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AutoConnect: Ultimate Guide to Small Fleet GPS Tracking

Small business is a blanket term that refers to companies that offer services in a wide variety of industries, such as specialty trades, landscaping, equipment rental, oil & gas, and field services, just to name a few. A common theme for small businesses is that they often operate fleets of vehicles, equipment, and other mobile assets that are instrumental to their company’s success.

Operators of fleets are always looking for new cost efficiencies, methods to increase productivity, opportunities to enhance safety, and ways to improve the service delivered to their customers. The features of a modern GPS tracking system can help business owners/operators of any size find new insights into their business and gain another level of control over their operations.

This guide will help you understand what GPS tracking is, and how it can be paired with a fleet management system to optimize your business.

What we will cover in this Ultimate Guide to Small Fleet GPS Tracking:

  • Role of Fleet Operators and How They Can Become More Efficient
  • 8 Guaranteed Benefits of Fleet Tracking with a GPS Solution
  • 5 Easy Ways to Keep  Fleet Vehicles Running and Increase Their Useful Lifespan
  • How Driving Habits and Behaviours Can Affect the Bottom Line
  • Improving Fleet Efficiency
  • How Geofences Can Help Your Business
  • Legal Use of GPS Tracking

Role of Fleet Operators and How They Can Become More Efficient

Simply defined, fleet management is the administration of commercial motor vehicles and related assets. 

The above description, although accurate, does not express the all-encompassing and intensive duties that fleet operators and small business owners are tasked with every single day. Beyond administrative tasks, fleet operators are often expected to wear multiple hats and work in roles well beyond those of an employee.

Owner/operators are often tasked with sourcing new business, scheduling jobs, managing drivers, reviewing accounting and payroll, building and maintaining business relationships, monitoring fuel usage and fleet maintenance, overseeing health and safety, and more.

In larger organizations, it’s not uncommon to see an employee (or multiple) take on the roll of a dedicated fleet manager, or even specific functions within fleet management as a whole to help take some of the pressure off and spread the work around. But with small businesses, many (if not all) of these duties and tasks are usually left up to an owner/operator to deal with on their own.

One of the more common roles for the owner of a small fleet to take on is management of safety. But overseeing safety can be time-consuming, and despite best efforts, employees might simply ignore or overlook standard safety procedures. Adding a GPS tracking solution can offer some peace of mind by holding drivers accountable and providing alerts for unsafe driving habits. In fact, AutoConnect customers typically see a 50-99% decrease in aggressive or unsafe driving events.

As a business owner, seeing avoidable costs pile up can be frustrating. It can often seem like there’s always something new cutting into the bottom line, and it all falls onto one person to find solutions. With typical fuel savings of 5-25% and overall productivity gains ranging from 5-20%, a GPS tracking solution could be exactly what your business needs to start seeing immediate savings.

With so much on their plates at any one time, owner/operators are always looking for better, more efficient ways of doing things. Adding an all-in-one GPS tracking and fleet management solution can help your business thrive, and give you more time for other projects and tasks by providing a hands-off method for managing many aspects of your operation.

Start a risk-free trial today and see for yourself how AutoConnect can give you even more control over your business.

8 Guaranteed Benefits of Fleet Tracking with a GPS Solution

GPS tracking and fleet management are terms we’re quite familiar with, but generally without recognizing the full extent of the benefits the technology grants. At their core, they have one primary function: “A GPS tracking system positions fleet assets globally on a map.” Therefore, this use of GPS tracking is aimed at enhancing fleet performance, but does that definition do justice to the technology, and what it can do for a small business?

Whether your fleet has 3 vehicles or 33, there is a wide variety of ways that a GPS tracking solution can help you manage and get the most out of your valuable assets. Eight highlights of AutoConnect’s system are:

1. Avoid downtime with wear-and-tear and maintenance tracking

Vehicle and equipment breakdowns can be very costly – repairs, down time, and other losses can be avoided and minimized with diagnostic trouble code monitoring and preemptive maintenance schedules tailored to individual units. Remembering to perform simple tasks such as inspecting your tires and checking tire pressure can go a long way toward saving your business money.

