How to Select a GPS System to Help Track Your Fleet

July 27, 2020

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Key Takeaways

Though GPS tracking devices are primarily used to obtain vehicle location, they can also provide additional benefits to your fleet. Some GPS tracking devices, like the Samsara Vehicle Gateway, include real-time GPS tracking with live-to-the-second location data so your fleet can monitor its operations in real time while also providing customers with ETAs for a more seamless experience.

If you’re a fleet manager, a Global Positioning System or GPS system with tracking abilities can be a powerful tool to help you understand the location of your vehicles and assets at any given time. Not only that, but GPS vehicle tracking can be a great way to help boost fleet safety, simplify operations, and increase visibility into your assets.

Read on to learn more about the origins of GPS, how the technology works, and what to consider when selecting a GPS system that’s right for your fleet.

How GPS works

The Global Positioning System project, originally called NAVSTAR GPS, was launched in the United States in 1973. It’s aim was to replace older navigation systems and compete with other nation’s systems, like Russia’s Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) and Europe’s Galileo positioning system, and Japan's satellite-based augmentation system, Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS).

The Global Positioning System is a satellite-based radionavigation system operated by the U.S. government, and is commonly used by the U.S. Department of Defense,  U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Navy—as well as the general public. It is one of the global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) that provides geolocation and time information to a GPS receiver anywhere on Earth where there is an unobstructed line of sight to GPS satellites. This system consists of three segments: the space segment, the control segment, and the user segment.

  1. Space segment: Consists of 24 satellites that transmit one-way signals to provide GPS satellite position and time

  2. Control segment: Refers to the group of international monitor and control stations that help keep the satellites in their proper orbit location

  3. User segment: Refers to the GPS equipment, which receives the signals from GPS satellites to calculate position and time

GPS tracking devices

GPS has become an essential element of the global information infrastructure. The free, open, and dependable nature of GPS has led to the development of hundreds of applications to improve many aspects of modern life. GPS technology can now be found in everything from cell phones and watches to vehicles, shipping containers, and drones. One of the more widely-used applications of GPS today for business and civilian use is GPS tracking devices.

A GPS tracker is a device that uses the Global Positioning System to determine and track the location of its carrier, typically a vehicle or person. A GPS tracking system uses the GNSS to transmit GPS satellite signals to a GPS device, or GPS receiver, to determine location, vehicle speed, time, and direction. Because of these transmitted GPS signals, GPS tracking systems can provide both real-time and historical navigation data on an object or vehicle’s route.

How can fleets use a GPS tracking device?

Though GPS tracking devices are primarily used to obtain vehicle location, they can also provide additional benefits to your fleet. For example, vehicle tracking systems can: 

  • Improve your asset management with real-time asset tracking 

  • Reduce your fleet’s fuel consumption with engine idle alerts

  • Create more efficient and streamlined routes with route optimization tools 

  • Boost security with geofence alerts that prevent unauthorized activity and help recover lost or stolen items

  • Track fuel and energy usage for electric, fuel, and hybrid vehicle monitoring

Some GPS tracking devices, like the Samsara Vehicle Gateway, include real-time GPS tracking with live-to-the-second location data so your fleet can monitor its operations in real time while also providing customers with ETAs for a more seamless experience. Plus, Samsara’s open API makes it easy to overlay this data onto third party systems your fleet is already using to create a single operational workflow.

5 Things to Consider when Selecting a GPS Tracking System for Your Fleet

Whether you manage a dozen trucks or thousands of vehicles, it can be challenging to get full visibility into all the moving parts of your fleet operations. When choosing a GPS tracking system, there are five important things to consider to make sure the solution you select meets your fleet management needs:

1. Real-time location tracking

It’s important to evaluate how critical timely location data will be to your fleet. If you need accurate tracking information for things like dispatching and ETAs—tasks that might be more challenging with near real-time tracking that includes a lag of a few seconds—real-time location tracking could be especially useful to your fleet. A single location ping every 10 minutes might be sufficient for certain fleets that have vehicles driving shorter distances, but if your business requires more visibility into where your vehicles, assets, and drivers are at any given moment, consider a GPS fleet tracking system that provides real-time location tracking with live-to-the-second data.

