Five steps to implement a GPS-based fleet management solution

To gain control over their fleets, businesses are implementing GPS-based fleet management solutions. These devices collect and transmit data about each vehicle to a web-based interface. From there, business owners and managers can view the data collected, including engine start-up and shut-down, idle time, location, routing and speed. This data provides invaluable intelligence that can be used to make more informed decisions about fleet management.

Row of articulated dump trucks
Installing GPS tracking devices is easy. Making these solutions work for your business, however, takes thought. Here are five ways to successfully implement fleet management solutions.

Understand what GPS tracking can do for your business
Many business owners believe GPS tracking is simply about monitoring the whereabouts of employees. In reality, GPS fleet management offers myriad business benefits beyond employee accountability.

A 2009 study by Aberdeen Research found numerous benefits of implementing GPS fleet-tracking solutions, including the following:

  • 9.9-percent decrease in overtime pay
  • 13.2-percent reduction in fuel costs
  • 27.9-percent increase in operator compliance
  • 14.8-percent reduction in average travel time per job


Introduce GPS tracking as a friend
Before you can reap the benefits of GPS tracking, you need to introduce it to your employees. Some companies opt not to tell employees they’ve installed GPS devices on their vehicles right away. However, it’s generally considered a best practice to be up front about the implementation of GPS tracking software to alleviate any feelings of “big brother” distrust or resentment and to create a sense of cooperation and partnership in the initiative.

When introducing the technology to employees, be positive. Explain that you’re not tracking them; you’re tracking company property, and the information you get about each vehicle will help streamline efficiencies and make their jobs easier. Explain that this technology will provide the following benefits:

  • Fewer calls and interruptions to ask drivers where they are
  • Better route guidance and directions
  • Improved response to calls for assistance
  • Potential proof against speeding tickets or customer claims that employees arrived late or left early
  • Improved maintenance
  • Faster emergency response

Benchmark your performance
You may have heard the saying, “You can’t get where you’re going without knowing where you’ve been.” That’s the idea behind benchmarking. By noting where your business is today and identifying where you want to go, you can develop a fact-based, effective plan to achieve your goals. This will also enable you to measure the impact of operational changes.

You may already have a good idea about the fleet operations you need to change. If not, consider measuring the impact of GPS tracking on the following key variables:

  • Number of miles driven per vehicle, per employee
  • Number of stops per employee
  • Monthly fuel bill per vehicle, per employee
  • Number of minutes per stop
  • Number of miles between stops
  • Idle time per vehicle, per employee
  • Amount of overtime claimed or paid

Record this data and compare it with the same metrics at 90 days and again at six months and so forth. Once you have a sense for how GPS tracking is impacting your operations, you can define realistic goals for your business.

Define your goals
The key to setting goals is to make them simple and achievable. Lofty goals and big, sweeping changes can be overwhelming and cause unneeded frustration and resentment, which can sabotage your efforts from the start. When it comes to fleet operations, small changes add up to big results.


Consider this real-world example:

  • Problem: On average, most commercial vehicles idle 1.22 hours per day. One hour of idle time = 1 gallon of gas = $3.50 (average)
  • Goal: Reduce idling time to 15 minutes per day.
  • Result: Fuel cost savings of $2.62 per day, per vehicle; or $65 per month, per vehicle. $65 x 12 = $780 per vehicle, per year.

In this example, the changes drivers would need to make are small, but the impact of this change in behavior could have a big financial and environmental impact.

Create an action plan
You’ve set benchmarks, reviewed the data and established some small yet important goals. Now you need to create an actionable plan to guide the organization toward your goals.

Using the example of reducing idle times, here’s a sample action plan:

  • Communicate goals to your team - You will get more cooperation by openly communicating and involving your employees in the plan. Explain what your goal is and why you have decided to aim for this goal.
  • Create incentive for change - Everybody likes to be rewarded for their efforts. Create simple, inexpensive incentives, such as a contest or friendly competition, or reward top achievers with gift certificates, new tools or other recognition.
  • Stay informed - Set up your GPS system either to alert you when a vehicle is idling for more than five minutes at a time or to flag the incident in the weekly reports.
  • Monitor activity - Once a week, take 10 minutes to review your GPS fleet management reports and compare them to your benchmarks. If there is no improvement, consider additional communication or incentives.
  • Measure and communicate improvements - Review your progress at regular intervals to see how changes are impacting the business. Share the results with your employees. They will appreciate knowing how their efforts are paying off.

Whether your fleet comprises a dozen or more vehicles or you run a small operation with a handful of trucks, GPS fleet management can benefit your business in countless ways. The secret to success is knowing what you want to accomplish, setting achievable goals, creating a plan of action, getting your employees on board and measuring your results on an ongoing basis so you can share and celebrate the company’s success.