How does vehicle tracking work?
Vehicle tracking in its most basic form simply sends the latitude and longitude information from the device over the mobile phone network. This only uses 4 bytes of data and how often this is updated can be set by the vehicle tracking system. Knowing where a vehicle is at any given time has its own value, depending on what the vehicle is being used for but of course having a wireless data connection between a vehicle and its headquarters or control centre allows other kinds of data to be transmitted too. These include:
- Speed of the vehicle
- Fuel consumption
- How the vehicle is being driven
- Temperature of its cargo
- When the ignition is turned on and off
- Average speed
- When speed limits are broken
- Engine status (oil pressure etc)
- Tyre pressures
- Route information
Companies and other organisations will have different requirements for their vehicle tracking application which will determine how many data points they collect and the amount of data being transmitted. Some vehicle tracking systems may also include a Bluetooth transceiver to allow delivery drivers to process credit card payments from customers through the system. Other vehicle tracking systems include dashcams, providing views of the road and within the cab. Studies in the USA have shown that dashcams, when combined with driver coaching can reduce safety related events by 52%. Drivers can also collect proof of delivery documents electronically and send these before moving on to the next job. What started as simply a technology to know the location of a vehicle has led to additional applications making use of the mobile network connection.
How does vehicle tracking work in detail?
- The on-board device stores the information about its position before sending it via the mobile phone network to a secure server.
- The vehicle tracking system presents this data in graphic, word and table formats to the business owner who can then view the information over the vehicle tracking system with the vehicle position overlaid on a digital map.
- Vehicle tracking devices include accelerometers along with taking inputs from the engine management system and from the CANBUS interface. CANBUS monitors many data points in the vehicle such:
- Fuel consumption
- Idling time
- Oil pressure
- Condition of the brakes.
How do businesses use vehicle tracking?
Broadly speaking, in two ways:
- Operations staff can track their fleet of vehicles in near real-time, spotting problems for their drivers, re-routing/scheduling as business needs require, dealing and assisting with incidents such as heavy traffic, breakdowns or accidents.
- Managerial staff can analyse the collected data for given periods of time and spot trends such as driver performance and vehicle performance. Routing can also be optimised from this analysis. The data collected from the fleet can also inform longer term decisions such as what vehicles to buy next and what routes and customers give the best profit margins.
What are the main benefits of vehicle tracking?
Every business owning and operating vehicles will see the benefits of a vehicle tracking system in a way that makes sense to them. Organisations have different priorities but in every case, whether running a fleet of rental vans or operating a fleet of delivery vehicles you are dealing with an asset. Knowing the location of that asset is a generic requirement, as is knowing the status of the vehicle itself. Other requirements are more specific to the business, for example those companies employing drivers will want to track the driving performance of their employees, spotting harsh acceleration and speeding. Likewise, fuel efficiency is less important for rental companies where the renter is paying for fuel used than it is for companies where fuel is a recurring cost to them.
There are many studies on how businesses and other organisations use vehicle tracking. The main benefits below are considered to be the most important, although their priorities will depend on the organisation using the vehicle tracking system.