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What Hardware Is Necessary For GPS Fleet Tracking?

Fleet tracking hardware has flooded the market in the past few years as the demand continues to skyrocket. Not just business owners, even regular consumers, are looking for GPS fleet tracking systems to monitor their vehicles better and to optimize their operational spending. Small fleets are the most affected ones when it comes to inflated fleet operation costs and poor management, and thus, they need fleet tracking systems more than the rest.

But are all fleet GPS tracking hardware the same?

Well, of course not – the difference lies in both the capabilities of each system, the quality of features afforded, and price. Generally, the more you pay, the better deal you can get, but this does not mean that you have to overspend on your fleet tracking hardware. A simple plug-and-play tracker can do the trick in most cases, so it makes little sense to spend thousands of dollars for ultra-sophisticated tech. Besides, you’ll also need technical knowledge to install and use the thing.

But with so many options available, you need to weigh the pros and cons before you finalize your choice. In this article, our emphasis will be strictly on the physical aspects of the fleet tracking technology, i.e., the hardware – trackers, dash cams, and hidden devices.

Read through the following sections to understand what each option has to offer and how best to balance performance with cost.

Hardware Used In Fleet Tracking Systems

The modern advances in fleet tracking technology have been made possible by improved hardware options which work well with sophisticated software. Based on how much you’re willing to invest, you can get all levels of performance, from nominal GPS tracking capabilities to premium-level fleet management features – you can have it all if you’re willing to invest. The different types of fleet tracking hardware all present different levels of features and demand different levels of investment – what works for one may not work for everyone else.

Here is our unbiased rundown of the different fleet tracking hardware and what they have to offer:

Mobile Tracking Systems

These systems are the easiest of all in terms of accessibility. After all, who doesn’t own a mobile phone nowadays – you’ll need a slightly modern one, though, so that you can use the required location tracking features. Mobile-based fleet trackers are by far the least efficient, but they do work, even if only in a nominal capacity. If your smartphone has GPS tracking capabilities, you can use that to track your fleet vehicle, too, in a way. Technically, you’ll be tracking the phone, not the vehicle, but as long as the mobile phone is inside the vehicle, you’ll get intervalled updates about displacement.

Don’t expect live location tracking and accurate updates, as with a sophisticated fleet tracking system; you’re miles from it. But if you can’t spend anything and want to try out fleet tracking just to understand the basic concepts of it, this may not be the worst thing to try out. You can either use the native features of the mobile phone for this purpose or install a third-party application to help you track your cars. Mobile-based trackers are inefficient, but if your expectations are minimal, you can get something out of them – just expect delays in the location updates.

Plus, if your driver forgets to take their phone with them on the ride, that will leave you in the dark about the progress of your fleet vehicles. So if you’re looking for reliability and accuracy, mobile trackers can’t help there, but if you just want a taste of fleet tracking before you commit fully and jump into the game, this is a decent start.

The biggest perk for this type of fleet tracking is the cost: completely free!

Hardwired Trackers

These devices are a type of dedicated fleet tracking hardware and need to be installed by technical professionals with relevant expertise. They continuously transmit locational data to the GPS tracking satellite system from where the signal is passed on to the main server linked with the said device, and from there, you get the data on your end. The devices are pretty sophisticated and do much more than show the live location of your fleet cars. Locational data is very precise and refined, plus you are updated instantaneously, which means that there won’t be any delay between the progress and your knowledge of it.

As for the other forms of data transmitted, the tracker also records average speed and distance traveled, location history, fuel consumption, idling, maintenance issues, instances of unsafe driving, violations of geo-fence, and so on. Though the installation part is a bit hard and most likely not free, hardwired devices offer added security to fleet owners as they can’t be taken out easily. Most importantly, the devices are designed specifically for this task – unlike mobile phones that are not supposed to be used as fleet tracking hardware, these devices have been designed for nothing else.

The information provided by the device can help business owners radically improve their business model and find ways to cut down costs.

Plug-and-Play Trackers

Plug-and-Play tracking hardware works more or less the same as the previous kind except with one major difference: unlike the hardwired trackers, these trackers don’t have to be installed before use. They are ready for operation from the moment you lay your hands on them. There is no installation and thus no extra charges to set up the device, you simply plug it into the OBD panel, and that will be it. If convenience is your concern then a plug-and-play device will go a long way in helping you get the most out of your fleet tracking endeavors.

Operationally, these devices are not much different from the first kind: you get live location tracking, driver behavior monitoring, average speed, location history, alerts for unsafe driving, maintenance reminders and notifications, idling alerts, and more. For most people, the lower costs and simple operation are the biggest selling points making plug-and-play devices rather popular among users. Of course, if security is a major concern, especially for trucks that travel a long distance, then a hardwired device might be more useful. But for most people, plug-and-play devices like Fleetr work just fine.

Performance-wise, they are not inferior in any way, and like hardwired devices, they draw their power from the vehicle itself, meaning that you won’t have to replace batteries or anything. Lastly, these devices are much simpler to set up, requiring no technical expertise – if you know where the OBD panel is, the rest is very simple.

