With scores of GPS tracking systems on the market today and a myriad of options offered by each provider, you’ll need to go through a considerable learning process before gaining the confidence...

With scores of GPS tracking systems on the market today and a myriad of options offered by each provider, you’ll need to go through a considerable learning process before gaining the confidence to choose the right system.  

Photo: Getty Images

If you’re still contemplating whether you need a GPS tracking system for your business, then you’re in the right place. This solution provides a host of benefits, from solving safety issues to improving your overall efficiency and accountability. With scores of GPS tracking systems on the market today and a myriad of options offered by each provider, you’ll need to go through a considerable learning process before gaining the confidence to choose the right system.  

This flow chart will help jumpstart your decision-making process. Once digested, use our GPS Tracking System Guide to dig deeper to understand your needs, understand functions and pricing, and configure a system that will deliver the maximum return on investment (ROI) for your fleet.  


1. Understand how a GPS tracking system works.  

  • GPS tracking systems gather data from the vehicle, then transfer that information through a modem to GPS satellites and cellular networks to fleet management software servers. 
  • Understand your business challenges – safety issues, inefficiencies, vehicle maintenance, high labor, or fuel costs. The challenges you face will dictate the type of solution you will require. 
  • Understand the types of data a GPS tracking system can provide, such as location, speed, trip distance and time, idling, driving behaviors, fuel consumption, and engine diagnostics. 

Know the benefits and limitations of a hardwired tracking device, a plug-n-play (PNP) device, and a smartphone-based system: 

  • Hardwire devices offer the most flexibility in expanded features like gathering engine diagnostics and add-on services like in-cab cameras and sensors. They also provide the most protection when it comes to tampering and theft prevention.  
  • PNP devices are the easiest to self-install because they plug straight into the OBD-II port of a vehicle (usually underneath the dashboard). This functionality makes it easy to transfer between vehicles if necessary. However, this does make them more susceptible to easy removal, whether accidentally or intentionally.  
  • Smartphone systems are the most convenient since most employees carry one nowadays. Most of these solutions work through apps that employees download. These solutions tend to be the least reliant and accurate because of how easy it is for employees to either not login to the app, turn it off, or forget.  

When speaking with potential providers, understand their system software functions. Is it easy to configure their real-time alerts (location, motion, speed, geofences) and reports to analyze driver behavior, vehicle diagnostics, and compliance? Will you have a resource such as a dedicated account manager to ensure your ongoing success with the product after becoming a customer who can provide free training and assistance with the system? 

Insider tip: The amount of time to properly vet a GPS vehicle tracking system will be longer than you think, but doing it properly will save you from headaches down the road. A haphazard effort or a quick look for the cheapest solution could result in the need to switch providers, replace solutions, and restart another lengthy (and expensive) implementation. 


2. Clarify your business challenges and needs. 

  • Identify your top pain points and business challenges, whether it’s safety, efficiency, or accountability - the challenges you face will dictate what you need in a solution and the types of data points you need to monitor, like idle times, speed, or engine runtime.  
  • Ascertain which asset types you’ll track (vehicles, trailers, or equipment) and the number of assets. 
  • Consider a system’s ability to scale to your future needs with functionality like open APIs and customizable features. 

Insider tip: To measure success with a GPS tracking system, use metrics you presently have at your disposal to determine your benchmarks such as vehicle MPG, collision rates, or monthly fuel costs. 


3. Take the time to vet providers.

  • Is the provider aligned with the needs of your business? Understand how training works, the parameters of system support, and if you’ll receive dedicated account manager.
  • Investigate which systems can best address your pain points.  
  • Get and compare quotes from various GPS tracking system providers. 
  • Contact providers’ other clients — those offered by the provider and through your research — for reviews of the system.

Insider tip: When deciding on a provider, focus less on the system’s overall cost and more on the value you’ll derive. “You get what you pay for” — while cheaper solutions will cost less upfront, they may limit your ability to scale the system and reap further efficiencies.  


4. Know your system’s costs. 

  • Understand essential cost elements: hardware, installation, monthly airtime or usage, and feature sets. Your staff’s time to manage the system is a cost too.  
  • Is a PNP adequate, or will you need a hardwired device to connect to driver ID, sensor connections to doors and seatbelts, and electronic logging device (ELD) functions?  
  • Consider other cost variables such as contract-type and length, number of data points to monitor, vehicle or equipment type, number of units installed, data refresh frequency and integration with other business systems.
  • Understand the costs for enhanced system functions, even if you won’t be implementing them to start. Those include video telematics, integration with your organization’s dispatch, sales, CRM, human resources, and field service management systems. 

Insider tip: For business fleets, most GPS tracking system packages come with a standard data refresh interval. If you desire a faster or more frequent update interval based on your fleet needs, ask your provider —be aware that your per-month cost for cellular data usage will increase exponentially.  


5. Run a pilot.  

  • Consider if a “ghost pilot” without driver knowledge is right for you. 
  • Define the scope of the pilot and establish criteria to measure success. 
  • Pilot in action: Put the provider through a “stress test” by contacting customer service after hours or on weekends to judge responsiveness.  
  • Compare expected costs with cost savings realized from the pilot. 

Insider tip: Installing a ghost pilot involves managing after-hours and clandestine installations. You’ll need to work with your provider to understand if any hardware might be visible to the driver. 


6. Introduce the technology to employees. 

  • Formally communicate program goals through executive leadership. 
  • Assign management-level personnel to manage driver coaching, enforcing driver policies, and disseminating companywide system results. 
  • Assign a point person for day-to-day system management to monitor vehicles, schedule and analyze reports as well as liaise with internal management, drivers, and your GPS tracking system provider. 
  • Hold individual meetings with drivers before installation; explain how the system will benefit them. Check in with drivers after initial install to gauge their real-world experiences. 

Insider tip: Metrics-based reward (or “gamification”) programs are a powerful tool to gain driver buy-in. These programs compare system metrics to rank drivers and issue incentives for top performers.  


7. Prepare for maximum ROI.  

  • Work with your provider to understand what the system is telling you about your fleet. 
  • Use that data to formulate and benchmark KPIs and communicate them. 
  • Configure alerts to mitigate dangerous driving behaviors immediately.  

Insider tip: You’ll begin to realize the benefits of a GPS tracking system almost immediately after installation. But don’t stop there — the more you learn from your system and apply new functions to your fleet, the greater the efficiencies you’ll realize above the cost you pay.  

About the author
Chris Brown

Chris Brown

Associate Publisher

As associate publisher of Automotive Fleet, Auto Rental News, and Fleet Forward, Chris Brown covers all aspects of fleets, transportation, and mobility.

View Bio