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Fleet Management and Vehicle Tracking

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Title Fleet Management and Vehicle Tracking
Edited by GMV
Level Basic
Year of Publication 2011
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GNSS is being used for the tracking and tracing of goods, vehicle scheduling and control and improved “just-in-time” delivery processes. Modern economies performance are very closely linked to the performance of their freight and fleet management systems. The free movement of goods relies heavily on road transport and the efficiency and effectiveness of road-based distribution has a major impact on transport systems [1].

GNSS-based fleet management systems are used to locate vehicles (e.g. trucks, buses, police cars, taxis) in order to optimize resource management, reduce travel time, increase security and reduce fuel consumption. In 2009 the number of vehicles equipped with fleet management and vehicle tracking systems was 6 million in North America and roughly 5 million in the European Union[2].

Application Architecture

Tracking architecture

The core of a Fleet Management Tracking system is a GNSS tracking system used in conjunction with data transmission by means of the selected communications system, for instance GSM or GPRS.[3]

This combination of GNSS technology with GSM/GPRS wireless coverage, can keep track on the position of all the resources, such as vehicles, personnel, assets, as well as incidents. This information is sent to a server and can be visualized using a Geographic Information System (GIS), where the location, stops, idling and distance covered by each item can be monitored. Many systems keep the tracking data stored locally or centrally, which can be retrieved for further analysis.

The GNSS unit is essential to identify the position of the vehicle. The tracking systems usually use one of the following architectures, which always include a GNSS receiver:

  • Passive Tracking: The tracking system stores the vehicles location, through a GNSS receiver, and other data, such as vehicle condition or container status. This data is stored and can be collected and analyzed at the end of the trip.[4]
  • Active Tracking: The tracking device obtains the vehicle location, through the GNSS receiver, and sends it through a wireless communication system to a control center on regular intervals or if certain condition are met.[4]
  • Real-time, cellular network: The vehicle's locations and speed are transmitted periodically over a GSM cellular network. The controller accesses to the information by logging on to the vendor's website, which requires a monthly fee, or by receiving the data directly on a cell phone, which requires a cell phone account.[5] The positions of trucks or goods are updated every few minutes, according with the system specification.
  • Real-time, satellite: The vehicle's data is transmitted through satellite to the vendor and the controller accesses the data by logging on to the vendor's website. This method also requires a monthly subscription fee.[5]

A fleet management tracking is constituted by the following components:

  • On Board Unit (OBU), which includes the GNSS receiver and other types of sensors to collect the status of the vehicle and the cargo. This device will also have the ability to connect to a central tracking server. The vehicle's information can include latitude, longitude, altitude, computed odometer, door open or close, fuel amount, tire pressure, turnoff ignition, turn on headlight, engine temperature, as well as cargo information and other vehicle's sensors.
  • Driver Console, most systems include a driver console where the driver can register shift starts/end, route used, stops, pickups, dropoffs and other labor and business related information that cannot be acquired automatically. This console can be also used to provide messaging or warnings to the drivers. Warnings can be issued if the adequate procedures or schedule are not being followed.
  • Central tracking server, which have the capability to receive, store and publish the tracking data to an user interface, which usually encompasses a Geographic Information System.

Application Characterization

The main benefits of Fleet Management and Vehicle Tracking Applications are[6]:

  • Improved operational efficiency of the vehicle fleet - Fleet Management provides businesses with operational data of the fleet allowing the optimization and planning of the resources, improving response times, increasing the number of services and using the most suitable routes.
  • Improved customer care - Knowing were each vehicle of the fleet is at a given time allows companies to be able to provide to its customers accurate information about the location and expected arrival time of vehicles and/or goods transported in the vehicles.
  • Reduction of theft risk - In case of theft, the vehicle is easily locatable which makes it possible to act immediately in order to recover it.
  • Facilitated Fleet Maintenance - Usually fleet management systems provide tools to plan the vehicle maintenance based on the distances run providing alarms to inspections and maintenance activities.
  • Enforcement of Transport Regulations - The transport of persons or goods normally follow specific regulations such as forbidden areas (e.g. some areas are not allowed for vehicles transporting dangerous goods), velocity limits, labor regulations (e.g. maximum number of consecutive hours a driver can work). Fleet management systems allow companies to guarantee that these regulations are being followed by their drivers.

