck is stolen or damaged. Analytics helps transport managers to understand how their journeys really happen. They can identify driving behaviour that requires coaching or additional training to help reduce stress levels for drivers, increase fuel efficiency and fleet safety, and save costs. In addition, when drivers’ stress levels are lower, they perform better and they’re more likely to remain committed to the business. The business benefits from reduced driver turnover and saves on the costs of training new drivers.

Tracking and telematics ultimately increase the efficiency and success of the business.

Read more: How Transport Management System Boosts Visibility in Transport Operations

What is Telematics?

Telematics, also known as fleet tracking or GPS vehicle tracking, has become an essential tool for fleet management and driver hour compliance. It involves the use of GPS technology, on-board diagnostics, and other sensors to monitor and track the location, movement and status of a vehicle. This information is often transmitted to a remote server or computer, where it can be accessed and analysed by transport managers or other authorised personnel.

What are Telematics Systems?

Telematics systems are computer systems for vehicles. Telematics systems can be used to track a wide range of vehicle-related data, including speed, fuel usage, tyre pressure, engine performance, and the location and status of the vehicle. This information can be used to improve vehicle performance and efficiency, as well as to monitor driver behaviour and ensure that vehicles are being used safely and responsibly.

Some telematics systems also include additional features, such as the ability to remotely diagnose vehicle problems, send alerts in case of emergencies, and provide real-time traffic updates. Many have accelerometers as well as GPS and can give information on how drivers handle their vehicles. Fleet telematics systems that use this type of device that monitors drivers and how they handle vehicles are also called in-vehicle monitoring systems (IVMS). The software records details of the way drivers handle their lorries or trucks as well as their productivity throughout the day.

How do Telematics and Telematics Systems Work?

Telematics devices retrieve large amounts of vehicle data, such as speed, GPS position, engine faults, and more for further processing and analysing. Generally, it consists of the following steps:

  • Data collection

Telematics – the process of working with data – uses sensors, engine diagnostics, and GPS to collect data. Data collected includes vehicle location, travelling speed and general movement, engine and other faults, trip distances, trip times, idling times, harsh braking or cornering, fuel consumption, and more.

  • Data storage

The data collected is stored temporarily in the telematics device in the vehicle.

  • Data transmission

From the vehicle, the data is sent to a telematics provider’s server. It can be sent via a cellular network, satellite communication, or general packet radio service (GPRS). The telematics provider’s service interprets and categorises or optimises the data, which is then sent to a transport or fleet management system.

  • Data visualisation and translation by fleet or transport management software

When the optimised data goes into the transport management software, it is visualised and translated into a user interface to make it easy for transport operators to understand and use according to the business’s needs. For example, it allows them to analyse and report on drivers who exceed speed limits, see which vehicles need maintenance or repairs, and more. Through data analytics and machine learning, hauliers can also use telematics data to benchmark their performance in terms of vehicle safety and route optimisation against comparable fleets.

When integrated with an in-cab device that drivers log into, vehicle telematics automates operational reports. This gives operators detailed and accurate information about their vehicles, such as their condition and efficiency of use. In addition, it also provides information about driver behaviour patterns such as harsh braking or cornering, rough handling, driving hours, unnecessary idling, exceeding speed limits, and driving while fatigued.

The Benefits of Telematics

There are several ways in which transport managers can benefit from using vehicle telematics in their operations. Here are eight of the main benefits:

1) Optimise fleet performance

Maximise vehicle efficiency and promote positive driving by sharing driver and vehicle performance with your team. You can do this by using tools that allow you to assess drivers and vehicles against key performance indicators (KPIs), identify patterns of behaviour and quickly spot problem areas that need attention.

Drivers can study their own performance, compare it to that of their colleagues, and consider areas where they might be able to improve. You can also make driver and vehicle performance features available to trainers.

Read more: How Transport Management Systems Improve Efficiency in Haulage

2) Allocate work safely

Having accurate, up-to-date driver hour information available is invaluable as an operational tool. It helps you simplify planning and maximise the productivity and profitability of your workforce.

Integration between a fleet tracking system and a transport management system (TMS) allows planners to see a breakdown of a driver’s hours in the TMS. This aids in the allocation of work, giving you a real-time view of an individual’s driving time, working time, periods of availability, and breaks.

It also lets you view detailed weekly shift information, rest days, and where each activity occurred, using a series of on-screen tools and reports. Possible regulatory and compliance breaches are highlighted for further investigation in your dedicated compliance system.

