What are GPS Trackers for Cars and Trucks? (UPDATED JUNE 2020)
BY MATTHEW PEARSON - TECH WRITER, TELEMATICS ADVOCATE AND GPS TRACKING EXPERT
LAST UPDATED 24 JUNE 2020
Australian Vehicle Theft Statistics
The primary reason people buy GPS trackers for cars and trucks is to protect their vehicles from theft, Here are some statistics to consider –
- Three in four vehicles stolen are taken from the garage or the street outside
- 9,800 vehicles “vanished’ in 2019, which is an indicator of organised crime which turns vehicles into cash
- 48,839 passenger or light commercial vehicles were stolen in 2018/9, an increase of 4% over the previous year
- 9,261 motorcycles were stolen in 2018/9, an increase of 9% over the previous year
- 48,839 passenger or light commercial vehicles were stolen in 2018/9, an increase of 4% over the previous year
- 2,193 heavy vehicles were stolen in 2018/9, an increase of 5% over the previous year
- Of the 48,839 passenger or light commercial vehicles stolen, 24% were less than six years old, 22 % were six-ten years old and 53% were more than 10 years old
- 85% of passenger or light vehicles stolen were fitted with an immobiliser
- 18% of motorbikes stolen were unregistered or offroad bikes
GPS Tracker for Cars and Trucks
A GPS tracker for cars and trucks is a useful and inexpensive tool that can help protect your vehicle. But buying a GPS tracker for cars and trucks can be a daunting process. There are multiple models at different price points and with different features. Telematics Australia is pleased to help Australians find the the GPS tracker for cars and trucks that is right for them. We explain the features and benefits, the costs, the installation process, and how a GPS tracker for cars and trucks works.
Insurance Benefits of a GPS Tracker for Cars and Trucks
A GPS tracker improves the chances of recovering a stolen vehicle. Fewer claims means that most insurance companies will reduce your premium if you fit a GPS tracker. If you buy a GPS tracker you should contact your insurance company, and others, to see if you can get a better deal from any of them. You may be able to save hundreds of dollars per year in premiums. In the case of very expensive vehicles, the insurance savings in the first year may pay for your new GPS tracker.
Basic GPS Tracker for Cars and Trucks
If you just want to know the location of your vehicle, a basic GPS tracker for cars and trucks will be right for you. People mostly use these devices so they can locate their vehicle in case of theft. For many people this is the primary reason to buy a GPS tracker. It means you can track your vehicle if it’s stolen. You can quickly alert the police when it leaves a geofenced area, and you can track its location until it is recovered. Some advanced GPS trackers for cars and trucks even include an immobilisation function.
Plug and Play vs Hardwired GPS Trackers for Cars and Trucks
Plug and Play: Almost every vehicle has an OBD-II port, which is often located under the dashboard. The primary purpose of the OBD-II port is used for vehicle diagnostics. Happily, this port can also be used to power a GPS tracker for cars and trucks. To install the tracker, you simply power off the vehicle, plug in the tracker, and start the vehicle again. Within a couple of minutes it will be sending the vehicle’s live location. Benefits of this type of tracker are that it can be easily self-installed, the tracker can quickly be removed for use in another vehicle, and that it can receive engine diagnostics.
The primary disadvantage of Plug and Play type vehicle trackers is that they are quite easy to find and remove. A professional thief can easily find the location of the OBD-II port, unplug, and remove the GPS tracker. Another disadvantage of this type of tracker is that it is an enclosed box, so you are unable to connect additional monitoring devices.
Hardwired: This type of GPS tracker for cars and trucks is wired into the vehicle in the same way as you would install other electrical equipment such as a stereo system. It means that the tracker is much more difficult for a thief to find and remove. These hardwired trackers require a three-wire connection including ground, power and ignition. The device is normally mounted out of sight, under the bonnet, in interior panels, or under the dash on the driver side. Hardwired GPS trackers for cars and trucks tend to be more expensive, and have additional features. For example, some can be connected to a wiring harness, you can record additional inputs. Another option may be to record driver ID, by assigning key fobs to your drivers so they can assign themselves to the vehicle before driving it.
