Many organizations need to track their vehicles during the workday. And once the decision has been made to implement a tracking process, a vendor needs to be selected to provide this service.
But before there are answers, there must be questions. And the first one is what features are available from the various GPS vendors and what are the benefits provided?
The term “GPS” covers a broad range of features, so let’s see what features are generally available.
On one end of the spectrum, a GPS vendor could provide only the vehicle position at a fixed interval. On the other end, a vendor could provide data showing the exact route traveled, stop matching, any rule non-compliance incidents, a graphical user interface to view vehicle position at any time, and various reports to summarize vehicle activities.
Your need may lie somewhere between these ends so let’s take a look at these features and see what benefit each provides.
The basic reason for GPS it to know a vehicle’s location. Here the question is how often is the vehicle’s position recorded in the GPS device and how often are the recorded positions sent to the vendor’s servers.
A very simple technique is to record and send vehicle location on a fixed frequency, like once per minute. With this, you can see the progress of the vehicle throughout the day and determine if the vehicle is moving, or has stopped at least some amount of time.
A more robust technique is to record position data on an almost continuous basis. With a larger number of points, it is possible to trace the vehicles path over the roads traveled, including the curvature of the roads and exit ramps. During a review process, the entire route can be displayed exactly as it was driven.
The benefit of the latter technique is that you can see the exact route traveled with no guesswork on the roads used between any two location observations.
To match stops, your business or dispatching application must send a list of planned stops to the GPS vendor at the start of the day. During the day, vehicle position data is compared to the stop location data, and when the positions match for some specified time, the arrival time at that stop can be identified. When the vehicle starts moving, the departure time can also be identified.
Three performance metrics are then available for each stop: the drive time from the previous stop, the arrival time, and the work time (computed from the difference between the departure and arrival times).
The benefit here is that estimated drive and work times can be compared to what was planned, and this data can be used to provide better estimates for future planning. This data also can be used to compare the performance of the workers. Do some workers do a better job of arriving on time? Do some workers complete their work in less time than others?
There are driving rules that may be monitored by some GPS units. Here are some of the most common:
- Excess speed. Did the vehicle exceed the allowed maximum speed for more than some specified time?
- Excess acceleration. Did the drive accelerate from a stop or in traffic at a rate more than allowed?
- Hard braking. Did the vehicle decelerate at a rate more than allowed?
- Hard turns. Did the vehicle change direction at a rate more than allowed?
- Excess idle. Did a vehicle remained stopped without moving for more than a specified time?
Note that some GPS units are connected to the vehicle’s internal data bus, and when this is done, other telematics data, including ignition on and off, engine speed, battery voltage, system faults, and more, may be returned.
There are several benefits of monitoring and acting on compliance and telematics data:
- Reduced fuel costs by identifying behaviors that waste fuel.
- Improved safety by identifying unsafe driver habits.
- Better data for vehicle maintenance by determining the actual vehicle usage, by both time and hours.
There are two ways to display GPS tracking data: using the GPS vendor’s website and using a dispatching application.
Every GPS vendor provides a map showing vehicle locations and the path travelled so far throughout the day. If stop matching has been implemented, the arrival and departure times at each stop can also be shown. When the planned routes are not changed during the day, as for product delivery, GPS vendor maps may provide a good solution.
Strategic Movements has a dispatch board that can be used for two purposes: the planning and dispatching of vehicles and the tracking of those vehicles during the workday.
When service technicians are being dispatched, the assigned work may need to be changed during the day when the work time on a stop is longer than expected, or an emergency call is received. In this case, being able to assign a stop in real time and changing the expected stop order at the same time eliminates the need to send the route changes to the GPS vendor’s website for further stop matching.
The use of the dispatch board also allows you to easily identify the exact parking location for a vehicle at a stop and to retain that location data for better stop matching in the future.
When stop matching has been implemented, the minimum expected should be a report comparing actual drive times, arrival time and work time against what was planned.
When compliance is being monitored, a report should be produced showing compliance issues identified over some previous number of days with some level of aggreagtion by driver and the ability to view each issue individually.
And, when other telematics data is captured, there should be a simple way to export this data for further processing.
All reports are different, so the reports from each vendor should be reviewed to ensure that they are easy to understand and contain all useful data.
There are many things to consider when choosing a GPS vendor, and no one vendor has the ultimate combination of features, service, and price. There is always a need to evaluate the offerings of several vendors before making a decision.
Strategic Movements has been designed to work with almost every GPS vendor. We can send route data for stop matching and we can receive position data for tracking within our application. And we offer performance and compliance reports to help improve safety and reduce costs.
We also offer professional services to assist you in identifying a solution that best meets your needs.
Interested? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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