2. Make better (and  faster) decisions for your fleet with analytic data 

No matter how involved and organized a fleet operator may be, there is always a considerable amount of valuable data that is impossible to track, or even be aware of. Generally, there are at least a few issues and faults with every fleet, or patterns and trends with customers that are not obvious without the help of GPS tracking and modern software. With a GPS tracking solution, that data is all available at your fingertips to help you identify problems and opportunities for improvement.

3. Take a breather with automated everyday tasks

GPS tracking systems not only provide valuable information about a fleet asset’s exact whereabouts at any time, but also automate several other tasks, ranging from detecting route violations to sending automated notifications to clients.

4. Save time with assisted inventory management

Quickly identifying which vehicles are operational, maintained, and in close proximity to a job can eliminate the need for digging through notes and logs to find the right unit for the next job up.

5. Reduce costs fleet-wide

From decreased overtime to savings of fuel costs, GPS fleet management solutions have the potential to start a return on investment right from day one.

6. Get the most from your drivers with automated in-cab coaching

The In-cab Driver Coaching feature is designed to mitigate driving behaviours like speeding, aggressive acceleration, hard braking, excessive revving, and prolonged idling. Once the fleet operator determines the behaviour they want to correct, it is hands-off from there. If a driver is not sticking to expectations, the system in the cab will beep until the driver corrects the behaviour.

7. Stay connected from anywhere with email and text notifications

While AutoConnect GPS offers a live-tracking interface that fleet operators can monitor, they also have the ability to set up text or email notifications for when the previously determined behaviour thresholds are triggered, or when a driver is passing a specific geographic checkpoint. This feature keeps fleet operators in the loop without the need to constantly monitor the live interface.

8. Keep records and encourage good driving with driver scorecards

Driver Scorecards are one of our most popular reports. They are the gamification of fleet driver behaviour. The reports rank each individual out of 100 on factors such as speeding, acceleration, and idling. These rankings are beneficial not only for self-motivation, but also for boisterous intra-organizational competition, which in turn helps promote organizational buy-in. Incentive structures can be built around our Driver Scorecards, which further magnify their positive impact.

Explore our extensive Small Fleet GPS Tracking features that will help you gain valuable insight and control over your business. Request a quote today to start toward finding a solution that fits your needs.

5 Easy Ways to Keep Fleet Vehicles Running and Increase Their Useful Lifespan

The overall mechanical condition of fleet assets has a direct influence on a business’ bottom line. Fleet assets experience wear-and-tear and require maintenance over the course of their life to keep them operating smoothly, and lower the risk of costly breakdowns and failures that can result in downtime or total loss.

AutoConnect GPS systems help your business increase the longevity of your assets keep your maintenance and repair expenses to a minimum.

1  Extend vehicle health with advanced service alert notifications
2 Get access to advanced vehicle diagnostic reporting
3 Pay attention to what your vehicles are telling you
4 Make the right choice – every time
5 Get ready for winter months

1. Extend Vehicle Health 

Monitor the health of fleet vehicles and equipment with AutoConnect Service Alerts. Our system allows fleet operators to easily schedule maintenance and service, receive engine diagnostic alerts, and record maintenance history.

By properly scheduling maintenance, you can extend the life of your fleet assets. And with engine diagnostic alerts, you can address a service issue immediately, significantly reducing unnecessary wear-and-tear, and the likelihood of a catastrophic failure.

2. Get Connected

Advanced vehicle diagnostic reporting features help fleet operators unlock valuable status and performance information from the vehicle’s on-board computer. This technology has been a windfall for fleet operators to help further extend vehicle life, manage performance, and lower fleet costs.

AutoConnect GPS devices can be set up to listen to the vehicle’s on-board computer and notify you of any Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs) detected. This allows you to spot and resolve problems quickly, and avoid additional repair costs should these issues be left unchecked.

3. Check Engine Lights

The check engine light is not a general purpose warning light. It’s only triggered if there is some kind of emissions or performance-related fault code detected. There are many DTCs and fault codes that do not even activate a check engine light, but will simply be logged in the computer memory to be retrieved at a later date by a code scanner (or compatible GPS tracking system).