3) Automate tacho downloads

Digital tachograph downloads improve the systemised capture of driver and vehicle tacho data for hauliers – making manual and potentially incorrect tacho downloads a thing of the past.

Driver data is automatically collected from tachographs. This reduces the burden of having to gather data from vehicles and drivers on the road as well as the associated admin time and costs. It also eliminates the risk of information being lost or incomplete.

Such a service can pull data from your digital tachographs and driver cards even when your vehicles are on the road. It can also request the data from each driver’s card and from each vehicle at specified intervals and upload it for storage on servers.

This allows you to monitor the success of uploads. You can then either download the data to add to your dedicated compliance system or automatically send it to a third-party analysis service.

Read more: Understanding Tachographs: Monitoring and Enhancing Road Safety and Compliance

4) Motivate employees

Where performance metrics are clear, employees can be recognised for their performance or receive support and additional training where necessary. When employees are supported to perform at their best, it creates an organisational culture where they become invested in their performance and the success of the business.

5) Reduce operational costs

Investing in fleet telematics solutions can help to reduce operating costs by increasing efficiencies. For example, having accurate, data-derived insights makes it possible to improve fuel management and driver behaviour.

6) Decrease liability risks and driver and vehicle safety

Better insights into driver behaviour can decrease liability risk and protect your business’s reputation. Fleet tracking systems help to reduce traffic accidents and avoid problems, heavy traffic, and construction along the way. When liability is properly managed, insurance costs may even come down.

7) Ensure regulatory compliance

Fleet GPS tracking can streamline compliance through digitisation and automation.

8) Vehicle maintenance

A vehicle tracking system can alert you when maintenance is necessary on a vehicle. This ensures that servicing is always up to date and unexpected repair costs are minimised.

The Future of Telematics

Staying up to date with new trends will be critical for operators to improve efficiencies and keep customers happy with real-time information about their deliveries. Telematics has provided a massive boost, and application programming interfaces (APIs) have increased its use through integration with other systems such as route planning, maintenance, and compliance. Integration capabilities with other services or software systems will continue to improve as the demand to connect to other systems increases.

To remain successful, transport operators will have to be able to gather large quantities of accurate, meaningful information from drivers and vehicles. But, as the amount of sensitive data from external and internal sources grows, so do the challenges around privacy, safety, and security. To address these serious challenges, telematics service providers will inevitably have to develop stricter new architectures to meet the changing standards.

What is Vehicle Tracking?

Vehicle tracking or fleet tracking is the live tracking of vehicles. Depending on the TMS software provider and the transport management system (TMS) the fleet tracking system integrates with, it can analyse driver behaviour, provide vehicle maintenance reminders and trip logs, and more.

Real-time information through fleet tracking gives haulage operators and managers insights into their fleet operations, allowing them to make informed decisions about how to manage their fleet.

When combined with artificial intelligence, vehicle tracking tools can transform a business by categorising massive amounts of data into easy-to-use, actionable insights. Transport managers get accurate, current information about fuel consumption, time spent on site and more. This information equips them to confidently make decisions that will lead to cost savings, optimise routes and increase profitability of their operations.

Why is Vehicle Tracking Important? The Benefits of Vehicle Tracking

Vehicle tracking is an essential part of fleet management and offers many benefits for haulage businesses. Here are a few ways vehicle tracking can improve business operations:

1) Provides full visibility

Combined with a transport management system, an integrated tracking solution gives you more than just a dot on a map. It provides all the details you need in one system, including where a vehicle is against your plan, so it’s easier to manage exceptions. You can geofence regularly visited locations and receive notifications when a vehicle arrives at or leaves a collection or delivery address, while being alerted to any issues.

With live vehicle tracking, you can:

  • View vehicle movements in real time and spot issues that might delay them.
  • Study historic routes and fuel levels to see where future savings can be made.
  • Make it possible for customers to track jobs themselves using an app.

2) Keeps dispatchers and planners connected to drivers

Many vehicle tracking systems include mobile apps that connect drivers to office staff to streamline job allocation and make communication easier.

3) Ensures better use of office staff’s time

When tasks such as job allocation and communication are simplified, office employees can use their time to deal with more business-critical matters and further improve business efficiency.

4) Improves customer service

Data insights lead to better management of business processes, which leads to better service to customers by providing them with real-time, accurate information about the location and status of their deliveries.

