GPS tracking has already given fleet managers visibility beyond what they imagined even a decade ago. But GPS is only one aspect of managing a fleet. Today fleet managers and dispatchers use many tools to do their jobs. Companies now, on average, deploy 190 apps across their business operations. That’s a lot of potentially siloed information in disparate systems.
This is where Application Programming Interface (API) integrations can help. APIs are software intermediaries that enable different systems to share data. So, when you connect GPS tracking data with other important data using APIs, fleet managers can create a more holistic view of their entire fleet. And it’s not just with GPS location data. APIs can bring together information from multiple devices and equipment to show managers what’s happening fleet-wide.
Read on for an overview of APIs and how GPS tracking with API integrations benefits your fleet.
What is an API?
API or Application Programming Interface is how software communicates with each other. APIs are used for transferring data. They serve as a framework that enables businesses to connect systems, applications, and datasets. We use them every day in our daily life. When you publish a tweet, log into a site using Facebook, or check a weather app, it’s all through APIs.
APIs are often confused with a Software Development Kit (SDK). An SDK is a full set of tools, documentation, code samples, processes and more to help developers create applications. APIs are part of an SDK, but the reverse is not true. Think of their relationship like a house. The API is your internet connection and how you send and receive communications. The SDK is the house itself with all its contents.
Different types of APIs and examples of GPS tracking integrations
APIs are broadly classified into three different types based on who’s using them and how they’re managed.
External or open API is designed for third-parties and groups outside of an organization. Anyone can access a published API. It makes an organization’s data and services accessible by developers everywhere.
Internal APIs—or private APIs—are the opposite of external APIs. They are inaccessible to external parties and are used by an organization’s developers. Companies use them to link backend information and create efficient business processes. They’re especially helpful for cross-functional departments like HR, marketing, and finance.
EXAMPLE: Supply-chain logistics leader ArcBest® used the Samsara platform’s open API to create a custom integration with their proprietary software to manage compliance. Their software team leveraged more than 32 endpoints to minimize manual inputs and increase accuracy of their Hours of Service (HOS) compliance. Instead of switching between two different apps, employees can stay in the system they use daily.
Think of partner APIs as exclusive access—they’re not quite open to everyone, but they are for external use. These APIs ease a strategic partnership where two partners have a mutual interest in sharing data. Each organization controls access to necessary data with permissions and authorizations in place.
EXAMPLE: Samsara partners with insurance providers to offer reduced premiums to policyholders. Using a partner API, the insurance provider can view Samsara’s telematics data and offer mutual customers discounts when they see safe driving. By leveraging this data, insurance companies can assess risk accurately and build safety programs.
4 benefits of GPS tracking solutions with API integrations
Software integrations pull data from disparate sources into one place. When fleet managers have full visibility from many sources, it becomes easier to analyze problems. They can make informed decisions that benefit the business. Let’s look at the most valuable benefits of GPS tracking with APIs.
1. Productivity and time management
GPS tracking improves nearly all aspects of fleet management. Instead of having multiple data sources switching from window to window, you have one place to view, combine, and compare all your data. You can create more efficient routes with data mapping and location intelligence. Driver logistics, job scheduling, and dispatch get easier when you know exact vehicle locations and distances. Fleet managers can do less regulatory paperwork. Instead, they can complete tasks that contribute to the bottom line.
2. Customer service
Today, the difference between you and your competitors comes down to customer experience. Real-time GPS location tracking helps build trust with customers. With a few clicks, dispatchers can know a driver’s exact location. They can share accurate arrival times with confidence. When fleet management systems integrate with GPS, businesses create connected experiences—for employees and customers. Managers can streamline record-keeping and billing. When customers need immediate help, your customer service team already knows everything. They share information with fleet managers, creating better service and deeper relationships.
3. Operational efficiency
Key integrations combined with vehicle tracking drives efficiency in several ways. For most fleets, profitability comes down to having vehicles on the road. Creating a preventative maintenance schedule is one of the biggest benefits of having a telematics system. Integrated fleet management software keeps track of mileage and maintenance history. They can even set up workflows that schedule maintenance automatically. With an OEM integration, managers stay on top of engine diagnostic codes’ meanings. These all add up to keeping commercial vehicles in top condition.
GPS tracking also has a large impact on route performance. Having more data allows dispatchers to schedule jobs strategically to their fleet’s advantage. Efficient routes increase the number of trips, minimizing downtime. Integrations with traffic or weather data can reduce delays and help managers plan alternate routes. Plus, understanding vehicle and asset usage patterns helps you figure out why a route or resource is underperforming.
