Over the past decade, fleet tracking solutions have been helping fleet managers with many operational aspects of their business. As the demand for GPS-based fleet tracking solutions has grown, so has the number of companies supplying them. The need to have a clear process for evaluation and selection for your fleet is imperative. There are hundreds of similar vendors. Asking the right questions and looking for the characteristics that match your specific needs are crucial to making the selection that will pay off. To help you along this process, we have created this list of six critical questions you should be asking every fleet tracking vendor. We've also compiled the essential characteristics that can help you select a solution that will make your fleet more efficient, competitive, and profitable.
6 Questions You Need to be Asking Fleet Tracking Solution Vendors
Question 1: Can I trust the hardware? Is it future-proof?
You’re operating a growing business. That means there are two things that you need to know when it comes to your fleet tracking solution. You need to know that it can support you now and if it can continue to support you in the future.
Most fleet tracking solution vendors do not manufacture their own devices. Understanding how devices interact with vehicle systems and whether they drain the battery is essential. You also want to know if the vendor does a bench test on each device before shipping it to a customer. Should a device fail, what does the vendor do? Do they ensure that returns and replacements are easy and fast for the customer?
Device manufacturers range in features and benefits as well. Of course, look for benefits that your fleet needs now, but also see if the fleet tracking solution you select can be scaled up as your company grows. Ask about product updates to gain insight into the company’s innovation and how it will grow as your needs change.
Question 2: How long does it take to get up and running, and what resources do I need?
Reducing downtime is the name of the game in the fleet industry. You can’t spare time for a system that takes a long time to become operational or requires extensive training on how to use it.
Plug-and-play solutions are usually your best bet. If the hardware plugs into the OBDII port, you can install it yourself. OBDII solutions can be used in vehicles made in 1996 or later. OBDII hardware is simple to install—locate the port in each vehicle and insert the device yourself, which powers on and activates automatically. Since this takes just a few minutes per vehicle, there’s little or no disruption to operations. The best OBDII hardware solutions also provide adapters and harnesses that let you wire an OBDII device to the vehicle battery or connect through the JBUS. Adapters can also alleviate issues with drivers removing the device.
An installed solution is usually required for fleet vehicles older than 1996, or large trucks without an OBDII port. Some vendors require a trained professional to install hardware. In such cases, you also need to consider the operational impact of taking portions of your fleet out of service for device installation. Most installs can be completed in roughly an hour. Depending on the size of your fleet, completing installation on all vehicles may take a day or less, or could require a complex project plan over weeks or months.
Question 3: What’s the total cost?
Fleet solutions are usually priced based on the features you wish to use. However, these are only some of the costs you need to consider. As you are calculating the total cost of your fleet tracking solution, make sure to include the following:
- Cost of tracking devices
- Cost of adaptors or harnesses needed
- Cost of professional installation
- Cost of vehicles being out of service (rental replacement or foregone revenue)
- Monthly cost of fleet tracking service
- De-installation/reinstallation costs in the event of a defective unit
- De-installation/reinstallation costs in the event of vehicle replacement
Question 4: It does more than track and trace, right?
There are a lot of vehicle tracking products on the market, and many of them focus only on track and trace and related functions like geofencing and location-driven alerts. For some organizations, this insight is enough. Today's latest fleet tracking solutions go much further, helping you find more cost savings, operational efficiencies, risk reduction, and worker safety and satisfaction. Here are some functions of fleet tracking software that may further benefit your business:
- Driver safety rankings and scoring with integrated rewards.
- Built-in driver coaching based on behaviors and events.
- Gamification features for drivers to drive engagement in the solution.
- Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC) reporting.
- Vehicle maintenance management.
- Fuel card program integration.
- Driver assistance to locate the cheapest or nearest gas in the area.
- Dashboard-mounted Safety Camera to help with accident claims, improve driver behavior, and possibly fetch an insurance rebate.
- Customer service support 24/7 when you need it most.
Question 5: How will this impact my workers driving my vehicles?
Improved fleet performance can lead to recognition and rewards for fleet drivers. The way the tracking solution is implemented can offer scope for drivers to modify their driving behavior and improve their scores. Drivers need to understand the short-term and long-term gains they can achieve so they do not assume it is purely a fault detection system or mainly for control and punishment. At Azuga, our approach is more about ‘Good job!’ rather than ‘Gotcha.’
Dual-facing safety cameras help you capture road events as well as driver behavior. It clearly shows you what is happening on the road when it matters most. While you can use it in road-facing mode only, the dual-facing camera gives you an in-cab view in addition to the 155-degree road view in 1080 HD. It records over fifty hours in HD and much longer at lower resolutions. Ideally, the dashcam will record video to an onboard SD card and upload a clip to the server only when triggered by a risky driving event.
A fleet manager can view an event within seconds to gain a proper understanding of why the driver braked hard or accelerated suddenly. Coaching can be given to the driver to improve their safety score, reduce business risk, and potentially lower insurance premiums.
The best deployments of fleet tracking solutions are those where owners and managers are transparent about how the data from the solution will be used. It can be used to encourage and recognize workers “doing it right,” and identify workers needing coaching.
The fleet management suite can include learner-friendly courseware that helps your fleet drivers achieve advanced skills for vehicle control, improve visual competencies related to hazard perception, and reduce risk-taking through objective self-assessment. Azuga Coach offers brief learning modules that can provide practical solutions for a variety of types of behaviors. The training content is targeted based on the driver’s safety score and what areas need the most improvement.
Question 6: Do your reports really meet my needs?
Once you understand the capabilities of the fleet tracking solution, ask for copies of reports that show you this.
Some vendors have a few sets of reports, while others may have dozens. Some are easy to read, while others are nearly incomprehensible. Some put all the data you want in several reports rather than one.
When you look at a vendor’s reports, ask yourself if you will feel comfortable handing them over to your boss to review as is or whether you will be spending hours in Excel recreating them.
The better vendors have a variety of smart reports, making it easy for you to get a custom report that displays the data you want the way you want it. Look for these capabilities:
- A variety of smart standard reports
- Clean, intelligent report design
- Automated report system so you get reports to your inbox when you want them
- The ability to get custom reports