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What is GPS Fleet Tracking?

Data Blocks
Data Blocks

Today’s satellite global positioning system, or GPS, is the basis for a technology popular with commercial motor vehicle operators in asset management — which can include vehicles, equipment and personnel.

GPS fleet tracking allows fleet management professionals to make the best use of these assets, to reduce costs and improve productivity.


Adopted worldwide in multiple applications, global positioning is exceptionally useful in the trucking and transportation industry, with GPS tracking becoming an integral part of a practical, safer and more efficient vehicle fleet.

The Technology

Determining an object’s physical location — its position on Earth — has been essential in overland exploration and maritime navigation for at least 3,000 years. After radio was invented, vessels and aircraft began to use ground-based signals for this purpose. The current GPS network, which relies on signal telemetry beamed from space satellites, has been operational since the 1970s. [1]

GPS operates by sending transmissions between these satellites and a receiver that determines, from the signal distance, where the receiver unit is located. Created and maintained by the United States government, the global positioning system is available to anyone with a GPS receiver. GPS fleet tracking makes use of this simple, reliable technology to fix (establish) the position of vehicles.

GPS fleet services benefit commercial vehicle operators in a number of ways.


To get the most efficient, productive use out of the vehicles in a fleet, it helps to know exactly where they are at all times. How far is a truck from its destination? Is it currently enroute, or stopped? Is there heavy traffic impeding its progress? With fleet tracking, a dispatcher or fleet manager can find out immediately where a vehicle is. With this information, the dispatcher can estimate time of arrival, and share more precise information with those expecting a delivery or service call — a business advantage.

Precise location tracking gives a trucking fleet more flexibility — it can serve last-minute or unplanned requests from customers, locating the closest vehicle for response in the shortest possible time.

Fleet tracking also allows the dispatcher or fleet manager to plot changes in route at any part of the trip, and communicate this seamlessly to the driver. This enables vehicles in your fleet to avoid traffic jams, roadblocks or bad weather. Improved routing leads to shorter drive times and increased deliveries.

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Fuel Efficiency and Maintenance Costs

More efficient routing doesn’t reduce fuel consumption only by shortening distances. By avoiding heavy traffic this can decrease engine idling and wasted fuel.

The capability to revise routing based on real-time information, traffic patterns, and weather, can reduce maintenance costs by decreasing exposure to conditions that promote excessive wear and tear. This can extend the useful life of vehicles and the time between service intervals, and lessen the chances of unforeseen breakdowns.

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Driver Monitoring

Fleet tracking may include data collecting functions that record driver events such as speeding, harsh braking, rapid acceleration and sudden cornering. This information can be used to evaluate driver performance and develop individualized retraining to improve driver skills. Real-world experience shows that GPS data analysis can promote safer driving habits in personal use and in fleet operations.

The benefits of this are twofold: it can lower the risk of accidents, violations and other incidents that impose a financial penalty on a commercial carrier, and it helps drivers maintain good practices to protect their own career standing and driver performance.

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Safety and Security

The geolocating capability of fleet tracking can protect drivers against harm. A driver who requires assistance can summon help and expect it to arrive more quickly without the delay caused by trying to find a vehicle or driver when only an estimated position is available. A tow vehicle, repair truck, law enforcement or emergency medical assistance can respond more immediately.

In bad weather, this may compensate for loss of visibility or visual reference points. Because GPS relies on electronic data, darkness, poor visibility or lack of familiarity with the area does not affect its efficiency.

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Asset Monitoring

Part of managing a business fleet is maintaining control of significant assets: the vehicles and other equipment and the load being transported. For asset management, fleet tracking can afford a constantly updated position for every item, at any time of day including off-duty status. Because fleet tracking can also reveal when a stationary object is placed in motion, a fleet manager can detect theft immediately and act to avert the loss.

This same capability means that fleet managers can be aware of after-hours or unapproved use of fleet vehicles or equipment by employees or contractors as well as unauthorized persons.

The value of fleet tracking in protecting these assets is demonstrated by the fact that many insurance providers offer lower rates to carriers who install the technology in their vehicles.

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