Private vs. Commercial Vehicle Tracking Devices

Commercial fleet van on the road

By Julia Watts | Content Manager | 28 June, 2019

Private vehicle tracking and commercial vehicle tracking come with different uses, features, and price tags. But which is right for your business? 


We’re going to start with an important truth: keeping tabs on your business’ vehicles is an absolute must.

But if you’re a small business with a small fleet – or maybe you’re a one-person band – you might be struggling to decide whether to install the private vehicle tracking devices available to everyday consumers from the likes of Halfords and Amazon, or go for a full-blown commercial vehicle tracking system from a specialist business supplier.

Well, we're here to tell you that, while the former option might seem easier, the latter will introduce a great many more benefits and cost savings to your business – no matter how big or small your operation is.

So, read on for a comparison of these two options, and for a few examples of the systems you might choose to use. You can also compare personalised quotes from commercial tracking suppliers right away by filling in our quick form.


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Private vs. commercial vehicle tracking: What’s the difference?

The primary purpose of a vehicle tracking system is to (you guessed it) keep track of vehicles. Usually, a system will consist of a GPS vehicle tracking device, which is installed in a vehicle, and a desktop or mobile software app, using which the vehicle owner can check their vehicle’s location.

So, what’s the real difference between a private vehicle tracking device and a commercial vehicle tracking system? Well, while the GPS technology that powers both remains the same, their uses can differ massively…


What can private vehicle tracking devices do?

Private, or personal, vehicle tracking devices are designed for the everyday car owner – not business vehicles or fleets. For that reason, they’re pretty basic, and don’t come with any fleet management features.

There are two different types of private vehicle tracker that you need to be aware of – active trackers and passive trackers.

Most of the time, active private vehicle tracking is simply used for security purposes. Active trackers can send real-time location updates, so if a thief does make off with your car, you can see where it’s being spirited away to – and help police track it down rapidly. It’s a much more effective security measure than a car alarm (which more often annoys neighbours than it does deter thieves).

By contrast, passive private trackers need to be removed from the vehicle, and the data they’ve collected downloaded to a computer, before you can see where your vehicles have been. This makes them useless in a case of grand theft auto – but useful if you just want to record each vehicle’s routes and mileage.

Well-known manufacturers of personal vehicle tracking devices include SpyTec, Streetwize Accessories, iTrack, and Vodafone.

You can buy private vehicle trackers directly from your vehicle tracking brand of choice, third-party retail sites like Amazon, or specialist shops like Halfords.

You’ll find very basic models for as little as £20, while more advanced, hardy devices creep closer to £100. The majority of reliable personal trackers can be bought for around £40 to £50 each.

GPS vehicle tracker

What can commercial vehicle tracking systems do?

Just like private devices, commercial vehicle tracking systems enable you to keep tabs on your vehicles. But the key difference is that these systems are designed to be used specifically by businesses that operate fleets of vehicles, rather than everyday consumers.

So, in addition to location and mileage, commercial vehicle tracking systems also offer a comprehensive range of fleet management features and functionalities. These sophisticated capabilities are designed to give you a bird’s eye view of your fleet’s activities, helping you to cut unnecessary costs, boost your business’ efficiency, and help you run your fleet easily.

Furthermore, commercial vehicle trackers tend to be active by default, which means that they automatically send location data to you at regular intervals – rather than requiring you to download it from each device at the end of the day. Samsara’s system, for example, will show your vehicles moving along a digital map in real-time. 

Here’s an overview of the most common commercial vehicle tracking functions – and whether or not they tend to grace private vehicle tracking systems, too:

FeaturePrivate vehicle trackingCommercial vehicle tracking

GPS tracking

Recording routes and mileage

Route planning
Live traffic updates
Fuel consumption reporting
Vehicle maintenance alerts
Monitoring driver behaviour
Incident reporting
Keeping hours of service (HOS) records
Paperless invoicing
Mobile vehicle tracking system app
Commercial vehicle tracking makes it easy to keep tabs on all your vehicles, from any device
Verizon Connect, Samsara, and RAM Tracking are excellent examples of commercial vehicle tracking system providers – we’ll review them in more detail below.

Many commercial vehicle tracking providers supply an all-in-one service, including installing the trackers and getting the software set up for you. You’ll need to get in touch with your chosen provider if you’d like to make use of one of these comprehensive systems.

It’s hard for us to say how much a commercial tracking system will cost you, because prices tend to be bespoke, based on the size and type of fleet you run. But if you’d like to find out how much you’d be looking at paying, why not try filling out our quick form? You’ll receive free, tailored quotes to compare from a range of trusted commercial vehicle tracking providers.


Private and commercial vehicle tracking laws

The legal considerations

Whether you’re using a simple personal tracker or a sophisticated commercial vehicle tracking system, one thing remains the same: the people you’re tracking must be aware of the fact that you’re tracking them, and they must give their consent to being tracked. Otherwise, tracking them is illegal.

Vehicle tracking law falls under the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which regulates the way in which businesses can collect and process data. Because you’re collecting data on your drivers (such as their location, the routes they’re taking, and their driving habits) when you track them, it’s important to stay in line with this regulation.

