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Debunking the Top Ten Vehicle Tracking Myths

Common vehicle tracking myths are "Big Brother is watching" or too time-consuming. We share the top 10 myths and explain why they're wrong.

The reasons for any misconceptions around GPS tracking or telematics are mostly due to a misunderstanding of the product. Common vehicle tracking myths range from how the devices “monitor” vehicles and drivers, to what the capabilities are, to the types of businesses where it’s needed.

These myths also range within an organization depending on the person’s role — a driver could have an exaggerated view of what gets tracked, an executive could have a misunderstanding on the costs, and a fleet manager could have a misplaced fear on how will it change their day to day.

Many of these myths have been debunked, with real applications of the technology solidifying evidence in the case for telematics. Here are the top 10 telematics and GPS tracking myths.

1. Telematics Means Big Brother Is Watching

Telematics tracks information about a vehicle and how you use it. It’s important to not get vehicle telematics mixed up with some of the cell phone GPS tracking systems out there, where drivers must download an app onto their phone. Those types of systems mean the driver’s cell phone is what is actually getting tracked, not the vehicle. While these systems provide “dots on a map,” they don’t tell the whole story, and your drivers would probably agree.

Commercial vehicle tracking with telematics is not spying.

With vehicle telematics, there are tiers of the technology depending on the need of the business. It ranges from a simple GPS tracker that will just tell you where a vehicle is located, all the way to a robust telematics system that allows you to monitor vehicle health, manage productivity, improve fuel efficiency, stay compliant with government regulations, and keep drivers safe.

An open platform telematics solution such as Geotab will give you access to your data for integration with other management systems and automation, as well as an online Marketplace of business-focused application apps and Add-Ons.

So yes, theoretically, there’s a lot of information that could be potentially tracked. But any information used is all in the best interest of not just the business but the driver too. Getting into an accident could mean getting fired from your job after all.

If there’s a behavior that can mean lowering the risk of an accident, and therefore lowering the risk of losing a job, drivers are likely to be open to the feedback. In some cases, the information can even exonerate drivers when frivolous complaints come in. That means it’s important upon telematics rollout, executives and managers emphasize the role the technology will have in the safety of all drivers.

Besides, the vast majority of fleet managers aren’t interested in and don’t have time to watch each driver minute by minute. This is especially true for large fleets that might have hundreds or thousands of drivers. They are more concerned with using telematics data to help meet company goals, such as reducing fuel costs or minimizing the number of accidents.

In fact, some companies use telematics data to score and reward safe and fuel efficient driving performance — not just bad. Read more about Reducing Risky Driving In Your Fleet.

The Driver Challenge fleet gamification dashboard

2. A Telematics Device Will Interfere With Performance of the Car or Void the Warranty

There is a myth that a telematics device will damage some electronics in the car and possibly even void the manufacturer’s warranty. In the U.S., the Moss Magnuson Warranty Act of 1975 specifically prohibits manufacturers from voiding the warranty due to aftermarket additions to the vehicle. So, as long as proof of defect can be attributed to the car manufacturer, then your warranty is valid and enforceable regardless of whether or not you attached an aftermarket part. Plus, the device is in no way changing the vehicle mechanically — think of it more as an engine data viewer and translator. It can see engine performance information and send that information back in a tangible way for use as business intelligence. In regards to reliability, it is true that a device will draw energy from a car’s battery, however the usage is very low. The Geotab GO device goes into sleep mode when the vehicle is turned off and will only draw 2.5 mA of current. A typical car battery has a capacity of 50 Ah, which means it will take over two years before the device can come close to depleting the battery. So as long as you’re driving the vehicle frequently, it won’t matter because the battery will recharge. The GO device is smart enough to turn itself off if a vehicle is left for months at a time without charging the battery. To minimize performance risks, it’s a good idea to pick a reputable telematics company that invests a significant portion of their revenue into research and development. Geotab has spent, and continues to spend, considerable time to ensure the product cannot cause harm to your vehicle.

3. Drivers Will Lose Driving Time

It’s common to believe that telematics will require more effort and input from your drivers because they’ll have to play with the device or log information. That’s not true.