Benefits of Using a Vehicle Tracking System

How does a vehicle tracking system benefit fleet management? In addition to the benefits of vehicle tracking mentioned earlier, here are four more benefits of using a vehicle tracking system:

1) Driver tracking

When drivers’ routes are monitored, they’re more likely to stick to planned routes.

2) Vehicle safety

Knowing where your vehicles are makes it possible to check that they’re on a safe road or parked in a safe spot.

3) Tracking assets

When you know where your vehicles are, you also know where your loads are. This allows for easier retrieval if they get stolen or lost.

4) Geofencing alerts

Using a geofencing feature you can automate job status updates and keep everyone concerned up to date as vehicles enter or leave collection and delivery sites. You can also stay ahead of congestion charges and the like, by knowing when a vehicle has passed into relevant zones.

Types of Vehicle Tracking Systems

Vehicle tracking is a very important part of any haulage business – you’re tracking the assets that make you money, so it makes sense that you need visibility of where they are. But does it give you the full picture you need?

Tracking will get you so far, but by integrating detailed tracking and telematics information with a TMS, you can see everything in one system instead of viewing tracking data in isolation. This means you get greater visibility and control of your operations.

A vehicle tracking solution that integrates with your TMS offers these benefits:

  • Monitor progress with live data feeds into one place – your TMS.
  • Keep customers informed of job progress with real-time job status updates.
  • Set geofences around specific locations to receive alerts and see automatic job status updates.
  • Compare routes driven so you can maximise efficiency of your workforce and fleet.
  • Plan ahead of time and inform customers of ETAs.

It’s a great idea to implement a tracking system for your haulage business. It’s an even better idea to implement a tracking system that is integrated into a TMS. Live information gives you and your managers a full and accurate view of job progress. You also have access to the details you need to make better informed decisions and plan changes as situations unfold throughout the day.

How Does a Vehicle Tracking System Work?

Vehicle tracking and telematics systems use vehicle telematics and transport management software to gather data from the vehicle and the driver. They give businesses the advantage of robust and actionable digital data about their operational processes.

In-vehicle telematics use GPS technology to transmit real-time location data and other information, including date and time, and vehicle and engine diagnostics data.

Here are the processes involved in a vehicle tracking system:

  • GPS satellite: A vehicle telematics system installed in the truck communicates with a GPS satellite network to find the vehicle’s location.
  • Vehicle data: The vehicle telematics system collects and sends critical data about the vehicle and driver data in real time.
  • Communications: Data is transmitted to servers via mobile networks. Network coverage, signal strength, and download and upload speed in today’s connected world all contribute to the stability and efficiency of data transfer.
  • Server and server security: Servers provide data in real time, and there are servers in different areas to provide data to transport operators while complying with strict security protocols.
  • The internet and cloud servers: Through the internet, enhanced functionality and instant accessibility is possible. Cloud storage technology means that operators can rely on vehicle tracking and monitoring systems information in real time.
  • Transport management solutions: Many transport management systems can be accessed through a device connected to the internet to give businesses real-time data. This assists in making informed decisions based on accurate information.

How can I track my truck?

A vehicle or fleet tracking system typically uses GPS technology to track the location of a vehicle in real time. To track a lorry (or any other types of vehicles in your fleet), you would need to install a GPS tracking device in each vehicle. This device would then send the vehicle’s location information to a central server, where you can view the vehicle’s location on a map in real time. Some providers also offer basic, smartphone-based tracking solutions.

What Industries Use Vehicle Tracking Systems?

Companies across a broad range of industry sectors use vehicle tracking systems. Below are some of the basic ways different industries use GPS vehicle tracking systems, while specifics will depend on their unique requirements:

  • Haulage operators have been using vehicle tracking systems to manage visibility of their fleets for a long time. When integrated with a transport management system (TMS), using the driver and vehicle data is made simple. This is done through services that automatically download tachograph data and send the data directly to a third-party service provider for analysis and compliance reporting.
  • By making sure providers are where they’re needed when they’re needed, speciality businesses and services rely on fleet management systems to increase efficiency and ensure good customer service.
  • Telematics data helps construction companies bid on jobs more accurately and to ensure that company equipment, assets, and vehicles are used optimally.
  • GPS fleet tracking systems allow manufacturing and retail managers to transport and deliver goods effectively, reliably, and on time. This means the companies are better able to ensure efficient management of fuel costs and compliance.
  • Vehicle tracking systems can help non-profit organisations (NGOs) to lower their operational costs. These savings mean that they can put more money and resources towards their causes.
  • GPS vehicle tracking systems can help government agencies with regulatory compliance and contribute to budgetary savings.
  • Passenger transport operators use tracking systems to ensure better service to those who rely on their service, ensuring safe travelling and protecting their businesses and drivers against liability claims.

