Global Positioning System (GPS) is a navigation system that depends on satellites to locate vehicles anywhere on Earth. It was originally developed by the United States Defense Department at an unknown cost. The first such satellites were launched in 1979. A few years later, the GPS system was made available for civilian use. As of November 2013, there were 31 GPS satellites in operation.
If you operate a fleet of vehicles, chances are you already take advantage of GPS technology to direct your drivers from one address to another or to avoid traffic. GPS devices certainly are useful for these purposes, but by extending the use of these devices and applying them to as many situations as possible, you can take an already helpful tool and make it even more useful.
GPS technology in the vehicles of your fleet can be useful in the following areas:
If you operate a fleet of vehicles, it is a tremendous advantage to know where your vehicles are at all times. You can be certain that your drivers are doing exactly what you are paying them to do by monitoring the location and speed of your vehicles. This can be done unobtrusively, so your drivers do not feel like you are controlling or spying on them. Fleet tracking offers many other advantages, and GPS technology is quite cost effective.
When your business operates an entire fleet of vehicles, the efficiency of each vehicle is important. Less-efficient vehicles cost more to operate. The most important component of your vehicle isn’t the engine or transmission, per se — it’s your driver. Nothing else in your vehicle has as big an influence on efficiency as your driver. A driver who has a lead foot or is hard on the brakes costs you money in fuel and maintenance expenses.
It can be quite expensive to alter or replace vehicles to increase fuel efficiency. Altering driver behavior may prove to be much easier and cost effective, and it is not hard to do.
With modern technology, it is not difficult or expensive to monitor the efficiency of your drivers. By taking a few more simple steps, you can reward drivers who are driving efficiently, and give less-efficient drivers an incentive to improve. Post a prominent leaderboard in a common area where all of your drivers will see it every day. Offer daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly awards to your most efficient drivers. They quite likely will enjoy the competition, and will develop a good-natured rivalry that benefits you and your business in the end.
Stolen Vehicle Recovery
Vehicles are stolen from time to time. When and if this happens to a vehicle in your fleet, you will have a much better chance at recovering the vehicle if it has a GPS tracking device on board. Recovering the vehicle as quickly as possible minimizes the risk of damaged property.
When the information provided by your GPS tracking system is integrated with performance information from your vehicle’s engine computer, it opens a world of possibilities. The GPS device tracks what your vehicle is doing — whether it is climbing and descending hills, making a lot of stops and starts, or operating for extended periods of time at excessive speed. Your engine computer tracks things such as throttle, brake position and gear selection. Combine these two sources of information, and you will have a powerful tool at your disposal.
This tool can alert your maintenance personnel to possible problems before they occur. If your engine is struggling in a particular RPM range, it may indicate a problem with your ignition system or transmission. If your engine is running hot, this may alert you to problems with the cooling system. A computer database can integrate all of this information into a sophisticated performance management tracking system. By alerting personnel to small changes in the efficiency of your vehicles, many malfunctions can be fixed before they cause extensive damage and require costly repairs.
Most GPS units offer the capability to arrange stops on the most efficient route possible. When you are planning routes for your drivers, use computer technology to ensure that the routes are as efficient as possible. One large freight company even plans its routes to avoid left turns, so their trucks spend less time stopped at traffic lights.
The author of this blog is Robert J. Hall. Mr. Hall is president of Track Your Truck, a leading provider of fleet tracking systems and software for small and midsized companies.