2. Security features

If you've faced challenges with securing your vehicles or equipment, consider a GPS tracking system with geofences that will send notifications via smartphone when assets leave a predetermined location. If a vehicle or piece of equipment does cross that virtual boundary, certain GPS tracking systems like Samsara will automatically alert and provide you with real-time access to the asset’s location. This removes any guesswork about the vehicle’s location and can be useful to share with police in case of theft. 

3. All-in-one fleet management platform

For a more holistic view of your fleet or if you simply would like to consolidate providers, select a GPS tracking system that’s part of an all-in-one platform. A unified platform with features that solve multiple use cases can help you get a more tailored view of your end-to -end operations while custom integrations can ensure you’re getting the most out of the tools that already work for your business. Finding a provider that can offer multiple capabilities can not only help your fleet consolidate technologies, but it can also provide additional data and reporting insights. For example, an all-in-one platform can be particularly useful if you need to:

  • Track equipment as well as vehicles: If your business needs to track equipment in addition to  vehicles, consider a telematics solution that includes GPS tracking for vehicles and assets like trailers or reefers. 

  • Create a safety program: If your fleet is interested in implementing a driver safety program, choose a GPS tracker that also offers a dash cam solution. A GPS tracking solution that integrates with a dash cam technology can offer you more visibility into driving behavior as well as location information for proximity reporting.

  • Increase visibility into your fleet: If you want additional information about the performance and health of your fleet, an all-in-one fleet management platform can give you more tools—like fleet diagnostic insights and utilization data—to understand, diagnose, and resolve issues faster.  

4. Ease of use

When selecting a GPS tracking system for your fleet, it’s important to consider how straight-forward the dashboard is and how much of a lift it will require to onboard and train employees to use it. To get your team ramped up quickly, look for a solution that’s simple to deploy and easy to install. Plug and play systems, like Samsara, can be installed in minutes versus other systems that might take hours to get up and running or even require hired support. Plus, Samsara includes features that go beyond GPS tracking—the all-in-one platform includes ELDs, dash cams, asset trackers, and more and has a team available 24/7 for any support your fleet might need. 

Once install is complete, it’s equally important to have a system that’s simple to use. To ensure your system can be used across multiple different roles in your organization, look for a solution with an intuitive dashboard that offers automatic cloud updates and built-in organizational tools—like Samsara’s tag functionality that helps organize data—to further increase ease-of-use. Additionally, consider a provider that can offer you the support that you need beyond just installation. 

5. Strong connectivity 

Additionally, consider a GPS tracking system with a high-speed, in-cab WiFi hotspot to connect drivers, applications, and devices while increasing productivity and lowering costs. The Samsara Vehicle Gateway license includes up to 500MB per month of WiFi data, enabling fleets to utilize connected software to improve productivity and customer service.

Finding the best GPS tracking software for your fleet

Before implementing Samsara, the City of Fort Lauderdale’s fleet department did not have tracking in place for its non-emergency vehicles. The team relied on phone calls to locate and then dispatch workers.

With the transition to Samsara, all departments can now track their vehicles in real time, making it easy to dispatch teams quickly and efficiently, whether it be an emergency response situation or a citizen call for water meter services. Increased visibility into the fleet has also helped the City of Fort Lauderdale better respond to resident inquiries or complaints, significantly improving their service.

“Samsara gives us accountability on the fly,” said Drew Newstrom, the City of Fort Lauderdale’s Automotive and Equipment Specialist. “Before, if we got a call that a city vehicle was speeding or driving recklessly, all we could say was 'we’re sorry.' We couldn’t give them a response. Now I can look to see which vehicle was there, who was driving the vehicle, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

With Samsara’s real-time data, the dispatch team is now able to log into the Samsara Dashboard, locate a vehicle in just seconds, and quickly report a location or estimated arrival time to the customer while they’re on their mobile phone. 

Samsara GPS tracking is part of a connected telematics solution that offers real-time visibility into fleet operations with an integrated connected driver workflow for ease of use and scale,   geofence functionality for added vehicle security, and is an FMCSA-registered ELD for ELD compliance. Plus, the Samsara GPS system can combine real-time tracking with Samsara AI Dash Cams to help you make informed decisions to build a smarter fleet. 

Want additional information about how Samsara GPS tracking can help your fleet? Reach out for a free trial today to learn more about how Samsara can help your fleet be more sustainable, safe, and efficient. 

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