GPS Fleet Telematics vs. Cell Phone Tracking

GPS Fleet Telematics vs. Cell Phone Tracking

Businesses are adopting mobile devices like smart phones and tablets to streamline their communications with their mobile fleet. Mobile apps make it easy for drivers to capture signatures and maintain their log books, and for managers to communicate with drivers and monitor vehicle locations. This makes sense for small businesses of only a few vehicles, but there are limits to cell phone tracking and its important one understands the differences.

GPS fleet telematics systems provide a more robust, feature-rich solution that can save small businesses a lot of time and money. Fleet telematics devices are essentially remote vehicle monitors, collecting data on everything it can about the vehicle—location, engine data, driving behavior, etc. Mobile device simply cannot do this.

Top Three Reasons fleet telematics solutions are better than cell phones:

Reason 1: Limited data, and reporting

Fleet telematics systems do much more than just real-time mapping and locating drivers. Reducing fuel usage and spending less money on gas is one of the biggest advantages to a GPS telematics. By automatically capturing vehicle odometer as well as fuel usage, the telemtatics systems allow you to keep track of fuel economy. You can create maintenance alerts, set up landmarks and geofences, compare driver activity over time, monitor idling time, and verify time sheets using accurate GPS data. All of these features can save you time and money. In fact, they can save so much money that many business owners see a return on their investment in less than a year.

Cell phones and tablets on the other hand, fall short in even report location data over time. since they are not connected to the vehicle’s on-board computer, they are unable to capture any vehicle usage information. Locations are limited as well. Cellphones will not capture and record as many gps data points as a telematics device, which makes reviewing historic trips nearly impossible.

Reason 2: Inaccurate data &  Tampering

An obvious problem with the using GPS on mobile devices is that the drivers can simply turn off either the app running the GPS tracking on the phone or shut down the phone all together. There are message boards throughout the Internet where crafty employees are spreading the knowledge on how to disable the GPS phone without being detected. Going into basements or using a metal wrap around the phone, or placing it in a tool box will make it appear as if the phone has merely “lost signal”.

With a GPS phone, you rely too much on the person who is responsible for carrying the phone. The best way to ensure proper reporting is to take these factors out of the driver’s hands. By using a telematics device that is installed discreetly in the vehicle, driver interaction is taken out of the picture. The units are always on and always able to tell where a vehicle is in real time over the web.

Reason 3: Distracted Driving Risks

Companies nation wide are struggling to combat distracted driving. Cell Phone Tracking may proliferate distracted driving by making the phone or tablet front and center to the driver. Further more, this risk is inflated by the companies inability to measure risky driving behavior with the mobile devices. Fleet telematics systems rely on an accelerometer inside the device to measure risky driving behavior and identify at-risk employees before an accident occurs. Yes, most cellphones and tablets have an accelerometer, however their accelerometer is dedicated to many other functions within the device and the accuracy is questionable at best.

Not to Mention These Added Pit Falls To Cell Phone Tracking:
  • Battery Life: When the GPS tracking is added to the phone, the battery life of the phone decreases by about 50-75%. What this means is that the GPS phone will not last an entire work day without requiring at least one recharge.
  • Reporting: The difference in reporting is another area where the phone falls short. Although the GPS cell phones can usually report on 3-15 minute intervals like their dedicated counterparts, the fact that a GPS signal can be lost so easily, dramatically affects the Start-Stop reports it can produce.
  • Cell Phone Laws: Drivers and fleet operators are directly affected by the ban on cell phone use while driving. Cell phone regulations affect occupational drivers who need to access their cell phones for work related apps and GPS.

Conclusion: Mobile Devices Should Rely on Rich Telematics Data

Let me be clear, this is not and should not be a “one or the other” debate. Mobile devices have a very important place in businesses with a mobile workforce. At the end of the day, Telematics Systems and mobile devices should go hand-in-hand. A dedicated system for monitoring vehicle usage and health, and a dedicated system for communicating with employees and a data entry point. The data from telematics should be integrated with a companies mobile apps, providing richer data and more accurate reporting.