How GPS Tracking Works for Fleet Management

For nearly 20 years fleet managers have come to rely on GPS tracking to keep track of the vehicles in their fleets.
It has become much more than being able to see on a map where your vehicles are. The modern practice of telematics has taken GPS tracking much further by combining GPS location data with a host of other vehicle operational metrics such as speed, engine health and tire pressure. That information is combined in the IoT (Internet of Things) cloud (off-site data storage) into an on-screen graphical dashboard making it easier for the fleet manager to see vehicle status and trends across the fleet.

What Is GPS and How Does It Work??

The acronym GPS stands for Global Positioning System. Satellites orbiting the Earth work in tandem with one another to keep the GPS system running. The GPS receivers in vehicles receive signals from those satellites. 

The time difference between the transmission of a signal by the satellite and its subsequent reception is used to calculate the distance to the vehicle’s location coordinates. When the position of all the GPS satellites is known, they can act as a reference grid for any position on earth. 

The GPS receivers in vehicles obtain signals from those satellites. The signal of time is then sent from a GPS satellite at a given point. Consequently, the time difference between GPS time and the point of time clock which the GPS device receives, and the time signal will be calculated to generate the distance from the receiver to the satellite. When the distance from 3 or more satellites is known, then the intersection of those 3 lines is the location of the GPS receiver on the earth.

GPS tracking monitors the location, movements, status and behavior of a vehicle or fleet of vehicles, including cargo ship containers. The tracking is obtained by placing a GPS receiver and an electronic device on your vehicle or assets such as generators, containers, heavy equipment and trailers. PC-based or Internet software organizes the data into a comprehensible format in a graphical dashboard that owners and fleet managers can view and understand. 

Tracking devices can be similar to a car navigation system, however there are some differences. GPS navigation systems display the driver’s location on a digital map and let them enter or set an address for driving directions to arrive at a designated point. When it comes to a company, GPS trackers use GPS technology that can trail your vehicles by their current location and trip history. The GPS data is then transmitted to a computer, smartphone, or tablet. Thus, GPS fleet tracking lets you easily and conveniently monitor the functioning and whereabouts of your fleet vehicles in real-time whether you are working at the office or remotely. Best of all, it offers you accurate information on fuel consumption, driver performance, idling, plus accurate location at any give point. 

It is very important to check on the legality of telematics systems and management of the data that they collect. For example, certain states prohibit audio or video dashcam recording of a driver without their consent.

Fleets that successfully employ their GPS tracking tools benefit in their overall business processes. Use both GPS data and video confirmation to ensure goods are delivered or services are performed accurately and on schedule. Savannah Brewer, Training Coordinator at GPS Trackit said, “GPS will help answer any questions regarding the fleet and preventing driver behaviors that may open you to a potential lawsuit.” 

Fleet Telematics

What does telematics do that benefits me as a fleet manager and helps my company’s bottom line? The IoT has allowed fleet managers to remotely monitor and track a whole host of data such as driver behavior, vehicle location, and mechanical performance.

Telematics combines the science of telecommunications and informatics using computers and wireless or geostationary satellite communications technologies. In short, fleet telematics allows fleet managers to track their vehicles and other assets, as well as monitor functions such as speed, location, engine health, tire conditions and other variables. This is done by connecting vehicle and equipment ECM’s (Electronic Control Modules) to transmitting hardware and software that is readable by a fleet manager. 

The communications technology used is 802.11, the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) standard. Telematics is also referred to as WAVE (Wireless Access for the Vehicular Environment).

What are the advantages of GPS Tracking Systems?

GPS-based fleet management systems offer many benefits for drivers, fleet managers, and the company as a whole. Some of the more important benefits are:

  • Improving the productivity of your business by identifying cost-saving areas. Business owners can pull up vehicle statistics such as fuel usage to help manage the fleet effectively.
  • Data obtained from the fleet management system can be analyzed to study a drivers’ behavior. With real-time data on mileage, stop-and-go events, idling and speeding, fuel expenses can be greatly reduced.
  • Safety of drivers and vehicles are of paramount importance for fleet like yours. With a real-time fleet management system, unsafe driving habits, entry into dangerous zones, or mishaps on the road can be detected in no time helping you to take corrective actions.
  • GPS tracking systems help you reduce insurance costs. Insurance companies offer lucrative discounts for fleets that are equipped with advanced tracking systems.
  • With real-time GPS fleet management tracking, stolen vehicles can be recovered quickly.
  • Optimized routing with GPS data that helps fleet managers understand traffic and road conditions to dispatch their drivers on more efficient routes.
  • Peace of mind, knowing that you can locate your fleet in an instant with features like landmarks allowing you to more closely identify the activity of a vehicle in a specific location.
  • Prevent moonlighting by ensuring that employees are not using company vehicles after hours to work for other companies.
  • Tracking of preventative maintenance to keep your vehicles operating at optimum condition so that they are safe, reliable and can stay on the road longer.
  • Element of anti-theft protection that may reduce fleet losses. 
  • Increased cargo security as GPS tracking systems can help replay a route for fleet managers concerned about cargo theft, which allows them to spot unauthorized trips.
  • Video evidence of vehicle damage or missing equipment: protect drivers and company reputation with captured video of collisions and more.
  • Lowered Fuel Costs due to idling. This is one of the usual causes of high fuel costs.  The Environmental Defense Fund says that an idling car uses between 1/5 to 7/10 of a gallon of fuel an hour, while an idling diesel truck burns approximately one gallon of fuel an hour. 