The check engine light will not display the specific code that triggered the event, the severity of the issue, what to do next, or what may happen if it is ignored; it only alerts the driver that a fault was detected. AutoConnect’s system will display the information available from that code, helping you plan what to do next.

4. Informed Evaluation

The AutoConnect GPS device pulls DTCs directly from the on-board computer, and can relay the code instantly to the driver and/or fleet operator with an alert by text or email, as well as in advanced AutoConnect GPS reporting. Getting to the root of a DTC can help your bottom line by determining whether down time is needed, or if an asset can continue working without the fear of costly failures or breakdowns.

Using vehicle diagnostics data will not eliminate service and maintenance costs, but it may help lower them, and will make them more predictable. Instead of waiting for vehicles to break down, preventative maintenance and preemptive repairs can be done so that customers and clients will not have any interruption in service.

5. Maintaining Diesel Fleets in Winter 

Part of extending vehicle life is understanding what issues are common to fleet operators, and how to overcome them. Cold weather can have a serious negative influence of the health of diesel fleet assets. While the weather may be an unavoidable factor for business owners, GPS tracking systems can help manage the hurdles that operators may face in the winter months.

Cold Weather and Diesel Engines

Diesel vehicles and equipment are the go-to for many fleets. They typically have higher torque, better fuel economy, and lower maintenance costs. However, as with most things, the advantages of diesel engines come with a trade off. One of the more concerning disadvantages of diesel engines is how they perform in, and respond to cold weather.

As most Canadians can attest to, things don’t always operate smoothly in the winter months. Diesel engines are no different. Typically, this dip in performance comes in the form shaky or sputtering startups, poor acceleration, and a general lack of power. If the engine is not treated well or is left unattended, this could result in serious problems which severely impact the longevity of the asset.

What to Do About it

Fuel lines run all throughout fleet assets, meaning it can be difficult to ensure every portion of an asset that has a fuel line is properly heated. Because of this, it is paramount that fleet operators urge their employees to thoroughly inspect assets, ensure that they are properly warmed up before operation, and are diligently maintained. Replacing the fuel filter at an increased rate during winter is advised, especially since many fleet assets are often parked outside and are at the mercy of Mother Nature. Additionally, it is wise to ensure a fleet is using high quality fuels that are suited for the conditions the asset is operating in.

But the most effective way of extending the lifespan of any diesel fleet assets is regular maintenance, which can be challenging for a variety of reasons. Performing fleet maintenance based on a calendar schedule can be an inefficient method, because different assets are used at different frequencies, and at different intensity levels.

Instead, consider setting policies where equipment and vehicles are maintained based on engine hours, and during the winter months, increase the frequency at which fuel filters are replaced.

Keeping track of maintenance schedules can be difficult, even for small fleets. Luckily, AutoConnect GPS maintenance tracking is at the disposal of all fleet operators who utilize our platform. Keep track of and schedule maintenance based on date, distance traveled, or engine hours, as well as by driver or asset.

Get in touch with an AutoConnect expert to learn more about how GPS fleet tracking can help your business.

How Driving Habits and Behaviours Can Affect the Bottom Line

When analyzing fleet activities, how many issues arise from a systemic problem in operations, and how many of those issues are a result of a few individuals with bad habitsAutoConnect GPS can help you evaluate your drivers with data and analytics, and work toward finding a solution to bad habits.

The first order of business for any company is usually to turn a profit. No matter the size of a fleet, this statement generally rings true. With AutoConnect GPS; we have helped business operators with assets ranging from a single unit to entire fleets cut costs, find new efficiencies, and improve the bottom line without the need to downsize or make drastic changes to day-to-day operations.

GPS tracking provides numerous benefits that can help your business save money, but the most immediate impact is often seen in AutoConnect’s tracking reports and metrics. As soon as a user accesses the dashboard, driving data becomes available to them, and opportunities to save money become obvious right away. Our fleet reporting and live-tracking features can help you identify hidden costly behaviours and habits that are directly affecting your bottom line

Improve Driver Behaviour

Aggressive driving can have a severely negative impact on vehicle longevity, drive up the risk of accidents, and result in poor public image and reputation for your business. Our multiple alert tools help reduce speeding, aggressive acceleration, hard braking, and excessive revving/idling. By improving driver behaviour, you can extend the life of assets, increase safety, and reduce operating costs.

