What is GPS fleet tracking?

What is GPS fleet tracking?

  • What started out as a military function has evolved into a time-and-money saver for thousands of companies
  • Real-time tracking provides alerts and reports for trucking companies and delivery services
  • Tracking assets saves time, money and increases safety

GPS fleet tracking was originally developed as a military tool, but over the past decade, it has found its niche in everyday business. Fleet managers and companies that deliver goods and services can now use real-time mapping to know where their vehicles are at any given moment. The end result is cost savings, safer vehicle utilization, and happier customers.

Why vehicle tracking matters

Few things are more frustrating than waiting for that special package you ordered, only to be disappointed when it doesn’t show up.

So what do you do? Your first step is to call the delivery service and try to find out when it will be delivered (and where it might be in the process). More often than not, the best answer you’ll get is that it’s on the way.

Technology today allows for much better customer service. If the delivery service has a reliable, real-time GPS (Global Positioning System) tracking system in their vehicles, they can tell you not only where your delivery is, but also an expected delivery time, almost down to the minute.

GPS tracking, which is the pinpointing of a discoverable device’s location by utilizing 24 geosynchronous satellites to precisely pinpoint latitude, longitude, direction and speed, has come a long way over the years.

The benefits of GPS fleet tracking

GPS fleet tracking may have started out as a way of keeping drivers from getting lost, but the benefits for companies that have a fleet of vehicles on the road at any given time are many. For example:

Location alerts and reports

A fleet manager can look at the computer screen and in one quick glance, ascertain where all of the company’s drivers, vehicles and assets are at any given moment.

This not only eliminates any guessing or time-consuming phone calls, but it gives the fleet manager the ability to view his assets in real-time.

This amounts to cost savings in fuel, time and vehicle wear-and-tear. It also gives them the ability to inform the end-user customer of specific delivery times, almost down to the minute. This means happier customers and repeat business.

Analyze and plan routes

GPS fleet tracking also helps in advance planning for routes that may be repeated often, or be changed due to road construction, maintenance or severe weather conditions. With GPS fleet tracking, managers can view and analyze various routes as well as driver performance based on their history.


The information gathered (even in real-time) from a GPS fleet tracking system can be shared with customers and internal staff. Drivers can share their location and customers can find out estimated times of arrival. This can be done without the danger of behind-the-wheel cell phone use, or even the need for a radio to communicate.

GPS tracking is much older than you think

While GPS tracking may seem like a new technology, it actually has its roots back in the early 1960s, when it was used by the US military to track submarines that were carrying nuclear missiles.

At the time, six newly launched satellites were used. While the technology was not nearly as advanced as it is today, the early GPS systems were still able to track the subs successfully. In these early systems, location accuracy was within a few miles, and tracking updates took several minutes rather than seconds.

In 1986, an in-vehicle GPS tracking system was introduced as an optional stolen vehicle recovery system in some new cars. LoJack® would send location information to law enforcement from a hidden transceiver in the car.

In 1993, 18 more satellites were put in place to make location-tracking immensely more accurate, and, along with newly developed software, the data could be superimposed onto maps in real-time, improving accuracy and decision-making for military purposes.

In 1996, General Motors launched OnStar®, an in-vehicle GPS tracking system that allowed hands-free calls, turn-by-turn navigation, remote diagnostics, and two-way communication in addition to emergency services.

In the 2000s, more people acquired smartphones and tablets. Technology companies recognized a need for affordable solutions that could be used in a plethora of industries, specifically for truck fleets, delivery services, and consumer use.

Cutting edge solutions for fleet managers, delivery services and other services are now available at a fraction of the cost of that submarine tracking system.

Who uses GPS tracking?

The past decade has seen a significant increase in on-road deliveries, thanks primarily to the ease of online shopping. Consumers have grown accustomed to one- or two-day delivery of everything from groceries to clothing.

As a result, big-name delivery services have become so overwhelmed that they have spawned smaller, start-up delivery companies that are expected to deliver goods safely, quickly and at the promised delivery time.

In addition, local market companies have increased their delivery capabilities by using their own vehicles that typically drive less than 150 miles per day.