What Can Fleet Tracking Do?

Fleet tracking using GPS has reached a state of maturity now that you can access just about any bit of information about your fleet that you want.


Most basically telematics can tell you where your trailer and its cargo are. Are they following the map directions that you stipulated at the beginning of the trip (the optimized route), or are they off course? If not, you have decisions to make.


Telematics measures the speed at which a trailer or container is moving down the road. Excessive speed could be a sign that your trailer is in danger.


The environment inside a refrigerated truck is critical for preserving the food and perishables that are inside of it. Other temperature-sensitive goods such as electronics also need to be monitored. Telematics measure temperature and alerts an interested party automatically.


The humidity in climate-controlled containers and trailers is critical for goods such as electronics. Telematics measures humidity and can alert a fleet manager when limits are exceeded.


Rough handling of your cargo – from eggs to fragile electronics – is not acceptable. Fleet telematics can monitor the G-forces (gravitational force equivalent or gravity weight) your cargo is subjected to and alert you when things get too rough. You can then contact your shipper or even the driver and find out what is going on.

Axle load

Each trailer has an upper limit of how much weight it can carry and this affects what the wheel axles can bear. Load limits often vary by road and state. If a trailer is overweight then the fines that are levied for that could really affect your company’s bottom line. Knowing the axle load saves money.

Electronic Braking System

One option with a fleet telematics system is to monitor the EBS (Electronic Braking System) on a trailer. If the EBS is suddenly engaged you know that the driver had to make an emergency stop. Did this affect the load of cargo in the trailer? Could the sudden stop have damaged what the boxes contain? How were the brakes affected? That is certainly something for a manager to follow up on.

Alerts, Reporting and Driver Safety

You can customize and automate reports and event-triggered alerts that notify a fleet manager that a truck has been involved in an accident, or that the driver is exceeding the speed limit, among other events. You can even integrate fuel cards to monitor spending. Telematics allows for vehicle health features like diagnostic reports, maintenance schedules, fuel performance reports and integrated fuel cards. You can check in on brakes, coolant, cruise control, ignition, oil pressure and other important issues.

Set Boundaries and Aid Risk Management

Telematics can create what are called geofence boundaries. The fleet manager can tell the system to alert him or her when a vehicle or asset strays beyond a certain distance from home base. This helps in reducing the reaction time to possible theft. Geofencing is customizable, invisible and reliable. With this dynamic tool, you can not only monitor your fleet’s whereabouts 24/7 but also maintain control of locations you’ve set as off-limits to your drivers. This safety feature cuts down on unauthorized use.

Arrival ETA’s

Another metric that is important to fleet managers and customers alike are ETA’s (estimated time of arrival of the vehicle). Fleet management technology can capture and transmit straight to interested parties the time and date that a package or even larger delivery has been made. This saves the manager time by eliminating the need for customers to call questioning the location of their goods.

All of this data and more help you create an audit trail that helps with customer relations, planning your budget, and presents actionable data for all levels in your company. There are other hardware and software modules that read additional metrics such as driver safety, performance, fuel usage, vehicle health and route optimization which are triggered through plug-and-play devices depending upon your vendor that can be added to your fleet telematics system.

Getting started with GPS tracking of your fleet is easy.

Are you ready to learn more? Talk to a Fleet Advisor today.

10 Basic Questions To Ask A Telematics Fleet Management Systems Vendor:

1) Get a detailed presentation on the data that a given fleet telematics system monitors.

2)  Does the vendor offer a visual dashboard with all of the data visible in one place? How easy is it to navigate?

3) What kind of training is offered and is there a cost? Some vendors do not charge for training.

4) Can your technicians self-install the hardware and make the necessary connections to the vehicle’s systems, or does the vendor do this for you? A few vendors charge nothing for installation.

5) What is the refresh rate of the vendor’s hardware? How often does the data update to the dashboard? Does the data refresh in “real-time” or every 30 seconds to 60 seconds?

6) Does the vendor’s hardware have an open API that allows your vehicles’ ECM’s to integrate with other platforms such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud, Google Maps, Fleetio, ServiceTitan, ProMiles, and LTE technology?

7) How will you be charged for telematics services? By the month, quarter or another way? Does the vendor charge a cancellation fee if you temporarily pause or cancel a telematics subscription?

8) Is there a contract and what are its terms?

9) Is there a lifetime guarantee on hardware?

10) What is the company’s record on customer service? Are you charged per call or is this included in the pricing?

Another important matter is the legality of telematics systems and management of the data that they collect. Privacy is a great concern today. For instance, some states prohibit audio or video recording of a driver without their content. This article gives more detail on the gps tracking privacy issue: What States Require Driver Consent for GPS Tracking and Video Telematics? – Fleet Management Solutions by GPS Trackit

Your competitors are using GPS, telematics and fleet management solutions right now. So why aren’t you? Is it the cost? Statistics show that asset tracking adds to the bottom line. ROI (Return On Investment) increases after implementation of integrated fleet management systems. Across the telematics industry fleet managers are finding that on average their companies achieve ROI of between 3 to 6 months within installing the technology.

With the overwhelming majority of fleet managers integrating telematics systems into their fleets, those who have not will soon realize that they are losing their competitive edge in markets where other companies are successfully implementing telematics.

If you’d like to learn more about how GPS Trackit can help to improve safety, increase productivity and reduce costs for your business, speak with one of our knowledgeable Fleet Advisors at 866-320-5810 or get a quick Custom Quote.


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