Reduce Excessive Travel Speeds

In addition to increasing safety and reducing the risk of an accident, slowing down a fleet has a tremendous effect on lowering fuel costs. According to Natural Resources Canada, fuel consumption can be up to 20% greater when travelling 120 km/h as opposed to 100 km/h. Fleet operators can utilize GPS tracking technology to reduce vehicle speeds in several ways.

By monitoring and analyzing GPS data, operators can set targets to reduce maximum speeds, limit over-speed events, and even set lower limits on specific stretches of particularly dangerous highways. After establishing baseline data for the fleet, fleet operators can use AutoConnect software to identify drivers who are outliers, and work toward correcting the behaviour.

Level Vehicle Speed

Leveling vehicle speed is another effective way to reduce fuel consumption. Natural Resources Canada estimates that by accelerating gently, maintaining a steady speed, anticipating traffic, and coasting to decelerate, in conjunction with reducing overall speed, can decrease fuel consumption by as much as 25%. A fleet operator with GPS technology can set targets to reduce excessive acceleration, hard braking, and over-revving events, conserving fuel consumption, increasing safety, and saving money.

Hidden Costs of Outliers

Sometimes averages are heavily influenced by outliers, and will not accurately represent the performance of the entire fleet. This is especially true in smaller fleets with fewer drivers. After diving into the intelligence reports and data provided by AutoConnect GPS, many of our customers have noticed an interesting trend regarding the behaviour of their drivers.

With regards to speeding, aggressive braking, rapid acceleration, and over-revving, 65% of excessive driving events are committed by the top 25% of worst offenders. These outliers can present hidden costs, as excessive acceleration/deceleration events significantly increase maintenance costs through premature wear-and-tear, reduce the lifespan of the vehicle, and increase fuel costs  by as much as 40% for the same distances traveled by other drivers.

Value in Data

Having outliers or ‘poor performers’ in a fleet’s analytics report is not necessarily a cause for panic though. A fleet where performance is uniform, yet not optimized, can be indicative of a systemic problem  which is more difficult to correct. In comparison; however, issues with outliers are easier to manage. Remedial training and incentives can be implemented more easily to improve the wasteful habits of a few individuals, rather than addressing the entire fleet.

For example; assuming average fuel prices and average fuel efficiency, for a fleet of 170 pickup trucks each travelling 45,000 kilometers a year, a reduction of 10% in excessive driving events would lead to savings of ~$110,000. If that 10% reduction is gained by addressing outliers, rather than the entire operation, the process of optimizing fleet performance around this metric is simplified considerably.

Average Engine/Idle Time Ratio

One of the most deceptive and surprising statistics to fleet operators is often the plethora of idling statistics, and their cost implications. Although there are multiple idling statistics available through AutoConnect GPS, the average engine/idle time ratio is one of the most telling. The longer a vehicle spends idling, the more strain is put on the engine, and exponentially increases the amount of fuel wasted.

Simply put, idling gets zero miles to the gallon. In fact, estimated average fuel consumption of an idling engine is 0.6 litres/hr. According to our aggregated data, the average engine/idle time ratio is 39%. That means that over a third of a vehicle’s running time is spent idling instead of moving. This amount of idling results in an average cost of $133/month lost to vehicles getting zero miles to the gallon. Even small reductions in idling could bring your business hundreds of dollars a month in fuel savings.

Engage Employees to Supercharge Results

To get the most improvement in driving behaviours and habits, it is important to engage with those who will be using a GPS tracking system. Whether a business is a single owner/operator, a couple people, or is comprised of a few dozen employees, it will run more smoothly if everyone involved knows what is going on, and why.

To drive the healthiest returns on a GPS tracking investment, managers must should communicate the goals of the company, show employees how the system will be used to help achieve those goals, and perhaps most importantly, reward employees for their progress.

In other words, for the best results, engage the people with the most potential to impact reaching a set goal. That means setting and communicating smart targets, demonstrating how the system will track progress toward goals, and set out a process for employees to share in the rewards that come as a result.

It’s important for employees to know the motivation isn’t to punish and micromanage them, but rather it’s is to achieve any number of business goals, such as “we want to reduce operating costs,” “we want to deliver a superior customer experience,” or “we want to reduce our carbon footprint.”

