What is Vehicle Tracking?

By Julia Watts | Content Manager | Updated: 13 February 2020

Vehicle tracking systems come in various shapes and sizes, from small dashboard trackers to advanced internal trackers. They can provide data ranging from simple location updates every few hours to real-time telematics tracking and reporting. This gives insights into everything from vehicle location and speed to fuel consumption and driving behaviour.

Which system is right for your fleet? It depends on the size and industry of your business.

Service oriented businesses such as taxi companies companies and couriers can benefit hugely from the insights vehicle tracking can provide. The tech allows for more efficient dispatch and better customer service communications.

Haulage businesses and long distance drivers can also use the technology to maximise route efficiency and save on delivery time and fuel costs.

What is a vehicle tracking system? Why use one?

Most vehicle tracking systems will use satellite GPS technology to pinpoint the location of a vehicle. There are active and passive tracking systems.

Active systems will relay the gathered information in real time. Fleet managers can then access it via an online interface. This means they will receive immediate updates about any issues.

Passive tracking means vehicle data is collected and can be downloaded later. Although real time updates are not provided, this information is useful for long-term efficiency analysis and data backups.

GPS vehicle tracking gives fleet managers a competitive edge. Besides being able to know where all vehicles are at any given time, tracking can help cut fuel costs, improve safety, and reduce vehicle wear and tear.

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Functionalities of vehicle tracking systems

Fuel savings

Tracking your fleet with a GPS vehicle tracking system can help you save on fuel costs both directly and indirectly. Using GPS tracking lets you plan routes more efficiently and ensure that drivers stick to the predetermined routes. This is especially useful for long distance drivers and HGVs, where fuel costs add up due to the length of undertaken journeys.

In addition, tracking your fleet gives you insights into the driving behaviour of your drivers, with the option of providing trainings or other correctional measures for drivers who don’t drive in a fuel efficient manner. Many tracking systems will output your fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, and many will integrate seamlessly with fuel management services such as those provided by fuel card suppliers.

Route planning

Vehicle tracking systems enable you to plan routes efficiently, both for short and long distances. HGVs can benefit from careful route planning, ensuring that their route does not contain toll roads or small streets that are unsuitable for large vehicles.

The geofencing feature integrated into many vehicle tracking systems will let you set alerts for the event of a vehicle leaving its designated route or area.

Did You Know?

Under the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) scheme, vehicles that don’t meet EU Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) emissions standards face fines of up to £111.50/day for entering parts of central London. Around 2.5 million vehicles are thought to be affected. (Source: London.gov.uk)


Telematics systems are advanced vehicle tracking systems that operate as a kind of black box in a vehicle, transmitting data about the driving behaviour of the driver. This lets the fleet manager see and analyse less than efficient driver behaviour such as driving too fast, fast acceleration and hard breaking.

Improving driver behaviour can not only reduce fuel costs, but also the strain on the vehicles themselves.


There are several aspects of compliance when it comes to vehicle tracking. Many fleet owners are unsure about the legalities of tracking vehicles and employees may feel concerns for their privacy when vehicle tracking systems are introduced. Vehicle tracking for a business fleet is perfectly legal, and sometimes even mandated by law, as with HGVs, which need to have a tachograph installed.

It is still important to comply with privacy and data laws. Being transparent with employees and helping them understand the benefits of vehicle tracking can help ease possible tensions in the business.

Fleet management software

The fleet management software associated with your GPS tracking devices will give you access to all the data relayed by the trackers. This lets you see where vehicle are in real time, understand traffic conditions and receive updates and alerts about any issues.

In the long term, you will also be able to analyse the relayed data and identify trends within your fleet. This kind of data can help you cut delivery times, plan more fuel efficient routes and save your business money.

Accurate vehicle and asset tracking

Accurately tracking your fleet with GPS means you will always know where your vehicles are. This can help solve disputes about working hours and fuel claims.

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Vehicle tracking system components

There are a wide range of vehicle tracking system suppliers on the market, with some supplying hardware or software only, and others providing basic packages or bespoke integrated systems. The type and number of components you need depends on your business requirements.

Factors that can affect the components you need are:

  • The size of your business
  • The industry you are in
  • What analytics functionalities you demand of your software bundle

Smaller businesses might be adequately served by less sophisticated software, as almost all basic packages will provide real time vehicle tracking with basic reporting capabilities.

Businesses with larger fleets might need more complex tracking devices which can track not just location and speed but also driver behaviour, and which have geofencing features.

Typical vehicle tracking system components include:

  • In-car GPS trackers (fitted into the vehicle and powered by the car battery)
  • Covert GPS trackers (hidden under the chassis, tamper proof and can be activated remotely)
  • Asset trackers (powered by their own battery and designed for rugged environments)
  • Tachographs (for HGVs)
  • Fleet management software (to access the relayed data)
  • A telematics black box

Advanced vehicle tracking systems offer some – if not all – of the following features:

Live GPS location tracking

Mileage reports

 Historical route replay

Reports that summarise fleet activity

Customisable alerts – stay abreast of what's happening in your fleet

Geofencing and landmark-setting – designate where vehicles are/are not allowed to go

Job scheduling, dispatching, and route optimisation

Driver behaviour monitoring – know when a driver wastes fuel or drives dangerously

Driver messaging – instantly tell your drivers about route changes or new jobs

Collision, breakdown, and theft detection

Service and maintenance diagnostics and scheduling

Fuel card integration – control your fleet's spending on fuel

Cargo and engine temperature monitoring

Integration with satnavs

A mobile software app – check in on your fleet while on the go

 Driver ID – stay on top of who's been driving which vehicle, and when

Panic button – enable drivers to alert you immediately if something goes wrong

Traffic and weather updates

Vehicle tracking system

How to choose the right vehicle tracking system

Buying a GPS tracking system for your fleet can have a massive impact on the way you do business, giving you access to an incredible amount of data that you can use to supercharge your operational efficiency. But what’s the best GPS vehicle tracking system to buy? Well, the answer will depend on the size of your company, the type of fleet you run, and your specific business needs.

