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VEHICLE TRACKING also known as GPS VEHICLE TRACKING, GPS TRACKING or SATELLITE TRACKING is a major part of many VEHICLE TELEMATICS solutions.  GPS VEHICLE TRACKING is technology which enables the user to remotely locate and track the movements, status and behaviour of cars, vans or heavy goods lorries.

This is typically achieved through a combination of a GPS Tracking device and a method of returning the vehicle location data to the user. The GPS tracking data is then transformed into useful information, through the use of an electronic digital mapping display and management reporting tools contained in a PC software application or made available via a website.

If you’re an employee concerned about the introduction of a vehicle tracking system invading your privacy, or how vehicle tracking could impinge on your human rights, please read the section Your Right to Privacy  or Employee & Human Rights Legislation.

The vehicle location is typically captured using a GPS receiver in the tracking device.  The tracking device is most often hardwire installed in the vehicle; connected to the ignition switch, battery and antennae. The typical tracking hardware for a fleet management solution uses GPS to pinpoint its location and then updates are transmitted, often in the UK by GPRS at  a regular timed interval, to the service providers computer servers. The vehicle location data is made available for viewing, more often than not with many of the solutions sold today, via a website, accessed over the internet, where fleet activity can be viewed live or historically using digital maps and reports.

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VEHICLE TRACKING SYSTEMS are often configured to transmit location and input data at a set update rate or when an event triggers the unit to transmit data.  Live VEHICLE TRACKING generally refers to systems which update regularly at 1 minute, 2 minute or 5 minute intervals, whilst the ignition status is on.

With a GPS  system it is important to remember that the vehicles are monitored by satellites circling the earth and they rely on line of sight, which means they have to be able to see the vehicle in order to track it. If the vehicle goes into a garage, tunnel or building the VEHICLE TRACKING SYSTEM will not be able to let you know what the vehicle is doing. This is can also apply when vehicles are in a major built up area where the signal may be intermittent. To resolve these issues some VEHICLE TRACKING SYSTEMS have both an active and passive tracking.

For companies where you are simply concerned about the vehicles being stolen, an RF VEHICLE TRACKING SYSTEM could be an alternative to a GPS based system.  In an RF VEHICLE TRACKING SYSTEMS, often referred to as a Vehicle Locatior Unit (VLU), a small radio transceiver is installed in the vehicle. This unit remains inactive until it is reported that the vehicle is stolen or until the vehicle needs to be located. When this happens a signal is sent out to activate the VLU, this in turn sends out signals to local receivers which, depending on the type of VLU, will estimate from a few miles to a few hundred feet, the location of the vehicle. Vehicle location is shown on a computerised map which means relevant people (the police etc) can be directed to the position. With the aid of a mobile tracking device, often fitted to Police cars, the exact location can be pinpoint even if the vehicles hidden in a garage.

Two distinct uses for vehicle tracking;

Generally speaking, when the term vehicle tracking is used, it refers to the scenarios outlined above.  However, there


are actually  two distinct types of vehicle tracking.  Some products on the market are a hybrid of both AVL (Active) and EATS (Passive) technology.  However industry practice has tended to lean towards a separation of these functions.  It is worth taking note that vehicle tracking products tend to fall in to one, not both of the technologies.

A.V.L (Automatic Vehicle Location)

  • Automatic Vehicle Location, also known as active tracking technology is predominately used  when applying vehicle tracking to fleet or driver management solutions. The unit is configured to automatically transmit it’s location at a set time interval, e.g. every 5 minutes. The unit is activated when the ignition is switched on/off.
  • The use of Automatic Vehicle Location is given in the following scenario;  A car breaks down by the side of the road.  The roadside recovery company has equipped its fleet with GPS VEHICLE TRACKING.  It has several vehicles operating in the area.  Without needing to call each driver to check his location the dispatcher can use his VEHICLE TRACKING System to pinpoint his nearest vehicle and assign it to the new job.  If you were to incorporate, in addition to GPS VEHICLE TRACKING, the other aspects of VEHICLE TELEMATICS into this scenario; the dispatcher, rather than phoning the recovery vehicle operative, could transmit the job details directly to the operative’s mobile data device, who would then use the in-vehicle satellite navigation to aid his journey to the job.


E.A.T.S (Events Activated TRACKING system)

  • Event Activated tracking or PASSIVE tracking is primarily used in connection with vehicle or driver security solutions. If, for example a thief breaks into your car and attempts to steal it, the passive tracking system can be triggered by the immobiliser unit or motion sensor being activated. A monitoring bureau, will then be automatically notified that the unit has been activated and begin tracking the vehicle.

vehicle tracking cartoon  Cartoon Source:

Events Activated VEHICLE TRACKING technology  is predominately used when applying vehicle tracking to vehicle security solutions.  An example of this distinction is given in the following scenario;  A construction company owns some pieces of plant machinery that are regularly left unattended, at weekends, on building sites. Thieves break onto one site and a piece equipment, such as a digger, is loaded on the back of a flat bed truck and then driven away.  Typically the ignition wouldn’t need to be turned on and as such most of the AVL products available wouldn’t typically be activated. Only products that included a unit that was activated by a motion sensor or GeoFence alarm event, would be activated.  Both AVL and EATS SYSTEMS track, but for different purposes.

Quality standards from the Thatcham association,  such as the CATEGORY 5 standard, have made this distinction very clear and stipulate the function and features that a vehicle security tracking product must have to gain accreditation.

VEHICLE TRACKING can be used in the following scenarios;


Vehicle Tracking imageWhen managing a fleet of vehicles, knowing the real-time location of all drivers allows management to meet customer needs more efficiently. Whether it’s delivery, service or other multi-vehicle enterprises, drivers now only need a mobile phone with telephony or Internet connection to be inexpensively tracked by and dispatched efficiently.


Companies needing to track valuable assets for insurance or other monitoring purposes can now plot the real-time asset location on a map and closely monitor movement and operating status.


Companies with a field service workforce deployed in the field  to deliver services such as repair or maintenance, must be able to plan field workers’ time, schedule subsequent customer visits and be able to operate these departments efficiently. Vehicle tracking allows companies to quickly locate a field engineer and dispatch the closest one to meet a new customer request or provide site arrival information.


vehicle tracking system

Field Sales: Sales managers can access real-time locations of staff, adding nearby last-minute appointments to itineraries. Benefits include increased productivity, reduced driving time and increased time spent with customers and prospects.


Haulage and Logistics companies often operate lorries with detachable load carrying units.  The part of the vehicle that drives the load is known as the cab and the the load carrying unit is known as the trailer. There are different types of trailer used for different applications, e.g. flat bed, refrigerated, curtain sided, box container.  Learn about trailer tracking.





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