Where is a GPS Tracking Device Installed on a Car?

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What is a GPS device?

GPS (Global Positioning System) tracking got its start in the late fifties, with the launch of Sputnik. Scientists at NASA were able to track the satellite by measuring its shifts in radio signals, known as “The Doppler Effect”. Following this breakthrough, the military began satellite tracking experiments to follow US submarines. In the seventies, the Department of Defense called for the creation of a stable satellite network for global positioning. By the nineties, GPS devices were available for commercial use. Today, GPS and navigations systems are installed in cars during manufacturing.

That being said, there are many different types of GPS tracking devices utilized today, with various types of use. The average consumer GPS device doesn’t meet the needs of enterprise fleet tracking. Instead, fleets require a more comprehensive GPS device with software that sends data to a centralized software system. Then fleet managers can use this information to improve efficiency, safety, and compliance.

But are GPS tracking devices necessary for fleet management? Where is a GPS tracking device installed on a car or fleet vehicle? We’ll answer these questions and more below.

Why Install GPS for Fleet Management?

Nearly all fleets have some sort of vehicle tracking device, and those that don’t likely will very soon. This is due to the upcoming ELD compliance deadline on December 16, 2019, which requires all fleet vehicles to have an ELD (Electronic Logging Device) installed to track driver HOS (Hours of Service). This safety regulation is mandated by the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration). While this particular regulation only requires ELDs for HOS tracking, many ELDs also provide other functions.

In addition, many fleet managers have seen the benefits provided by fleet tracking software such as cost reduction, improved driver safety, and greater operational efficiency. These factors, as well as the benefits below, are why every fleet should (and eventually will) install GPS tracking systems.

Fleet Operations Cost Reduction

One of the greatest benefits a GPS system offers is cost reduction. This comes in many forms, and will vary depending on your type of business. Some of the savings you should look forward to include lower administrative costs. A good fleet management GPS system will also help increase fuel efficiency courtesy of route planning features. Other common benefits include:

  1. The ability to monitor driver behavior and alert drivers to unsafe practices in the moment.
  2. Better vehicle care and maintenance schedules including predictive maintenance
  3. Reduced paperwork and instant report generation capabilities

Greater Visibility: Monitoring Vehicle and Driver Use

You trust your drivers, but issues can arise that should be monitored. With a good GPS fleet management system, you’ll be able to see if a driver takes a detour, makes an unauthorized stop, is close to exceeding approved hours, has mechanical trouble, is over the speed limit, engages in risky behavior, and so much more.

Having genuine, real-time fleet information allows you to make informed decisions and improve your fleet’s efficiency. This may mean more training for a driver based on information gleaned from their safety score, faster routes with better traffic data, or greater attention to maintenance.

Fleet Compliance

Meeting government regulations can be a challenge when you don’t have an eye on all of your fleet vehicles at once. It is also difficult when all vehicle, maintenance, and driver information are in separate places or spread across different log books that must be meticulously kept. U.S. fleet tracking software often has features for storing data, generating reports on the fly, and automating your company's compliance.

gps tracking device

Optimize Daily Fleet Operations

GPS devices for fleets have many additional features that let you plan more efficient routes, reduce fuel consumption, avoid traffic and construction, keep track of hours, store and sort data, and more. The automation allows you to spend less time with log books and reduce costs spent on administration, so you can focus on the more important parts of your business- such as drivers and customers.

Where are GPS Tracking Devices Placed on Cars?

You can install a GPS tracking device nearly anywhere on a car or fleet vehicle- in the front or rear bumper, wheel wells, under floor mats or seats, or in the glove compartment. However, for fleet tracking purposes, GPS trackers are almost always installed on the dashboard through an on board diagnostics (OBD) port.

Originally, mechanics used OBD ports to run diagnostic reports and interface with the vehicle’s onboard computer. These same ports can also be used to give drivers real-time information on vehicle performance including fuel efficiency, temperature, airflow, speed, and more.

OBD tracking devices are now so common that even insurance companies are using them to provide discounts to safe drivers. However, not all OBD devices are the same, and fleet managers should carefully consider the additional features before they choose a GPS fleet system.

How to Install a GPS Tracking Device in a Car or Truck?

Most OBD devices today can be paired to your smartphone or tablet using Bluetooth, allowing you to monitor your fleet no matter where you are. Your drivers can also pair with the device to get reports and information regarding their driving habits, routes, and overages.

How to install your GPS depends on the device. If you are using a hardwired black box, they will be installed under the dashboard and require a 3-wire installation. This can easily be done by your in-house maintenance team, if available. If you use this type of tracker, then we recommend you also install a GPS antenna and cables away from any other electrical devices that may interrupt satellite connection.

OBD trackers, on the other hand, are far easier to install and require little to no downtime. Follow these steps for OBD installation:

  1. Locate the OBD port, usually under the vehicle steering wheel, dashboard, or around the gearbox
  2. Insert the OBD device into the 16-pin port
  3. Install the device’s app or software onto your mobile device
  4. Turn on the vehicle’s engine to sync the GPS device with the app
  5. For computer connection, you will also need to install the associated OBD software.

What does GPS for fleet tracking do?

Once installed, your GPS tracker will bounce information collected from the vehicle between satellites, computers, and receivers, to determine the vehicle’s exact, real-time location. Other information that may be collected includes:

  • Engine time
  • Geofencing status
  • Fleet mileage tracking
  • Fuel consumption
  • Hours of Service
  • Speed of vehicle in operation
  • Instances of unsafe driving practices such as hard braking

Connected software and additional features may include:

  • Driving history
  • Fleet summary reports
  • Driver safety alerts/ alert setup
  • Messaging
  • Driver ID
  • Predictive maintenance reports

GPS devices for fleet tracking and management are no longer simply about knowing where your fleet vehicles are and finding faster, more efficient routes. They are also about improving the overall efficiency and safety of your operation.

Now that you understand the benefits of fleet tracking, GPS systems and software, where and how to install it, we hope you will consider installing GPS for your fleet.

Azuga utilizes OBD devices that are simple to install and easy to use, offering your small business the chance to reduce costs, improve driver safety, and increase the efficiency of your fleet. Improve your fleet, with Azuga fleet tracking OBD devices, eLogs, and dashcams.