The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

8 Misconceptions About GPS Vehicle Tracking

November 2007, by John Lovell - Also by this author

The common objections to implementing GPS tracking capabilities in a fleet are all based on reasonable assumptions — but, the actual experience users have had with this technology tells a much different, and more encouraging, story.

Each “myth” listed here is followed by a response based on actual user experience, drawing from data that Navtrak, a GPS services provider, and independent third-party research collected.

MYTH 1. We don’t need GPS tracking because we trust our people.
GPS tracking is not about monitoring employees’ every move. It’s about reducing operating costs and inefficiencies in the field. GPS tracking systems have proven to reduce fuel and maintenance costs, increase routing and dispatching efficiency, provide safety and security for drivers, and increase response speed and accuracy to customer questions.

MYTH 2. All our drivers will quit if we get GPS tracking.
Experience with thousands of customers contradicts this belief. In fact, once field employees gain experience with GPS tracking, they depend on it for routing information, roadside assistance, verification of work performed on time, etc. In many cases, GPS tracking eliminates time-consuming paperwork and provides additional security for both drivers and cargo while on the road.

“Our guys have adapted very well to the system. We didn’t have anybody leave, and now the drivers are starting to realize the benefits of the system for them,” said Clay Phillips, president, Ross & Witmer HVAC, Charlotte, N.C.

MYTH 3. GPS tracking systems are complicated to install and use.
Most fleet tracking systems comprise the same basic components: a GPS receiver installed in each vehicle and a user interface that organizes and displays gathered information. Both installation and use of these systems are simple.

A reputable, experienced GPS tracking vendor works with fleet managers to:

  • Implement the fleet management solution as seamlessly as possible.
  • Interpret system data and apply it improve the operational efficiencies.
  • Provide knowledgeable, accessible technical and sales support to cover service issues.

  • MYTH 4. GPS tracking is unnecessary.
    I can track my fleet well enough using cell phones/handhelds.
    Though useful as communication tools, cell phones/handhelds cannot provide information useful to fleet managers: real-time vehicle location, engine status, history of stops and stop times, and other valuable metrics, such as mileage, fuel consumption, or speeding patterns. Cell phones and handhelds can be turned off easily, not carried in the vehicle, dropped/damaged, etc. Even when cell phones are functioning correctly, they track people rather than mobile assets.

    “With handheld GPS cell phones, we were unable to track vehicles. We had some instances where employees would just simply turn the phones off. If the phone is turned off, you can’t track the trucks. The system becomes totally ineffective,” said John Boucher, founder & owner, Boucher Real Estate Co., Woonsocket, R.I.

    MYTH 5. All GPS tracking systems are essentially equal.
    “If you can tell me where all my vehicles are at any moment and can give me information about their daily activities, that’s good enough for me.” That demand sounds reasonable enough on the surface, but the business-enhancing potential of GPS systems for fleet management goes well beyond tracking dots on a map. Most GPS tracking service users realize the full impact of the gathered information only after regular use.

    Many providers simply set up basic GPS tracking capabilities, but don’t commit to helping customers leverage this powerful technology to transform the way they do business. When evaluating GPS tracking providers, determine how much interest each has shown in learning about the customer’s business and specific requirements and goals.

    This myth does does contain an element of truth, however. Technology is not the most important criterion in choosing a GPS tracking service provider. Experienced users know the relationship with the provider over the course of the service contract is where value truly lies.

    “We started using the technology about five years ago, but quickly became unhappy with the system we had purchased. Once we had bought it, we had to maintain everything. It became clear that we needed a more capable and sophisticated GPS partner,” said John Doyle, director of technology & communications, Alure Home Improvements, Inc., Plainvew, N.Y.

    MYTH 6. A GPS tracking system is another product I can buy to help make my business more productive.
    GPS tracking should not be viewed as a product. Rather, it is a service to which a fleet subscribes — a service that delivers information a fleet manager lacks the means to collect, but helps increase the company’s overall productivity and profitability.

    All GPS tracking vendors ask customers to sign a service agreement, typically for three to four years. So the question is which vendor does the fleet manager trust to help manage the company’s mobile assets for the next several years? Service is the crucial factor when it comes to effective GPS fleet tracking.

    MYTH 7. My company can’t afford a GPS tracking system.
    Cost is an understandable concern. GPS tracking systems typically require an investment in hardware for each vehicle and a monthly fee for data and wireless services. However, these systems identified inefficiencies and practices in the field that already cost companies hundreds, or even thousands of dollars every month: excess overtime, inefficient routing, side trips, excess engine idling, reckless driving, etc. The cost of these inefficiencies often exceeds the monthly investment required for a GPS tracking service. Most fleet achieve a return on investment within the first few months of using the system, due to savings in overtime costs, fuel expenditures, lower insurance premiums, reduced vehicle maintenance, and more.

    MYTH 8. GPS tracking is an unproven technology.
    GPS technology itself (the ability to locate and track objects at any time and in real-time using satellites and wireless communications) has been used effectively for decades. The core technology is now prevalent throughout the consumer market with such popular brands as Garmin and TomTom.

    In commercial applications, GPS systems’ effectiveness in increasing productivity and reducing operational costs has been well-documented by reputable third-party sources.

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