Here’s a quick guide to what’s legal and what isn’t. This applies whether you’re using a few personal tracking devices or a full-on business system:

What I want to doIs it legal?
Track my business’ vehicles while they’re in business useYes, as long as your drivers have been made aware and given their consent
Track company cars that my drivers also use in their free timeYes, but your drivers must have privacy outside of work. To that end, the tracker model you choose must have either:

  1. A privacy button that, when pressed by your driver, stops the tracker from transmitting location data
  2. A setting that enables you to remotely disable the tracker when your drivers finish their hours
Use covert vehicle tracking devicesYes! Covert trackers (devices that attach to the underside of a vehicle so thieves can’t spot and steal them) are legal. But, again, your drivers must know they’re there
Track my vehicles without telling my driversNo. Just. Don’t. Do. It!

The moral and management considerations

Some drivers may feel resentful that you’re keen to keep tabs on them, believing it’s because you don’t trust them to do their jobs properly.

This is why it’s important to communicate why you want to implement a vehicle tracking system when asking for their consent. It’s for security, for one – and, if you’re going for a commercial system, it’ll help you cut down on fuel costs, devise quicker routes, keep real-time records and reports, help drivers be the best they can be, stay on top of vehicle maintenance, and, overall, run a more efficient fleet.

This’ll make it clear that you’re not trying to play Big Brother – you’re just hoping to run a much better business. Your employees shouldn’t see reason to argue with that!

Of course, keeping your employees happy should be a priority. So, make sure they know they can come to you with questions and concerns – and be sure to answer these with patience, clarity, and positivity.

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The best commercial vehicle tracking systems

Interested in a commercial vehicle tracking system? Good news – we can help you choose the right one! To start, we’ve researched the best of the best, and found the top three commercial vehicle tracking systems to be:

  • Verizon Connect
  • Samsara
  • RAM Tracking

Read on for our quickfire explanations of what these systems can offer you…


Verizon Connect

Best for medium to large businesses

Tracking over 800,000 vehicles every day, Verizon Connect comes highly recommended. You’ll be able to track your vehicles from digital maps on any device, see reporting on a range of fleet and driver activity on handy dashboards, use data analytics to measure your progress against KPIs… and that’s really just the tip of Verizon’s feature-rich iceberg!

Supplier Rating : Read our full review

Pros:

  • Its fantastic customisable alerting system keeps you on top of things in real-time
  • Makes monitoring all aspects of your fleet's activity simple
  • Provides driver performance scores to give you visibility over your team's progress

X Cons:

  • Typical contract periods are quite lengthy – usually three years
  • Only its more expensive subscriptions support vehicle maintenance scheduling
  • Better-suited to large businesses that can handle lots of data

Samsara

Best for rapidly growing businesses

As well as tracking your vehicles in as close to real-time as you'll get (data refreshes every 30–60 seconds!), Samsara’s system will help you to schedule and dispatch jobs with ease, take care of your motors with remote diagnostics and maintenance info, and more. Samsara is especially big on boosting your efficiency, with reporting on fuel usage, route performance, and driving habits to help you trim unnecessary costs and hours. Plus, the system can be quickly scaled to cover tens of thousands of vehicles!

Supplier Rating : Read our full review

Pros:

  • Comes with lots of features tailored to improving driver safety
  • Its excellent route optimisation function can help you save time and money
  • It scored 7.5/10 in our cost analysis – you get a lot of bang for your buck!

X Cons:

  • Promotes self installation both initially and with new updates – confidence in coding is required!
  • Its contract lengths are typically quite long, usually three to five years

RAM Tracking

Best for new and small businesses

RAM (Remote Asset Management) Tracking is a mainstay of the UK’s vehicle tracking sector – and for good reason! Its system comes with a free app that’s easy to use on any device, and reports on a range of fleet management info. This includes maintenance and servicing, accidents, and historical data – enabling you to evaluate things like route efficiency and driver behaviour more easily. With an easy-to-use interface and incredibly cheap prices that range from £8.99 to £14 per month, RAM is a great pick for new ventures.

Supplier Rating : Read our full review

Pros:

  • One of the only products to provide crash detection and reporting
  • Its unique cost management reporting helps you keep an eye on your outgoings
  • Short, 12-month contracts are available

X Cons:

  • Reporting isn't as in-depth or customisable as Verizon Connect's or Samsara's
  • Doesn't come with a driver messaging feature

Expert verdict

There’s nothing to stop you from using private tracking devices to keep tabs on your business’ vehicles – except, maybe, the fact that you’ll be missing out on a whole host of intelligent fleet management functions!

Really, we always recommend commercial vehicle tracking systems to businesses. The level of control, visibility, insight, and security they afford can really help you to streamline your operations and run a truly efficient, money-saving fleet.

In any case, it’s a good idea to compare all the options available to you before settling on one system provider. We can help you there. Simply tell us about your fleet by filling in our fast form, and you’ll receive a range of customised, no-obligation quotes directly from trusted commercial vehicle tracking providers. What have you got to lose?

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Do you already have a vehicle tracking system? YES NO
Julia Watts Content Manager

Specializing in business energy, fleet management and fuel cards, Julia’s here to help your company power up and get on the move. Having spent years working in the dynamic world of startup entrepreneurship, she loves creating content that might help exciting ventures, big or small, to flourish.

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