What Is Fleet Tracking?
Fleet tracking is an essential part of field service management if you have multiple vehicles. This article answers “What is fleet tracking?” and “What is field service management?” Learn the benefits and tools of fleet tracking and how your business can implement a fleet tracking system.
Fleet tracking is simply a way to stay on top of the vehicles your business uses in its operation. For field services companies, this is vital, as your business is mobile.
Sometimes the term “fleet tracking” is used interchangeably with “fleet management.” Sometimes it refers mainly to the whereabouts of fleet vehicles.
Tracking your fleet of trucks or vans means knowing where they are (more below). It sometimes also entails keeping a maintenance schedule, as well as monitoring things like:
- Efficient routing
- Fuel usage
- Driver behavior
- Vehicle allocation
- Insurance status
- State registration
- Leasing or financing
- Driver training and licensing
- Accidents and breakdowns
- Remarketing and sales
The more details you know about the items on the list above, the more you save in the long run. How?
You can be more efficient about purchasing gas or diesel. You can save wear and tear on vehicles by plotting the most efficient routes to clients. And you can prevent small mechanical problems from becoming more costly ones. You’ll find more detailed information about all of these below.
For these reasons, fleet tracking is growing across many field service industries.
Here are a few statistics that are worth considering:
- Asset tracking is steadily increasing to prevent stolen vehicles and identify underused assets. An early 2024 report shows fleet managers across different industries saw an ROI of 46% within a year of using fleet tracking software.
- There was a dip in utility and home services calls during the pandemic. But in spite of that, fleet management software continues to grow in market size. It is expected to more than double in size by 2030, reaching $79.82 billion.
You will learn more about fleet management software and how it helps field services businesses in the following sections. Fleet management software automates fleet tracking. It removes a great deal of manual labor and human error for a more streamlined and cost-effective operation.
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What Is Field Service Management?
Many industries—such as home services, telecommunications, utilities, and construction—use fleet tracking. Whether you run a plumbing business or install internet, field tracking is common.
As mentioned above, fleet tracking is just one component of field service management. This is the process of organizing business operations in the field and making them as efficient as possible.
We go into more detail on this just below. But remember, efficiency is nearly always directly related to profitability.
There are many tools that make up field service management besides fleet tracking, such as:
- CRM (customer relationship management)
- Appointment scheduling
- Accounts and billing
- Real-time parts and inventory management
Often, these components of field service management are integrated into field service software. This provides for ease of use and efficient connectivity.
What Are Fleet Tracking Systems?
Above, we mentioned that knowing the whereabouts of your vehicles is a major component of fleet tracking and fleet management. Fleet tracking systems let you do this using digital technology that gets rid of old-fashioned radios and manual work.
Fleet tracking systems use GPS (global positioning system) to identify where your vehicles are at any moment in time. A tracker on the vehicle relays the geographic coordinates to the system via a space satellite. The system turns the latitude and longitude into a spot on a map.
You’ve probably used GPS on your mobile to find your way to a new place or drop a pin to let friends know where you are. It works similarly for vehicle tracking.
There are many uses for GPS fleet tracking that you can use every day to make your field service business run more efficiently. Let’s take a look at some of them in the next section.
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Benefits of Fleet Tracking
Fleet tracking with GPS can be important if one of your vehicles is ever stolen. You can locate the vehicle quickly to recover it. Some vehicle tracking systems even allow you to lock the ignition after vehicle theft.
It’s also helpful if a driver breaks down and needs emergency assistance. You can send a tow truck and a replacement vehicle so you reduce business interruptions. If the breakdown is in a remote area, you know your employee won’t be stranded and in danger.
By knowing where your vehicles are at all times, you can dispatch the closest technician for short-notice appointments. Say, for example, your HVAC business gets an emergency call to fix a broken furnace during a cold snap. You can look at the tracking map and see who is nearby to take the call.
This not only saves on fuel—although that’s a prime benefit too. But it also reduces non-billable time for technicians. You don’t want the bulk of your employees’ time used driving between appointments. This doesn’t net your business any revenue.