Giving employees a common goal to work toward will drive alignment much more effectively than framing a decision (such as implementing GPS tracking) as a punishment for a problem (such as aggressive driving).

Improving Fleet Efficiency

As demonstrated above, simple corrections to driving behaviours and habits can have an immediate and substantial effect on the bottom line. But the cost of operating a fleet isn’t just tied to driver performance. Even the best drivers are still burning fuel on a day-to-day basis. While operating costs can’t be avoided altogether, a simple all-in-one GPS small fleet tracking system can help you manage and anticipate costs and find new areas to start saving.

Upgrade Vehicle Logistics

A modern GPS tracking system allows operators to see the precise location of every vehicle at all times to determine the best routes for jobs and deliveries. Operators can refine route planning and easily get lost or late drivers back on track with a live interface using Google Maps.

AutoConnect GPS can locate vehicles closest to any point on the map, and provide the shortest route and estimated travel time to a desired location. With this information, operators can ensure jobs are assigned in the most efficient manner possible. And in the event a journey is taking longer than anticipated, you can also provide your customers and clients with real-time updates on your driver’s whereabouts.

Powerful Doesn’t Mean Difficult

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of information telematics companies can provide, and to be bogged down in solutions that a business simply doesn’t need. Sometimes the best answer is to keep it simple.

Simple is Powerful

Many GPS tracking companies tout gratuitous feature-laden tech that will never actually be utilized to its full capacity. Nor are those features necessary for the majority of small businesses. Studies show that most companies who utilize GPS tracking are most concerned with:

  • Peace of mind (i.e., knowing where vehicles are, and where they have been)
  • Dispatching and routing fleet vehicles.

Those are two of the most basic features every GPS tracking device offers. There are plenty of options out there, but it is important to consider your business’ individual needs, and avoid being oversold on flashy or unnecessary features that won’t really help you in the long run.

The easiest way to do this is to lay out a list of priorities based on what a fleet is currently lacking. For instance, it is nearly impossible to guarantee employees are taking the most efficient routes and avoiding needless stops in between jobs. Real-time tracking and route history is a simple solution for managing this problem.

Fuel costs are usually concerning to business owners of any size. If your fleet’s fuel consumption seems higher than necessary, then realtime alerts would be beneficial, so you can be notified whenever an asset is not optimizing fuel usage (speeding, excessive idling, etc.).

Installation is also another factor to keep in mind. For many small fleet operators, a hardwired GPS device isn’t an efficient or cost-effective solution. There are, however, a few alternatives that are easier and (in many cases), less expensive. JBUS and OBDII enabled devices are simple plugin devices that require minimal effort to get GPS tracking up and running. Want to switch the tracking device over to another vehicle? Unplug it from the current vehicle and transfer it over to the next.

At AutoConnect GPS, we are not interested in overselling an un-affordable product with features unnecessary for a specific set of priorities. We are interested in improving efficiency and profitability, and sometimes the best way to do that is with a simple fleet tracking solution.

AutoConnect GPS strives to help small businesses thrive. Our easy-to-implement and simple solutions can help propel a business by reducing costs, improving efficiency, and providing peace of mind.

Schedule your free demo today to see how AutoConnect’s easy-to-use features can enhance your business.

How Geofences Can Help Your Business

Geofencing is one of AutoConnect GPS’s most popular tools. It helps fleets with a variety of goals, and if utilized properly significantly reduces exposure and risk, while simultaneously boosting efficiency.

What Is A Geofence

A Geofence is a virtual area that is created on the map in the AutoConnect GPS system. This area can be any shape or size, can be tied to any area or roadway, and tailored to specific needs. For example, if a vehicle equipped with a GPS tracking device enters or exits a Geofenced area, fleet operators can receive instant notifications via text message or email in real-time.

Get total visibility into your fleet. Create perimeters around any area on the map and record all activity associated with that landmark. Departures, arrivals, and activity.