Which Vehicle Tracking System is the Best?

It’s important to understand your business’s specific needs and to do some research. This will ensure that you find a vehicle tracking system and provider that meet those needs and fit in with your budget. The solution you choose should preferably integrate with a transport or fleet management system and include add-ons such as mobile apps to give you all the visibility you need. It should allow you to see how jobs are progressing and to spot problems early so you can manage potential issues or exceptions proactively and effectively.

A good vehicle tracking system should also help you make on-the-spot decisions and keep your customers informed all the way. You should also be able to add extra jobs while ensuring compliance with regulations such as those around driver hours. Overall, it should enable increased productivity and efficiency in your business.

Here are five basic capabilities a good vehicle tracking system should offer:

1) Live vehicle location tracking

A very basic feature of a GPS vehicle tracking system is live tracking of the location of your vehicles. It allows your transport managers to know exactly where your vehicles are at any time. Mapping of vehicles as they progress on their routes is critical when changes need to be made. It means routes can be optimised to avoid traffic or other road issues and save on fuel costs.

2) Recorded history of trips

When evaluating and reporting on vehicle efficiency, being able to monitor and call up drivers’ trips helps transport managers to make any changes that may be necessary to improve efficiency and cut fuel costs.

3) Monitoring driving behaviour

Vehicle tracking systems can also help you monitor driving behaviour to identify repeated driving transgressions so that you can manage and prevent future occurrence of similar mistakes. Where necessary, drivers can receive coaching or extra training to protect both the driver and your business.

4) Scheduling and optimising routes

When transport managers have access to sufficient data, they can plan trips accordingly and anticipate any potential mishaps that may happen. This lets them plan and optimise routes according to accurate, up-to-date traffic data, which leads to lower fuel consumption and higher levels of productivity. Everyone benefits – customers receive their orders quicker and your business saves on fuel costs. Customer satisfaction increases, your brand reputation remains positive, and return business grows.

5) Monitoring vehicle maintenance

Delivery vehicles need regular maintenance, so a good system must consider fleet health. It should allow you to generate reports that highlight any maintenance issues that need attention. It should also provide vehicle diagnostics and fault code alerts in real time, as this allows you to optimise your fleet performance and do preventive maintenance to prevent breakdowns.

The Future of Vehicle Tracking Systems

Over the past two decades, vehicle tracking systems have developed rapidly, and at this stage, it is integral to fleet management and security. As GPS technology continues to develop and become even more sophisticated and accurate, and with the integration of artificial intelligence and machine learning, fleet tracking will become increasingly important in the transport industry. Here’s a look at what the future of vehicle tracking holds:

  • Self-driving (autonomous) vehicles

As automated vehicles become more common, the systems could be used to help self-driving vehicles navigate roads, avoid obstacles, and make decisions in real time. By integrating automation into a vehicle tracking system, all that will be required is to enter a destination’s coordinates. The system will find the best route to use. They could also be used to monitor the performance of autonomous vehicles and ensure that they are operating safely and efficiently.

  • Geofencing

Geofencing, which allows you to define areas your vehicles may travel to and from, sends real-time alerts when vehicles move outside of these areas. As geofencing grows in popularity, developers will find increasingly innovative application possibilities.

  • Augmented reality

GPS tracking will be integral to the new ways in which vehicles will be used in future. For example, to enable smoother, safer driving, augmented reality will become a standard feature in many vehicles. Sensors that recognise people near the vehicle, alarms that signal speeding, and alerts that trigger when entering restricted areas could all be integrated into GPS vehicle tracking systems. In addition, technological improvisation will allow you to see maps and directions on your windscreen instead of having to focus attention away from the road to look at a GPS screen or mobile phone.

Telematics technology has become increasingly important in the road haulage industry. In fact, to run a successful transport operation, vehicle tracking is essential. While tracking and telematics are already widely used, they should deliver more than just a dot on a map. Overall, vehicle tracking and telematics are critical tools for managing and optimising the performance of fleets. As such, they’re likely to become even more widely adopted in the future.