You want the majority of your workers’ time in the field to be with clients. This is the way to maximize income, which, in turn, increases your profits.
That’s why many field service businesses use vehicle tracking to plan their routes. You can optimize distances and drive times. You can also make adjustments as each workday unfolds, working in last-minute appointments and urgent calls.
When you know where your fleet vehicles are located, you relay that information to clients too. Home services customers like knowing exactly when they can expect technicians.
Rather than giving them a four-hour window, you can say, “Your tech will be there in about 15 minutes.” The customer can then keep an eye out for the tech. They can put pets inside or open the gate to a fenced property. This affords efficiency for everyone involved.
If a technician is stuck in traffic, you can share that information with customers as well. They will appreciate knowing your worker is coming late. It makes them feel like your business is courteous and transparent.
Some fleet tracking programs also offer telematics. This allows business owners to monitor driver behavior for improved safety. Telematics contribute to vehicle longevity and cost savings as well. They may help to reduce workers’ compensation claims for things like back injuries too.
You can check things like:
- Driver braking that produces vehicle wear and tear
- Speeding that results in citations, fees, and motor vehicle crashes
- Driving patterns that increase fuel consumption, thereby costing money
- Hours behind the wheel related to fatigue or repetitive use injuries
- Safe driving habits for potential insurance discounts
Are your drivers slamming on the brakes at every stoplight? This can result in needing new brake pads and rotors more often.
Are they racking up expensive speeding tickets or getting into fender benders? Maybe they’re idling when they should shut off the engine. You can cut these unnecessary costs with vehicle tracking using data.
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Fleet Tracking and Maintenance
You read above that vehicle tracking can also be utilized to maintain and improve fleet performance. This is another way to save money and safeguard your investment in your vehicles.
Keeping a maintenance schedule and log is essential if your business relies on fleet vehicles. If you miss oil changes or coolant refills, your vehicles could break down. That results in lost business and damage to your reputation and reliability.
Ignoring maintenance or small engine problems often leads to bigger issues down the line. It’s always more cost-effective to fix a vehicle problem right away than to let it fester. In many instances, your vehicle warranty will cover unexpected mechanical failures.
Vehicle tracking lets you stay on top of that with a maintenance calendar and reminders.
Typical maintenance tasks for your busy fleet that should be tracked include:
- Changing or topping off motor oil
- Refreshing windshield wipers and washer fluid
- Checking coolant levels for summer and antifreeze for winter
- Tire and wheel upkeep, such as air, rotation, alignment, and replacing worn tires
The owner’s manual is a good source of information for maintenance that must be completed at regular intervals.
These aren’t just maintenance to-dos that extend the lifespan of your fleet vehicles. They also help keep your technicians safe and prevent accidents.
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You should also consider using a winterizing checklist if you live in a cold climate. This means swapping out regular tires for snow tires or chains. Add emergency supplies for the driver, including a portable jumper.
Check battery health every six months or so. Be aware that batteries on fleet vehicles may need replacing every few years.
For warm locations, making sure the air-conditioning is charged and functioning is vital. Your drivers may want to carry extra fluid. Engine overheating is a prime concern, so train drivers to watch the dashboard carefully. Running hot can ruin the engine, so excessively high engine temperatures mean it’s time for a tow.
Here are a few final tips to keep your fleet in good shape as part of your tracking system:
- Use your vehicle tracking to keep a calendar of compliance and finance-related alerts. You will know when your registration and insurance are up for renewal. When your odometer hits a predetermined threshold, you can decide if it’s time to sell the vehicle or lease a new one.
- Make all the above easier with vehicle tracking software. You can integrate it with your field service management software for even more convenience. It’s another way to operate more efficiently and save money.
- If implementing a fleet tracking system feels overwhelming, start small. You might want to begin with routing and dispatching. Then add other elements once that’s working well.
- Get employees on board with improved vehicle organization. Help them understand that it benefits them too. Once you have your tracking software in place, you can use apps to make employee compliance a breeze.