Electronic logging devices (ELDs) save drivers time previously spent on filling out paper logs.

When a driver turns on the ignition, a device automatically starts collecting and transmitting data as needed. The only situation where a telematics device will require driver input is when the device is being used as an electronic logging device (ELD). And in that case, the system is replacing a paper log system, so the opposite is true with ELDs.

In the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) final rule on ELDs, it mentions a report from George Washington University Regulatory Study Center that the transition from paper logs to ELDs will reduce the time spent complying with the Hours of Service (HOS) regulations by 68.33 million hours per year across the nearly 4 million drivers required to comply with HOS and the administrative personnel dealing with these as well. To put into figures, the FMCSA estimated the annual recordkeeping cost savings from the proposed rule to be about $705 per driver.

Outside of ELDs, fleets will find time savings in other ways, and often through better and easier recordkeeping, reduced paperwork, and more efficient routing and dispatching to jobs.

4. I Don’t Need to Track Dots On a Map

The terms telematics and GPS devices are often used interchangeably, which has lead to the common assumption that telematics places “dots on a map.” That couldn’t be further from the truth. A telematics device has GPS tracking capabilities, which many small businesses like taxi, lawn and maid services find helpful to quickly locate employees. This is telematics in its simplest form but has matured far beyond “dots on a map.” Though it is important to point out that not all companies selling devices have the ability to track other information like idle time or hard braking. Maybe you don’t need to track dots on a map, but could your organization benefit from safe driving? What about a decrease in fuel costs? A telematics device allows you to track information like a driver’s speed, idle time, hard braking, and more. You can use it to optimize your fleet and reduce costs, keep vehicles on a regular preventive maintenance schedule, predict battery failure ahead of time, make fuel tax reporting a breeze and more.

Sample CO2 Emissions report that tracks a fleet’s carbon footprint.

For example, here are some popular New England Mobile fleet management reports that can be generated with telematics data:

  • Average Fuel Economy Report

  • Dynamic Vehicle Maintenance Reminder

  • CO2 Emissions Fleet Management Report

  • Reports for ELDs and HOS compliance

Plus, you can analyze the reports to help in future route and schedule planning, or even to see that one needs to be modified immediately, which can help reduce gas costs and vehicle wear-and-tear. That also means less shop downtime, less paperwork, and less time and money spent on managing your fleet. That also means you can get a return on investment, and often pretty quickly.

5. Telematics Is Too Expensive

“Telematics is going to cost me thousands of dollars to implement,” is something we hear often from smaller businesses. Depending on fleet size, your needs, and the vendor you select, telematics can be as expensive as $1,000 per month for an enterprise-sized corporation or as affordable as $15 a month for a small business. When looking at a telematics solution, you will have to compare vendors on hardware, software, and installation costs. At NEM, we offer a variety of different data plans depending on what the fleet is ready to manage, plus a seasonal plan. We offer a lower monthly cost-suspend option for seasonal vehicles since some businesses experience peaks during certain times of the year.

Secondly, a telematics device should be thought of as an investment, not an expense, and the ROI should be considered, such as how you’re recouping the cost of the service by using the software to tackle goals such as reducing fuel use and lowering maintenance costs. In other words, if you could put $1 into telematics and it returned $2, would you care how much it costs? Before purchasing a solution, run a cost-benefit analysis. Estimate the amount of money a device could save you or make you and compare that to the costs. If you need data points for your analysis, ask experts in the field or start with a small pilot project by installing one of our devices into one vehicle.

6. My Company Is Too Small to Use Telematics

The misconception is that telematics is only for large companies, but operations of any size with just one vehicle can benefit from a telematics device. For example, a small cleaning company with three or four vehicles could benefit from GPS tracking. If an employee is at a work site and ran out of a certain cleaner, the operations manager or owner could send them to the location of the other cleaners instead of the office, if it means a shorter distance to go. Or say a customer calls asking when a driver will arrive, and without disturbing the driver, the owner can give a near-exact time the driver will arrive based on where they are on the route.