  • Record arrivals and departures
  • Increase safety and security
  • Reduce theft and speed asset recovery
  • Draw any shape and size of boundary
  • Reduce unwanted vehicle usage
  • Be alerted to unauthorized movement

Theft

In the United States, annual estimates of the direct cost of equipment theft range from $300 million to $1 billion. In 2017, only 22 percent of stolen equipment was recovered. The addition of a GPS system not only keeps track of where an asset is at any given time, but it is also incredibly useful in recovery efforts in the event of theft. A GPS system may discourage theft altogether. Potential thieves may think twice if their risk of being caught is high  which is why law enforcement agencies often mention tracking devices and systems as a means of preventing theft and recovering stolen property.

Accounting Efficiency

Beyond theft prevention and recovery, there are quite a few efficiency benefits that come from the active use of Geofencing. Firstly, Geofencing can optimize payroll and overtime. You can easily monitor when employees arrive at job sites and when they leave, meaning that time worked equals time paid. With accurate records, inadvertent overpays and inaccurate accounting can be minimized or altogether eliminated.

Optimized Use

Sometimes equipment and fleet vehicles are not being used for their intended purpose. Whether it be for personal use, moonlighting, or other non-business related activities, there are plenty of miles that fleet operators would not necessarily approve, but happen nonetheless.

But these activities usually do not happen during working hours, and a fleet operator is probably not going to sit in front of their computer at home continuously monitoring fleet asset activity. Making Geofences time-sensitive means that fleet operators will only be alerted when assets leave the virtual landmark during certain periods, reducing unauthorized use and increasing the lifespan of fleet assets.

In the event a vehicle does go missing, or is flagged for running outside of a specific time or Geofence, a GPS tracking system can be the key to catching those responsible and recovering your assets. Read our case study about how AutoConnect has helped law enforcement find stolen fleet vehicles in the past.

Legal Use of GPS Tracking

 

One of the most frequent questions we get at AutoConnect is the legality of GPS systems. It may seem foreign to have the kind of oversight and visibility into your business that a GPS tracking solution provides, but as long as your business is using the system in good faith, there won’t be any issues.

Canada and the United States share similar laws regarding the legality of GPS tracking devices for the purposes of improving organization’s operational capacities. A general rule to follow is; if the owner of the vehicle consents to the implementation of GPS tracking for legitimate business purposes, then it is allowed.

Typically, it is the owner themselves who want to implement these devices. However, it is important to keep in mind that there are some variations in privacy laws from state to state and province to province. Fleet operators should check their respective state/provincial and federal laws before implementing GPS tracking into their fleet.

Canada

In Canada, the federal Privacy Commissioner stated that it is appropriate for companies to use GPS tracking to manage their employees if used for appropriate purposes that an employee would reasonably expect. Optimizing the routing of drivers to job sites, regulating the behaviour of drivers for safety purposes using in-cab coaching or reporting features, and ensuring proper billing for time worked, are all acceptable purposes for the presence of GPS tracking devices in company vehicles.

The United States

In California, it is a misdemeanor to track any person with an electronic device without their consent (even if the person being tracked does not own the vehicle). To be safe, check local state laws to see what is allowed regarding GPS tracking.

Even though California has regulated the need for consent from an individual who will be tracked, we recommend all organizations do this anyways.

How to Implement GPS Fleet Tracking

There is a fine line between acceptable and unacceptable GPS tracking. A clear, concise, and properly communicated GPS tracking policy can go a long way in ensuring that employees know what they can and cannot do. Make sure to identify what constitutes a violation, how to avoid them, and the method of discipline or penalties that will incur if company policy is breached. This lets employers identify what their expectations are; outlining what exact Key Performance Indicators will be tracked. A proper GPS tracking policy means that if employees feel their employer is overreaching in their tracking ability, they will have a policy they can refer to. In short, a clear policy will protect both the employee and the organization.

AutoConnect’s GPS tracking system experts can help answer any questions you may have and get you started toward a better, more efficient fleet.

Matthew Inglis

Matthew Inglis

Matthew Inglis is a Marketing and Communications Coordinator at Certified Tracking Solutions. He holds a Diploma in Radio & Television Arts, a Bachelor of Communications Study, and is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Communications and Technology at the University of Alberta. His background includes both print and broadcast journalism, independent communications consulting, media and public relations, and several forms of professional writing.
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