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GPS Vehicle Tracking


GPS Vehicle Tracking has become a vital tool in runing an efficient fleet and managing operating costs. Many businesses have integrated tracking solutions in to their processes and now enjoy a competitive edge over their rivals, getting more done, improving customer service and increasing margins. Some companies and public bodies are even demanding that their partners track their vehicles before they award contracts.

What Is GPS Vehicle Tracking?

Like a Sat Nav system GPS vehicle tracking uses the GPS network to calculate a vehicles exact position, but instead of displaying the vehicles location on a screen in the vehicle it sends it back to your office computers via the mobile data networks. In its most basic form vehicle tracking communicates when the vehicle is in use, which way it’s travelling and where it is. Most systems update their information once a minute, some systems update more frequently.

Why Are There So Many Different Systems On The Market?

GPS vehicle tracking is a growing industry, some companies specialise in low cost entry level systems whilst others focus on niche sectors or systems that combine other technologies such as Sat Nav and CANbus. As well as basic ‘where are my vehicles’ type tracking, many companies can also tell you how your vehicles are being driven. The features and options available are endless and like any successful sector competition is strong, the best way to compare the differences in prices and features is to use TrackCompare.

How Will GPS Vehicle Tracking Benefit My Business?

Imagine how well your business would operate if the boss was sitting in the passenger seat of every vehicle, put simply that is what tracking offers. GPS vehicle tracking provides visibility of your entire fleet whenever you need it and is an opportunity to identify where wastage and problems occur allowing you to fix them proactively. You can quickly identify problematic workers or customers, invoice your customers and pay your staff more accurately and even resolve disputes quickly and easily.

Here are some of the top tracking benefits

  • Reduced fuel and wage costs
  • No unauthorised journeys or vehicle usage
  • Safer more efficient driving
  • Better customer service
  • Less administration

Why Do I Need To Sign Up To A Contract To Get Vehicle Tracking

Not all companies require you to sign up to a long contract to use their system but in most cases the longer you commit to using them, the cheaper it becomes. Tracking systems include in-vehicle hardware and installation and an ongoing service to provide the application and mapping. Typically tracking suppliers will want the costs of the hardware and installation paid for upfront followed by low monthly payments if there is not a contract in place.

Why Choose GPS Vehicle Tracking Over Phone Tracking?

Unlike phone tracking vehicle tracking cannot be switched off or easily disabled, it is also installed so that it has the optimum reception of GPS satellites so that the tracks you receive are both accurate and reliable. The other benefit of tracking your vehicles instead of your phones is that vehicles are your assets and you are therefore entitled to track them, tracking an individual through their phone can be complicated from a data protection perspective.

I Trust My Staff, Why Do I Need GPS Vehicle Tracking

Vehicle trackig is a tool which can revolutionise a business and everyone benefits. Vehicle tracking and ‘big brother’ are often used in the same sentence and there is a perception that drivers do not want their vehicles tracked. This is usually untrue, after all, in uncertain economic times what driver wouldn’t want their employer to know they are working hard and doing their job well?

GPS vehicle tracking benefits a business on every level including the drivers and can be set not to record private journeys. The problems that drivers face everyday such as fraudulent insurance claims and unfair customer complaints can be irradicated, work can be allocated better, traffic jams avoided and customers warned in advance when problems occur. These are just some of the areas where even the most basic tracking solution could benefit drivers.

What Exactly Is GPS?

GPS (Global Positioning System) vehicle tracking uses satellite technology to plot a vehicle’s global position. This is the most accurate way for a tracking unit to identify its location and is generally accurate within 10 metres.

GPS vehicle tracking works through satellites in space transmitting a time and location signal. The tracking device that is installed into the vehicle receives this signal from multiple satellites (usually a minimum of 4) and uses the information to calculate its longitude and latitude. The tracking device then sends this information at set intervals via the mobile phone network to a secure server where it is available to the user via the tracking application.

GPS Antennas need to receive signals from a minimum of 4 satellites to be able to accurately locate their position. The GPS constellation always has a minimum of 24 satellites operating which means that there is always a minimum of 4 satellites within line of site at anytime, anywhere on Earth. There are currently (March 2009) 32 active satellites in the GPS constellation which means that GPS receivers are able to receive more signals improving the receiver’s accuracy. It used to be that when vehicles (fitted with a tracking system) were travelling through forested areas or cities with high rise buildings the signal would reflect of tall objects and could result in the tracking system miss locating its position. Improvements in today’s technology have overcome this issue through improved GPS antennas.