4. Lower costs
Fleet management tools help managers lower costs in several ways. One is fuel consumption. Managers can use the data from telematics devices and fuel card APIs to automate fuel expense tracking and reporting. More data helps you identify consumption trends. And you’re better able to and operational inefficiencies. For example, managers can use GPS tracking devices to track their fleet idling time. Idling less means burning less fuel, which equals more savings. This adds up—sometimes as much as $6,000 per vehicle annually.
Integrated fleet solutions also help achieve and maintain compliance. Whether it’s records of duty status, DVIRs, IFTA taxes, or maintenance logs, GPS tracking allows you to collect exact mileage and location data. This evidence shows your fleet is following regulations. That means paying fewer fines for non-compliant violations, which also adds up.
Common API Integrations and how they upgrade fleet operations
Not sure where to start? Here are some use cases for how real-time GPS tracking and APIs impact fleet management.
Go paperless. When systems are cloud-based and connected with APIs, you can access information from across the company—from anywhere. Move away from paper-based workflows. Drivers and field technicians can always stay up-to-date with co-workers and customers, and vice versa. There’s no waiting for paperwork to travel back to the office. Relaying billing information, signed agreements, and DVIRs takes a matter of minutes.
Dispatching. The days of dispatching via whiteboards are over. Dispatching with a transportation management system (TMS) integration and real-time GPS location data allows the right drivers—with the right skills—to get on the road faster. Even when plans fall apart, dispatchers can move fast to manage change. Having live-to-the-second visibility of every vehicle’s location and robust customer data at their fingertips helps them stay flexible.
Fleet communications. More drivers own iPhone (iOS) and Android devices these days. That means fleet managers and drivers have more communication options than ever. Text messaging and in-app push notifications are popular ways to convey timely information. Company apps also help drivers manage their tasks. Apps can capture asset and sensor data, hours of service (HOS), driver-vehicle inspection reporting (DVIR), and more.
Routing. It’s not always about finding the shortest distance between two places—it’s about finding the routes that work best for your business. Mapping efficient routes in-between vehicle locations saves time and money. You can cut mileage, maximize driving time, save on fuel, and avoid potential traffic delays.
Geofencing. This useful technology helps keep teams productive and your assets safe. Using mapping and GPS data, you can set up a virtual perimeter to define a real-world boundary. Real-time alerts can tell dispatchers if drivers are on schedule when they enter or exit a customer site. Similarly, geofence alerts can tell you if a vehicle or asset has been moved outside of an authorized location.
Weather and traffic delays. Receiving advanced warnings about severe weather and traffic delays keeps drivers safe. Freight deliveries can stay on time. Real-time weather and traffic data integrated into tracking systems helps dispatchers better plan routes and adjust if needed.
Driver performance and safety. Managers can improve fleet safety with vehicle engine and location data. By analyzing this data, they can uncover unsafe driver behaviors such as excessive speeding, harsh braking, and distracted or drowsy driving. Knowing this information helps managers correct behaviors through coaching or with safety programs. Linking to an HR system keeps all employee information—including moving violations or achievements—in one place.
Compliance monitoring. Electronic logging devices (ELDs) ensure that fleets meet ELD mandate requirements. With real-time visibility into every driver’s log, ELDs give visibility into drivers’ statuses. Fleet managers and dispatchers can plan routes that avoid Hours of Service violations.
Fuel monitoring. Integrating fleet management tools with fuel cards helps managers track fuel consumption. In combining this data, fleet managers gain insight into how much each vehicle costs to operate per mile based on fuel costs. With all the fuel data in one place, quarterly IFTA reporting gets streamlined. Drivers can log fuel and upload receipts, saving them the hassle of expensing and managing paper receipts.
Fleet maintenance. Integrated systems simplify vehicle maintenance, ensuring fleets are in good working order. Align programs and systems to track preventative and as-needed servicing. Centralize odometer readings, engine diagnostics, repair and maintenance history, oil changes, and vehicle part conditions so you can get a clear picture of a vehicle’s health. This prevents costly emergency repairs and minimizes downtime.
An all-in-one solution to manage your fleet
Are you looking to enhance fleet operations, save money, or boost customer service? Samsara’s Connected Operations Platform unifies fleet management system under one solution. With real-time GPS tracking for vehicles and assets and an open API to integrate with existing investments, fleet managers have more visibility into all aspects of their operations.
To learn more about how Samsara can help you with GPS tracking, API integrations, and beyond, reach out today for a free demo or free trial.