Hidden Tracking Devices

These devices are rather unconventional – they don’t draw in power from the car, meaning that you’ll have to replace batteries, and they don’t hook up with the OBD panel or any other prominent spot. Hidden trackers are, well, hidden. They serve as a foolproof safety measure in case one of your fleet vehicles is stolen. These trackers should be strategically placed inside the car so as not to be discovered. This way, if you come to know that one of your fleet vehicles has gone off course or has been stolen, you can use the location data to help the police recover your asset.

You’ll first need to install the device, which can be done in many ways, such as hiding it inside the car foam, inside the bumper, and so on. There are several spots inside the vehicle where such a device can be placed without it being noticeable. The device does not give away most of the input you get from plug-and-play and hardwired fleet tracking devices because it is more of a security measure rather than tracking hardware. It works as an additive component for your fleet vehicles, i.e., you’ll still need a fleet tracking system in place before you can get some good out of the device.

And of course, the only point where you’ll want to use the device’s data will be in the case of theft or if one of your vehicles goes missing.

Front & Rear Dash Cams

Dash cams are another additional hardware component for fleet tracking, making the whole thing all the more effective. The prospects are quite promising, so much so that many accident cases are settled primarily due to the data provided by these devices. Plus, this data augments fleet tracking input perfectly, offering extra insights into the progress of your fleet drivers. Dashcam footage is seen with a lens of greater importance when compared with fleet tracking systems since videos are much easier to relate with and less likely to be manipulated.

You have a ton of options available here as well. Even regular budget cameras can offer 1080p HD quality video resolution, front and rear recording angles, vast storage spaces, cloud link, and more. You can spend more and get even better features, but this should be your red line. Nothing short of this will work adequately. Some products even come with a parking mode which means that the dash cams will turn on automatically and record any hostile movements around your car, i.e., if someone tries to steal your car or damage it.

Couple this up with the ability to review your driving tape and thus refine driver behavior as per your company requirements.

This will let you avoid accident liability and thus save thousands of dollars in compensation payments.

Interior-Facing Dash Cams

These are also dash cams but with a small twist: they face the inside of the vehicle rather than the outside.

This is helpful in that it allows fleet managers to note how their drivers are working and whether their talks about on-road safety have had any effect or not. Some may consider it a bit invasive, but these devices don’t record continuously. They are either triggered by an instance of unsafe driving or recorded randomly. In either case, one must get the drovers onboard and show them why such additions will help the business.

In the event of an accident, the recordings will help the company show how their drivers were (ideally) not negligent at all. This way, you can escape unfair and false accusations for car accidents which are constantly hurled at commercial vehicle drivers even when they act most responsibly. But you will need written consent from your drivers before you can go ahead with this tech.

Hardwired VS. Plug-and-Play Devices – How Do They Compare?

Hardwired and plug-and-play devices are more similar than they are different. These trackers work more or less in the same way. Before we discuss how they differ, let’s take a look at the areas where they are precisely the same:

  • Both are dedicated fleet tracking devices
  • They are connected directly with the vehicle
  • They draw their power directly from the vehicle
  • They don’t require batteries to be operable
  • They transmit locational data constantly, and more
  • You also get information about location history
  • Average speed, total distance traveled, and other metrics are also shared
  • The device also notes maintenance requirements of the car
  • It also records fuel usage and instances of fuel wastage
  • The devices can also report any unsafe driving behavior
  • They are primarily management devices rather than surveillance tools
  • They couple up with dedicated software, allowing fleet managers to use the data in a meaningful manner

But this does not mean that the two are the same; they differ in many aspects, making them suitable in different situations:

  • Plug-and-play devices are cheaper
  • Hardwired devices require installation by a dedicated professional
  • This does not apply to a plug-and-play device that simply hooks up with the OBD panel and starts working
  • The latter is also ready to use from the moment you get your hands on it
  • There are no installation fees for plug-and-play devices
  • The hardwired type devices are harder to remove
  • For security measures, hardwired devices are more suitable
  • Plug-and-play devices are simpler in operation and make more economic sense

For most people, the plug-and-play devices are adequate for fleet tracking purposes, though they are not ideal when it comes to securing your fleet vehicles against theft. You can couple them with hidden trackers for this purpose which will work even better than having a hardwired tracker. But in any case, consider the pros and cons before you finalize your decision.

Do You Have To Pay For Your Fleet Tracking Hardware?

Short answer: no.

If you feel that fleet tracking hardware is too big of an investment for you, cheer up, you can get your plug-and-play tracking device absolutely free. The Fleetr tracking device comes as part of the subscription deal, for which you only have to pay $9.99 per month vehicle rent. This will cover the device’s cost as well. Since there are no hidden fees, extra charges, and installation dues, you will get your tracking device without paying a penny for it.

So, if you’re holding back due to monetary constraints, then think again.

Bottom Line

Fleet tracking technology has evolved constantly, modeled by user expectations and the innovations in GPS tracking and the internet. Today, the system is more sophisticated and accessible than it ever was in the past. But the sheer variety of options in the market can be overwhelming. Fleetr is a perfect option for those who seek a balance between solid performance and affordability with only a minimal rent of $9.99 per vehicle per month. On top of this, you won’t have to sign any binding contracts, or have to worry about twisted and complicated terms and conditions, or have to pay anything besides the proscribed rent, or have to buy your tracker – we’ll give you yours for free!

It may sound too good to be true, but this is precisely how we operate, no exaggerations.

Call us today for more information!

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