GPS vehicle tracking can be restricted when in certain locations/environments or when installed incorrectly. When vehicles enter locations such as tunnels, underground car parks and vehicle depots the GPS signal can be obstructed and is not received by the antenna. This results in the vehicles location being reported back as ‘unavailable’ or ‘unknown’ etc. This does not normally cause a problem as the tracking unit will start reporting its location again as soon as it is clear of the obstruction.

Many tracking applications are able to plot the vehicles position on a satellite image overlay and where possible you can see a satellite ‘birds eye’ view of the vehicles last know location i.e. just before a tunnel or outside a vehicle depot/warehouse etc.

It is essential that the antenna is installed in a suitable position by the engineer installing the tracking system. This is a location where the antennas ‘line of sight’ will not be obstructed by a metallic object usually directly under the top of the vehicles dashboard. Some vehicles have polarized or heated front windscreens; these types of windscreens are metallic and can obstruct a GPS signal. Where this is the case the engineer needs to install the antenna in a more suitable position in the vehicle.

GPS vehicle tracking is the most common type of vehicle tracking system on the market today due to the its ability to quickly and accurately record the vehicles location and record the vehicles mileage and speed precisely. GPS is a free service and no subscription is required.

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User Comments:

  1. From: John Reading

    This is probably one of the most in depth easy to understand articles about how vehicle tracking actually works.

  2. From: Anna Cooper

    Until I read this I had no idea that GPS tracking systems worked off satellites to ascertain their location. I feel educated after reading this article.

  3. From: Geoffrey Skinner

    You said that tracking systems can be blocked by a polarized windscreen. Is it possible to block the GPS by other methods? In other words could someone say block a GPS signal on their works van and therefore get away without being tracked by their employee?

  4. From: John Station

    Geoffrey, you can but the employer would soon know that there was something wrong when they could not track their vehicle. They would inspect the vehicle and it would not take long to work out what the problem was and rectify it.

  5. From: Barry Obrien

    Also there are solutions being released now to stop vehicle tracking systems from being jammed.

  6. From: Sue Campbell

    Yes there are tracking systems which stop them from being jammed.

  7. From: Ron Harrod

    I did not realise tracking systems also used the mobile phone network. GPS tracking systems appear to be very sophisticated.

  8. From: Sid Hector

    It’s quite amazing how they have overcome such issues as picking up GPS signals in areas where there are high rise buildings. It would be interesting to know what other developments you foresee happening in the next few years.

  9. From: Michael Patterson

    I have heard that there are solutions being worked on at the moment to overcome some of the GPS restrictions which vehicle tracking currently has.

  10. From: Simon Blacksmith

    This is an in depth, yet easy to understand explanation of how vehicle tracking works. Also as someone who is new to tracking it highlights some useful points about tacking which I will consider before choosing a tracking provider.

  11. From: Jane Heath

    Yes it is one of the more clear explanations of how vehicle tracking works. Does anyone know anything about geo fencing?

  12. From: Tom Melson

    Great article on vehicle tracking and how it works. I would like to make the point that many of the more modern tracking systems are much better at keeping location of the device in difficult situations such as multi story car parks. Although there is still a lot more work to be done in this area.

  13. From: Kevin Henley

    Yes Jane I know about geo fencing. This is a feature that many vehicle tracking systems have which enables you to plot in certain areas into your vehicle tracking software. Basically you set pre determined areas on the map and if any of your fleet enter or leave these areas you are alerted by email, sms or both.

  14. From: Gary Wilson

    It will be interesting to see how vehicle tracking develops over the next 5 years. I suspect it will become much cheaper and in turn much more popular.

  15. From: Jim Carr

    It is a possibility that eventually car manufacturers will even fit fleet tracking systems. If it does happen it will more than likely be an extra and not be fitted as standard.

  16. From: Kathy Warrington

    Jim I don’t think that car manufacturers will install fleet tracking systems as standard. The reason being is that every tracking system has to be tied in with a vehicle tracking supplier and each supplier has its own hardware. If people choose to swap supplier at a later date they will have to have the tracking system uninstalled anyway. Therefore I think that fleet tracking will probably not become a standard fixture. Anti theft tracking may become standard, but not fleet tracking.

  17. From: Joe

    Great article..Didn’t know GPS tracking systems will not function in tunnels.

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