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During the past five years there has been a steady increase of GPS vendors targeting the limousine industry.
Many people, however, confuse various types of GPS devices. GPS is without a doubt the most innovative management tool the industry has seen since the advent of reservations software. There are two basic types of systems that use GPS:
1) Navigation systems such as TomToms, Garmins, and Magellans that guide you to your destination using turn-by-turn voice instructions backed by a digital map with arrows.
2) Fleet management systems, also known as tracking systems, such as Discrete Wireless, Teletrac, and Enterprise GPS.
This article focuses only on fleet management tracking systems, although many tracking systems also have the ability to send navigational directions via a cell phone or mobile data terminal (MDT), thereby doubling as a navigation system.
Some GPS companies clearly have tailored their product and sales efforts to the industry with Teletrac, integrating their product with the popular Fasttrak Livery Software.
Enterprise GPS has invested in the industry by attending and sponsoring trade shows and state association meetings.
Discrete Wireless has garnered a significant base of installed systems primarily because their reports and functions seem to cater to the limousine industry.
For those who worry about invading your employee’s privacy, just remember it is your vehicle you are tracking and the employee is being paid by you, and you have a right as much as an obligation to supervise the work of your staff. The issue was tested before the Oregon Supreme Court who ruled employers have a right to use GPS (Oregon v. Meredith, OR Supreme Court No. SC50173, 2004).
How Much Will It Cost?
GPS TRACKING SYSTEMS begin as low as $15 a month but average about $30 to $40 per month for “monitoring fees” for each tracking unit you have.
This does not include the price of equipment. While $40 may seem like a lot of money, if you have 10 vehicles, when looked at as a per-vehicle monthly expense, the unit may pay for itself within a period of one month just through the reduction of payroll expense as the unit serves as your new time clock. It will reduce your fuel costs by eliminating unauthorized detours and personal errands, and excessive idling.
It will reduce the consumption of fuel as chauffeurs know you will be notified every time they speed, which burns more gas. The actual cost of the equipment ranges from the price of a Nextel phone at $150 to top-of-the-line MDT models at $800. The Nextel phones can be used along with software by @Road that allows you to send a query signal to the phone, in effect asking, “Where are you?”, also known as “pinging.”
The phone’s location is displayed on a website. This would be considered an entry-level system. Even in the medium price range, system functions include unlocking the doors on a vehicle remotely or disabling the engine from starting if you need to.
Potential engine problems are reported using the onboard diagnostics (OBD) computer system installed by vehicle manufacturers.
Vehicle Management Tool
BEFORE YOU CAN really shop for equipment, you must know the many bells and whistles. Like livery software, more expensive systems offer more capabilities, more reports, more alerts, and more control than lower-cost systems.
Of course, the most obvious function is the ability to see where each of your cars is located. This is accomplished by pinging the vehicle and getting a report back indicating various conditions about the vehicle, including the current location within a five- to 50-foot range, depending on the system.
It can tell you if the car is on or off, direction of travel, and current speed. Tracking systems automatically ping vehicles on a basis that can range from every one minute to every five minutes, and on demand. Some GPS companies charge extra for this, and others give you a certain amount of “on demand” pings per month before charging for extra pings.
Using “alerts,” the tracking system can send a text or voice message to your cell phone that the vehicle is traveling faster than a speed you specify.
If you don’t want to be bothered in off hours, you can set it up to send you an e-mail report with the date, time, and location of the speeding car to address the issue with the chauffeur later.
The more reports and alerts a system has, the better tool it becomes for management. Reports also include a detailed history of where the vehicle has been and when it was there. The ability to archive these reports ranges from system to system, but most can be printed in PDF format and be imported into Excel. If you have an excessive idling policy, you can enforce it and drastically reduce your fuel bill.
If the tracking system has vehicle maintenance capability, alerts can be set after a certain number of miles are traveled to remind you of oil changes, tire rotations, and other maintenance issues that must be performed.
If the vehicle OBD senses a mechanical or electrical problem, an alert with the vehicle’s diagnostic code can be sent to a cell phone or e-mail address so the problem can be corrected immediately.