Take some time to mull over what you want your new fleet management system to do. Answering these key questions will help:

1. What information do you want to collect?

By tracking your vehicles, you can gain unparalleled insight into your fleet’s comings and goings – but, when it comes to exact functionality, every system is different. Some trackers relay only basic location and mileage information, while others can do that and much more (scroll back up to our checklist of system features to get an idea!).

Make a list of the potential fleet management functions that would really benefit your business, and try to find a system that can provide them. Be warned, though – usually, the more sophisticated the features, the more expensive the system.

2. How many vehicles do you need to track?

Vehicle tracking suppliers tend to charge on a per-vehicle basis. So it goes without saying that, the larger your fleet, the more you’ll pay for your system – something to bear in mind when comparing prices. Of course, as we mentioned earlier, larger fleets are likely to benefit more from pricier, more complex systems, as they can really help cut costs and optimise operations.

The type of vehicle you need to track might also have an impact on the type of system you need – a system that’s been designed for trucks may not work as well for cars, for instance.

3. What do you need from your system provider?

Forget what your chosen system can do for a moment, because you also need to make sure that its provider can give you the support you need. These are the questions you should be asking:

  • What’s the customer service like? Will you be able to speak to someone over the weekend if you need to? Can you call, email, or get in touch via live chat?
  • How long are the contracts? If you’re new to vehicle tracking, a shorter contract (say, 12 months) will give you the flexibility to change supplier or upgrade your plan sooner. If your provider only offers longer contracts (we’re talking 36 to 60 months), find out how easy/affordable it’ll be to cancel early if needed.
  • Does your contract include free installation, staff training, system upgrades, and hardware replacements? If not, how much will you have to pay for these things?
  • What’s the provider’s reputation like? Online testimonials and reviews from real customers can help massively when you’re struggling to decide.

What should you consider before buying a vehicle tracking system? Derek Ryan of Verizon Connect (formerly Fleetmatics) sheds some more light:

Vehicle tracking system prices

The price of a vehicle tracking system including all hardware and software components can vary from almost free to many thousands of pounds. Small fleets with technologically savvy drivers may be able to get away with using smart phone apps for their fleet tracking needs. Larger fleets and those including lorries will probably need to invest more money to install physical tracking devices in the vehicle – usually under the dahsboard – to take advantage of advanced tracking features.

Obviously larger fleets will need to buy more tracking devices for their vehicles, but many suppliers offer bulk discounts on trackers. In addition to this there will often be monthly fees for the tracking system.

Most UK suppliers don’t publish how much their vehicle tracking systems cost and will instead give you an individual quote, based on the needs of your business. This is helpful in negotiating a good deal but it can be difficult to know what prices are available.

▶ Find out more about van tracking: Our guide to the benefits of van trackers

Anti-theft vehicle tracking costs

This is the simplest type of tracker, made to prevent theft. This device uses VHF or GPS and is able to tell the location of the vehicle. This can then be found by the authorities.

  • Around £300 – £500 per vehicle
  • Lease for £150 per annum

GPS fleet tracking system costs

These systems are for a business fleet. Information is stored on the internet and can be accessed by mobile phones.

  • You pay for a subscription and this depends on how many vehicles you have
  • Expect to pay around £10 per month
  • Pay-as-you-Go service options
  • Additional charges for adding or removing a unit (£100) or setting your business up with software, alerts or reports
  • Deposit of £50 per unit fitted (refundable)

Fleet management system costs

This combines GPS vehicle tracking with additional features and tools. Examples of these features include route planning, reports on fuel efficiency and driver IDs.

  • Paid on a subscription basis (depends on number of cars/features)
  • Extra charges (same as GPS tracking systems)
  • Lengthier contracts & no Pay-as-you-Go option

Next steps

Finding the right GPS tracking system for your business can be confusing. With so many options, it’s hard to discover the best one for you. To take the hassle out of buying a vehicle tracking system for your fleet, simply fill in our web form and let us help you!

We will provide you with free quotes from top UK suppliers. Taking into account your answers to the web form questions, we will forward you the quotes best suited to your business needs. It’s quick, stress-free and easy, and you can start saving money today.

If you’re looking for ways to save money on fuel, our guide to the best fuel card providers should provide a thorough introduction to how to do so!
Julia Watts Content Manager

Specializing in the complex realms of telephone systems, business energy, vehicle tracking, asset tracking, and fuel cards, Julia writes content that cuts through the noise to help you find the right solutions and technologies for your business. Having spent five years working across the dynamic world of entrepreneurship, she loves helping exciting ventures – big or small – to flourish.

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