Some of the sectors that use fleet management are:

  • Public Services Fleets - Fleets providing public services (e.g. waste collection, road maintenance, taxi fleets, etc) use GNSS for the optimization of routes, planning of services and determine closest responder.
  • Emergency and Assistance Fleets - Emergency and Assistance fleets use GNSS to determine which is the vehicle most adequate to respond to a assistance request.
  • Car Rental Companies - Car rental companies use GNSS to determine closest available vehicle for a client, to monitor mileage or area limits on rented vehicles and as anti-theft system.
  • Goods Transportation and Distribution - Freight transportation companies use GNSS to monitor the goods transportation, providing information to customers about their cargo and determine closest vehicle for unscheduled pickups.
  • Sales Force Management - Companies with a mobile sales force can use GNSS to determine the closest representative in case of unscheduled visits and to monitor their representatives activity, mileage and work hours.
  • Hazardous Goods or Valuables Transportation - Hazardous goods or valuables transportation companies are using GNSS to monitor in realtime the transported goods, supporting alarms when the vehicle deviates from the scheduled route or violates transportation regulations. Fleet management systems for these companies normally support panic button functionalities that will send the position of the vehicle to the central tracking server in case of emergency or theft.
  • Public Transportation - Public transportation operators are using GNSS to track the vehicle fleet, to eventually reroute vehicles if needed and to provide information to the user.

The use of GNSS for Fleet Management and Vehicle Tracking in certain sectors has been driven by transport regulations and policies. A specific example of the use of such systems is for Livestock transportation in Europe which is detailed in the following section.

Tracking of Livestock Transportation

The application of satellite positioning for livestock traceability is becoming a general objective to support livestock transportation policies. Regulation in Europe, requires an appropriate navigation system allowing for recording and providing information equivalent to those required in the journey log and information concerning opening/closing of the loading doors. It also requires a temperature monitoring and recording system which alerts the driver when the temperature in the animal compartment reaches the maximum of 30°C or the minimum of 5°C. [4]

In livestock transportation, GNSS will permit to:

  • Localize and continuously track and trace the vehicles transporting livestock in order to increase the efficiency of all activities related with livestock transportation.
  • Generate reports about sensors information such as temperature, loading doors information, warning signals, etc. in order to improve the animal's welfare.
  • Optimal route calculation to specify the most suitable roads and hence, to ensure a fast and safe delivery of the cargo.
  • Geofencing and alarming.
  • Recording of data for statistical and enforcement/governmental use.

Application Examples

The fleet management devices can can range from more simple devices without any interface with the user or to devices that have graphical human-machine interfaces and some might have interfaces with the vehicle's on-board diagnostics or other specific vehicle systems such as temperature sensors, door opening sensors, etc. Although usually these systems are attached permanently to the vehicle it is possible (although not usual) to use GNSS cell phones running specific applications for fleet management. The devices normally used for fleet management are usually called Vehicle Trackers and are described in more detail here.

These systems can be sold as a product where the on-board device is sold to the costumer and the management of the fleet can be done by an application or server bundled with it. The complexity of the management application can vary from a simple application that shows the position of the vehicles and can generate reports based on the data received from the on-board devices to realtime servers that can be customized supporting realtime alarms and that can provide complex services such routing, planning and customized reporting. Alternatively some providers offer these systems as a service where the equipment can be rented and the centralized services are provided as a service. In some cases even communications costs are handled by the provider and a monthly fee per vehicle monitored is charged to the costumer.

Fleet management equipment and service providers are normally local having each country specific providers. There are too many providers to list here.



  1. ^ Galileo Application Sheet - Road Applications, ESA and European Commission, October 2002
  2. ^ GSA GNSS Market Report – Issue 1, October 2010.
  3. ^ GMV, SAE Fleet Tracking And Management System
  4. ^ a b c GNSS Tracking site, MENTORE project
  5. ^ a b Maps GPS info site, GPS Vehicle Tracking
  6. ^ MOVILOC® Service site, GMV