A small business guide to vehicle tracking systems

Vehicle tracking systems have come a long way since the advent of GPS. A recent report has predicted the global fleet management software market to grow at 21.2 per cent between 2016 and 2020.

The range of data that can be collected and analysed is now huge, allowing fleet managers to understand everything from driver behaviour to vehicle maintenance issues and route optimisation. The potential efficiencies can be huge, even with relatively small fleets of vehicles.

If you’re a small business owner then finding the right solution is about weighing up potential long term gains with outlay.

From GPS to OBD

Advances in on board diagnostic (OBD) technology, mobile data infrastructure and GPS accuracy and coverage have drastically increased the amount of information provided by vehicle tracking systems. There is now an abundance of options when it comes to the range or detail of data being collected by modern telematics systems. This can include:

  • Disclosing vehicle idling times
  • Identifying acceleration rates, speeding, over-revving, over-braking
  • Real time vehicle tracking
  • Fuel fraud monitoring
  • Maintenance management
  • Fuel consumption

By analysing and comparing different datasets the fleet manager is able to build up a detailed understanding of the logistical challenges of the business as well as driver behaviour. Identifying problems before they develop in both these areas can have a profound impact on everything from running costs to company culture and reputation management.

The costs savings to a business are various with some benefits having a strong and immediate ROI. One case study found that a 40-vehicle fleet could save £400 a month in fuel costs alone with the use of real-time telematics data to cut engine idling times. Furthermore, greater efficiency means reduced driver hours, and therefore fewer overtime claims.

Identifying Business Benefits

Understanding what kind of data you want to collect and how you want to use it is paramount and a proper consultation with your fleet managers or fleet management company is vital. In broad terms there are four operation areas which need to be looked at in detail:

  • Risk and driver safety
  • Fleet operational costs
  • Resource cost of productivity
  • Regulatory compliance

Telematics software contains sophisticated algorithms that can calculate the best routes for your drivers, meaning less fuel usage and higher route efficiency. According to Doug Peters, telematics analytics leader, GE Capital Fleet Services "an integrated, enterprise-wide approach to telematics use will enable a business to apply quality process disciplines to mobile operations - much like a manufacturing organisation applies to an assembly line."

Driver Safety and Business Compliance

One of the most overlooked benefits of modern vehicle tracking systems is the promotion of driver safety, something that can have a profound impact on the business long term, despite the less obviously trackable ROI. Automated alerts can be created to notify you of aggressive driving patterns, such as hard braking or dangerously fast turns, allowing you to stamp out behaviour that could lead to expensive insurance claims or even legal action. If your drivers are safer, you could benefit from lower insurance premiums as well.

Another benefit from telematics systems comes in the form of improved business compliance. One HMRC study found that around 40 per cent of small and medium-sized firms fail to keep adequate business records, with mileage records being one of the weakest areas. This has strong repercussions for employers, including investigations into previous tax years and fines for wrongdoing. The precision data provided by vehicle tracking systems effectively eliminates this risk.

Reduced fuel consumption, speeding, idle times and excessive acceleration also mean a reduction in CO2 emissions. According to a recent report by the Energy Saving Trust “many organisations think of carbon footprinting as reducing emissions purely for environmental reasons but it is primarily about saving money and complying with reporting and duty of care requirements.’ Recent movement on agreeing global CO2 limits at the COP21 in Paris could see further regulatory requirements for companies operating fleets of vehicles and the ability to quickly and easily collect the required data using modern telematics systems can mean one less headache to worry about.

Conclusion

Telematics have been revolutionising the way fleet dependent businesses operate for years with improvements in technology and data capture helping managers identify bad driver behaviour as well as better meet the ever shifting requirements of the regulatory regime. Perhaps the most striking advances are coming in the affordability of this kind of technology though, opening up opportunities for smaller businesses, with more modest fleets to find efficiencies.

From reduced fuel usage and lower carbon footprints to safer drivers and lower insurance premiums, the popularity of vehicle tracking systems is set to continue growing unabated.

Clive Winward is the founder of iTracking

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