Guide to choosing a vehicle tracking system

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Modern vehicle tracking systems are based on a combination of global positioning systems (GPS) and mobile phone technology using the internet and digital mapping to display the data in real time.

Modern systems are surprisingly accurate, down to a matter of metres and available at a much lower cost than earlier technologies. Using vehicle tracking you can gather a wide variety of data to help improve your business by giving you the information you need to cut down on misuse, improve productivity, improve customer service levels and cut operating costs.  So what are the steps you should follow in order to get the right system for your needs and to get the best out of your investment?

Do I need Vehicle Tracking?

When looking for a GPS vehicle tracking system the first step is to ask do I need one? Generally any company with a mobile workforce can benefit from a vehicle tracking system. However, companies who install a system and then fail to take action on the information it provides are wasting their money. So before you start, ask yourself:  am I prepared to discipline people who are not performing or who are misusing company resources?  Also, am I prepared to use the information to make real business changes or am I just ticking a box?

Be Specific

Next ask yourself, what specific results you are looking for from the system. We can all list the many benefits of vehicle tracking when, in reality, only one or two may be critical and the rest are like the features on your mobile phone - nice to know they are there, but they are not the reason you bought it.  The best reasons for implementing vehicle tracking are those that revolve around improving the performance of your business rather than just saving cash. Innovative transport related employers, for example, have introduced incentive schemes that pay more when the vehicle is moving and less when parked; the result is the staff work harder without realising it. Below are some of the more common reasons for an investment in vehicle tracking.

Reasons for Employing Vehicle Tracking

Utilisation and Productivity: Sometimes in business we forget to ask fundamental questions like does this person need a vehicle at all?  If the tracking system shows that a van leaves the depot only to ferry the driver to work and back then the system could pay for itself quite quickly. More likely, the system allows you to improve productivity.

Employee productivity. If you have a mobile work force it is important that they understand the need to use their time productively. Vehicle tracking allows you to monitor time on the road, time with customers and breaks. It can even be incorporated into the remuneration system so that it is seen as a benefit to staff, rather than a threat.

Health and safety: The employers duty of care means that it is vital that staff dont put themselves in danger by excessive speed or driving for too long without breaks. Vehicle tracking allows you to monitor these factors and take corrective action to allow you to carry out your duty of care.

Contractual reasons: A service contract will be that much more enforceable if you can provide accurate data on visits to site, time spent on site and who conducted the visit. As well as proving that the service contract was fulfilled it forms an excellent knowledge base for negotiating future contracts.

Can I Rely on the Data?

If you are looking to base your remuneration system on the vehicle tracking reports then those reports must be accurate - even more so if you are looking to crack down on employee fraud. Imagine making an accusation of vehicle misuse or fuel theft only to find that the data was incorrect. That would be the last time you would be able to use the tracking system for this purpose, as it would have no credibility and neither would you as a manager. When you look at a vehicle tracking supplier ask some detailed questions about data reliability. For example, has data from their system ever been successfully presented as evidence in a civil or criminal court case?

Get a System that can be Tailored to your Needs

With prices for vehicle tracking systems coming down all the time many suppliers will not be in a position to help you get the best out of the system by customising it to your specific needs. A good example of this is the van driver that is suspected of stealing equipment from his own allocated vehicle. It is possible to put a sensor on the van doors linked to the tracking system. In one case our client was able to notice that the van door was being opened regularly in the middle of the night at the drivers home address. He had no reason to use the tools when not at a customer site and so was proven to be at fault.

Get the Managers to Manage

So much of the benefit of a vehicle tracking system is wasted because companies fail to confront errant employees. Yet this is a short-term pain avoidance measure that guarantees long-term pain in the future. You would not let staff get away with stealing petty cash or claiming for days when they were not in work, yet so many firms turn a blind eye not only to vehicle abuse, but visible vehicle abuse backed by the evidence of the vehicle tracking system. The current drive to buy vehicle tracking solely on cost is misguided as it just underpins the fit and forget mentality. Professional managers will understand the need to take action and the need for a reliable, accurate vehicle tracking system to underpin that action.

 By David Isom, managing director of V-Sol www.v-sol.co.uk - a leading provider of GPS tracking systems.

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