Management needs a way to:

  • Track the vehicles to avoid duplication of effort
  • Keep deliveries on time
  • Make sure their drivers are safe by monitoring speed and using the shortest routes possible.

And that’s where GPS fleet tracking shines.

How the construction industry benefits from GPS tracking

Virtually any industry can benefit from GPS tracking, but the construction industry, in particular, is one where results can be seen immediately.

The theft of vehicles, property, and materials is a frequent occurrence in construction. Materials get delivered to the job site. If the site is not guarded 24/7, it’s not too difficult for thieves to enter the site and leave with wood, tools, piping and other valuable materials.

The same goes for heavy equipment delivered to the site. GPS tracking can give construction superintendents real-time monitoring of everything on-site.

Using geofencing (described below), a specific job site perimeter can be programmed. When anything with a GPS tracking device leaves that perimeter an instant notification is generated to the fleet manager, safety manager, or other back-office staff. Then, appropriate actions can be taken, such as letting customers know when to expect delivery.

GPS fleet tracking for plumbing businesses

Because timing is so critical to success in the plumbing business, many plumbing firms are using GPS tracking to get their plumbing technicians to customers’ homes faster and with more direct routes.

If a dispatcher knows precisely where a technician is at any given time, sending that tech to the next job becomes easier by dispatching a tech who is in the vicinity.

This not only saves fuel and travel time, but it also makes for a happier customer, knowing a service tech will be there quickly.

From the technician standpoint, real-time GPS tracking makes it easier for dispatchers to see if the tech may be lost or heading in the wrong direction. A simple check of the computer screen can solve this problem.

How GPS fleet tracking works

GPS tracking devices can be installed in vehicles quickly and easily. The aforementioned satellites triangulate a signal to hone in on the vehicle and send it specific latitude and longitude coordinates. The device then emits a signal with the coordinates. It is then picked up by a wireless carrier tower and relayed back to a central server in the cloud. This allows for secure, password-protected access to your company.

Signals are sent and received in real-time, allowing management to know precisely where their vehicles are headed.

Learn more about how GPS tracking works.

Geofencing your fleet

If you’ve ever been active on social media, you have probably been geofenced. You may live in a small town, but when you get on social media, you notice advertising that is targeted at you from a store right up the road.

How do they do that? Simple. Your IP address gives your location to the internet service provider, which in turn automatically triggers a response (in this case an ad) to your computer. If you are using a smartphone, the GPS function of the phone does the same thing.

Geofencing, as it relates to delivery vehicles, works almost the same way, but the results are much more robust.

Predetermined geofences can be set up so if a vehicle goes outside of the specified area, it triggers an alert at the dispatch office or company headquarters.

This can be extremely helpful in cases where drivers are not supposed to leave a certain area, or if a vehicle is stolen. It also alerts you when vehicles leave or return to your facility.

Geofences can also be created around your facility or other downtime areas, and if a vehicle enters or exits the area, an immediate notification is sent to user-specified personnel alerting them of the situation. Again, the end result is a more efficient use of fleet and cost savings.

Best GPS features for fleets

  • Real-time tracking with no cumbersome screen refreshes
  • GPS tracks on smartphones, tablets and computers
  • View your entire fleet on one screen
  • Make delivery times more accurate and efficient
  • Reduce fuel costs by using more direct routes

Learn more about how to choose a GPS fleet tracking system or how KeepTruckin’s GPS tracking capabilities and can benefit your fleet.

Disclaimer: All content and information on this website is for informational and educational purposes only, does not constitute financial, business, or legal advice. Although KeepTruckin strives to provide accurate general information, the information presented here is not a substitute for any kind of professional advice, and you should not rely solely on this information. Always consult a professional in the area for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any professional, legal, business and financial or tax-related decisions.

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Jeff Miller

Jeff Miller is an award-winning writer in the energy and transportation industries, a playwright and actor/director, and the author of an Amazon Top 100 book. He is certified by the Department of Homeland Security and Michigan State University in Incident Management and Crisis Communications. He and his wife Beth (also a writer) live in Texas.

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