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A guide to GPS vehicle tracking

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    How much could tracking save you?

    GPS Vehicle Tracking has become a vital tool in running an efficient fleet and managing operating costs. Many businesses have integrated tracking solutions in to their processes and now enjoy a competitive edge over their rivals, getting more done, improving customer service and increasing margins. Some companies and public bodies are even demanding that their partners track their vehicles before they award contracts.

    What is GPS tracking?

    Like a Sat Nav system GPS vehicle tracking uses the GPS network to calculate a vehicles exact position, but instead of displaying the vehicles location on a screen in the vehicle it sends it back to your office computers via the mobile data networks. In its most basic form vehicle tracking communicates when the vehicle is in use, which way it’s travelling and where it is. Most systems update their information once a minute, some systems update more frequently.

    Why are there so many different systems available?

    GPS vehicle tracking is a growing industry, some companies specialise in low cost entry level systems whilst others focus on niche sectors or systems that combine other technologies such as Sat Nav and CANbus. As well as basic ‘where are my vehicles’ type tracking, many companies can also tell you how your vehicles are being driven. The features and options available are endless and like any successful sector competition is strong, the best way to compare the differences in prices and features is to use TrackCompare.

    How will it benefit my business?

    Imagine how well your business would operate if the boss was sitting in the passenger seat of every vehicle, put simply that is what tracking offers. GPS vehicle tracking provides visibility of your entire fleet whenever you need it and is an opportunity to identify where wastage and problems occur allowing you to fix them proactively. You can quickly identify problematic workers or customers, invoice your customers and pay your staff more accurately and even resolve disputes quickly and easily.

    Here are some of the top tracking benefits

    • Reduced fuel and wage costs
    • No unauthorised journeys or vehicle usage
    • Safer more efficient driving
    • Better customer service
    • Less administration

    Why do I need to sign up to a contract?

    Not all companies require you to sign up to a long contract to use their system but in most cases the longer you commit to using them, the cheaper it becomes. Tracking systems include in-vehicle hardware and installation and an ongoing service to provide the application and mapping. Typically tracking suppliers will want the costs of the hardware and installation paid for upfront followed by low monthly payments if there is not a contract in place.

    Why choose vehicle tracking over phone tracking?

    Unlike phone tracking vehicle tracking cannot be switched off or easily disabled, it is also installed so that it has the optimum reception of GPS satellites so that the tracks you receive are both accurate and reliable. The other benefit of tracking your vehicles instead of your phones is that vehicles are your assets and you are therefore entitled to track them, tracking an individual through their phone can be complicated from a data protection perspective.

    I trust my staff, why do I need tracking?

    Vehicle tracking is a tool which can revolutionise a business and everyone benefits. Vehicle tracking and ‘big brother’ are often used in the same sentence and there is a perception that drivers do not want their vehicles tracked. This is usually untrue, after all, in uncertain economic times what driver wouldn’t want their employer to know they are working hard and doing their job well?

    GPS vehicle tracking benefits a business on every level including the drivers and can be set not to record private journeys. The problems that drivers face everyday such as fraudulent insurance claims and unfair customer complaints can be irradicated, work can be allocated better, traffic jams avoided and customers warned in advance when problems occur. These are just some of the areas where even the most basic tracking solution could benefit drivers.

    What is GPS?

    GPS (Global Positioning System) vehicle tracking uses satellite technology to plot a vehicle’s global position. This is the most accurate way for a tracking unit to identify its location and is generally accurate within 10 metres.

    GPS vehicle tracking works through satellites in space transmitting a time and location signal. The tracking device that is installed into the vehicle receives this signal from multiple satellites (usually a minimum of 4) and uses the information to calculate its longitude and latitude. The tracking device then sends this information at set intervals via the mobile phone network to a secure server where it is available to the user via the tracking application.

    GPS Antennas need to receive signals from a minimum of 4 satellites to be able to accurately locate their position. The GPS constellation always has a minimum of 24 satellites operating which means that there is always a minimum of 4 satellites within line of site at anytime, anywhere on Earth. There are currently (March 2009) 32 active satellites in the GPS constellation which means that GPS receivers are able to receive more signals improving the receiver’s accuracy. It used to be that when vehicles (fitted with a tracking system) were travelling through forested areas or cities with high rise buildings the signal would reflect of tall objects and could result in the tracking system miss locating its position. Improvements in today’s technology have overcome this issue through improved GPS antennas.

    GPS vehicle tracking can be restricted when in certain locations/environments or when installed incorrectly. When vehicles enter locations such as tunnels, underground car parks and vehicle depots the GPS signal can be obstructed and is not received by the antenna. This results in the vehicles location being reported back as ‘unavailable’ or ‘unknown’ etc. This does not normally cause a problem as the tracking unit will start reporting its location again as soon as it is clear of the obstruction.

    Many tracking applications are able to plot the vehicles position on a satellite image overlay and where possible you can see a satellite ‘birds eye’ view of the vehicles last know location i.e. just before a tunnel or outside a vehicle depot/warehouse etc.

    It is essential that the antenna is installed in a suitable position by the engineer installing the tracking system. This is a location where the antennas ‘line of sight’ will not be obstructed by a metallic object usually directly under the top of the vehicles dashboard. Some vehicles have polarized or heated front windscreens; these types of windscreens are metallic and can obstruct a GPS signal. Where this is the case the engineer needs to install the antenna in a more suitable position in the vehicle.

    GPS vehicle tracking is the most common type of vehicle tracking system on the market today due to the its ability to quickly and accurately record the vehicles location and record the vehicles mileage and speed precisely. GPS is a free service and no subscription is required.