How GPS software has changed
A look at what contractors can do to get the most out their software.
Global positioning systems have changed a lot in the past decade. One change you may have noticed is that one particular GPS software no longer says “recalculating” after a wrong turn. Instead, it says “OK” and reads off the next available route. GPS software has become much more complex as well.
One change to note is the emphasis on improving driver safety and the rise of usage-based insurance, says Ananth Rani, chief executive officer and co-founder of Azuga.
“GPS software has made the lives of fleet managers much easier by giving them real-time insight into fleet operations,” Rani says. “Managers now have the ability to be proactive instead of reactive within their fleets. The ability to track a vehicle’s health, location, driving habits and fuel usage are well-known, but the biggest change in the past five years has been the emphasis on improving safety using gamification and the rise of usage-based insurance or UBI.
“With a single commercial accident costing as much as $1.4 million, fleet managers have used gamification tactics to promote safe driving habits and reward those drivers who have made the required changes. Finally, UBI has become a commonly used method for auto insurers to align driving behaviors with premium rates in the past five years.”
There has been a big shift toward mobile access in the field, notes Steve Wells, co-founder of ClearPathGPS.
“Reliability, ease of use and more affordable price points have made it easier and more attractive for smaller companies to implement — even those with just a handful of company vehicles,” he adds.
The genesis of fleet-management software began as finding trucks on a map, says Marco Encinas, product manager at Teletrac Navman.
“In the last five years, we’ve seen this migrate to driver communication and connecting to specific drivers in the field,” he continues. “From there, it became about connected vehicles and understanding what data could be gleaned from the vehicle’s engine, ECM and computer module.
“Right now, we’re seeing a focus on turning data into insights. For contractors and business owners, this means operational efficiency: finding drivers’ exact locations, figuring out if they’re on time, finding the best route based on real-time traffic conditions and, if needed, efficiently dispatching a technician to meet a service need.”
What can it do?
In addition to basic vehicle tracking, there are many other things a software company can offer contractors and business owners.
“Our software allows business owners and fleet managers to turn vehicle and driver behavior data into intelligence that improves operations and safety while also reducing cost and risk,” Rani says. “Some features include GPS tracking, location-based timestamps for timecards, driver rewards and coaching, geofencing and custom reports.
“Contractors and contracting businesses can monitor and address unsafe driving habits, such as hard breaking and idling, in real-time. One contractor reduced speeding events by 93% within six months. Additionally, contractors can rest assured their fleet is in the best shape. By installing fleet tracking, customers can improve maintenance schedules through the use of the maintenance solution and deals add-on, which proactively alerts contractors of vehicle issues and provides local coupons/discounts on the associated service.”
What Wells hears most often from clients is: “The offering of peace of mind on a number of fronts, including complete visibility and accountability of drivers and crews; increases in operational efficiency; cost savings in fuel, labor and operations; more productivity without adding more people or trucks; vehicle and tool theft protection with geofenced job sites, yards and text alerts when trucks aren’t where they should be. Contractors also love how they can use our open API to easily connect with other systems in the company such as ServiceTitan, Fleet.io and Route4Me.”
There are a few central elements all companies care about, Encinas notes, including increasing revenue, minimizing operational costs, improving customer satisfaction and meeting compliance requirements.
“GPS software enables business owners to make routing more efficient and dynamic, meaning they can locate drivers, monitor road conditions and traffic, and communicate with the driver at a moment’s notice,” he says. “By making more efficient use of time — maximizing the number of jobs while minimizing deadhead time and mileage — companies can establish strong customer service records while benefitting the bottom line.
“Vehicle tracking also provides full visibility into what every vehicle is doing from moment to moment, to better a company’s understanding of usage patterns to determine whether vehicles are over- or under-utilized and improving overall fleet productivity.”
So what does the future of GPS software look like?
Contractors can look forward to deeper integrations with all of their software and systems; more of a mobile focus — and the tools to go along with this; and more real-time bells and whistles to further improve day-to-day fleet management operations, Wells notes.
Encinas predicts that GPS software will get drivers to their destination at the exact right time, and not just a rough estimate. It will also inform the truck’s next stop of their actual ETA based on when they’re leaving their current position.
“Utilizing the data to manage and optimize a company’s workflow will reduce manual processes and, by extension, reduce the potential for error when managing complex processes, such as arranging maintenance schedules,” he says.
“The GPS/wireless devices market is projected to see fast growth and expand to more than 14 million units,” Rani says. “As a result, creative new ways to leverage vehicle data will drive traditional costs of fleet tracking systems down, helping more small and medium size businesses gain the benefits of groundbreaking tools such as accurate driver behavior analytics that were previously only affordable by large fleets.
“Innovative safety features that alert both drivers and managers of safe driving infractions will become instantaneous and provide rich feedback. Modern systems will be equipped with self-coaching capabilities, allowing drivers to understand their actions in real-time, and curb poor behavior before an accident occurs.”
The best advice for contractors using fleet management software is to read up on the system and use it, Encinas says. He adds that he sees many companies install these systems and then don’t apply the technology to other areas, meaning they’re not getting anywhere near their money’s worth from the investment.
“Just because fleets have technology in place, doesn’t mean they’ll see the benefits; it’ll likely be the opposite unless a change management strategy is put into place,“ he says. “To see benefits such as money savings and improved operations, companies need to create data-driven fleets and train employees to understand how their roles benefit from GPS software technology.” RJ 2.0