It typically takes 30-40 minutes to install a hardwired GPS tracker for cars and trucks. Consequently, it is not easy to move this type of device between vehicles, and requires vehicle downtime when you move it.
Locate On Demand vs Live Tracking
Live tracking means the GPS unit sends its location at a frequency typically between every 10 second and every two minutes. On demand tracking systems only send their location on request. They have less functionality, but still enable you to locate your vehicles at any time.
Often the app will include some type of geofencing. This means you can define an area on the map, such as your home, and the app can alert you when your vehicle enters or leaves this area. This means you can track the vehicle if it’s stolen, towed, or even being used by someone else who has a key.
Some GPS trackers for cars and trucks are able to immobilise the vehicle. For example, they can be connected to the fuel pump. The vehicle owner can then use the phone app to disable the vehicle.
Connect your GPS Tracker to your Car Alarm
Many car owners rely on an alarm system to protect their car. These types of systems can alert car owners who are close to their vehicle, but what about when you are far away from your vehicle? You won’t be able to hear the alarm. In cases like this a GPS tracker for cars and trucks can help locate the vehicle if it has been moved. In many cases the GPS tracker can even be connected to the car alarm. If the alarm is triggered, the GPS tracker can send a message to your phone so you can quickly respond.
Remotely Disable the Vehicle
Some GPS trackers for cars and trucks let you disable the vehicle directly from the phone app. You can use this function to prevent the vehicle from being stolen in the first place, or, stop the vehicle from starting again when it’s been stolen or moved. This is a great security feature when your car will be left unattended for an extended period. All you need to do is touch a button on your phone app, and no one can start the car until you enable it again.
Check the Vehicle History and Monitor Driver Behaviour
Another useful function of GPS trackers for trucks and cars is that you can see the vehicle history. So, for example, you can see if and when the car was speeding, or if a parking ticket was justified. This information is also useful if the vehicle is stolen. In the case that the tracker is disabled, at least you can see the route it has taken.
Some organisations install GPS trackers for cars and trucks to monitor driver behaviour. Behaviour that can be tracked includes speeding, harsh braking, harsh acceleration and cornering, and so on. In one case, driver speeding was reduced by 97%, and fuel economy improved too.
The vehicle history can also be useful for log book purposes. You can see the distance driven by day, week, month, and so on.
Interfaces for GPS Trackers for Cars and Trucks
Most GPS trackers for cars and trucks will have multiple software interfaces. You can use these interfaces to track your vehicle, look at the history, disable the vehicle, set geofences, and so on. Typically the vendor will provide –
A webpage for your vehicle. This will keep all the information relevant to your vehicle including the vehicle history.
An app for iPhone and/or Android so you can manage your vehicle from your phone. For examplt, to locate the vehicle, or disable it in an emergency.
Sometimes additional functions are available if you are willing to pay more.
GPS trackers for cars and trucks typically cost between $100-$500. On top of this, there is often a monthly cost of around $20-$30. Some suppliers require you to sign up for a minimum period, and others are pay as you go. As with anything, the more you pay, the more you get.
As we have previously discussed, the GPS tracker hardware is only part of the solution. Users of GPS trackers also need to consider their growth expectations, which often means they need to use scalable software. Scalable software is able to grow as your business grows. For example, you might now only be operating a few vehicles, but in the future you expect to have 5-10 times as many vehicles. Scalable software supports this type of future requirements with functionality such as customisable groups of vehicles, hierarchies, group categories and attributes, and so on. This grouping of vehicles means that you don’t have to manage each vehicle as a separate entity. You can create rules and geofences on a group level, saving time and effort, and ensuring accuracy.
Another way to achieve scalability is to ensure your chosen system is flexible enough to accommodate requirements such as multiple reporting and dashboard options, and future integration requirements. Ultimately your GPS tracking system may end up integrated with other back end software you use, such as billing systems, routing systems, and so on.
Fleet Management Systems
For some organisations, a GPS tracker for cars and trucks does not provide enough functionality. These organisations will need a comprehensive fleet management system. These systems still include GPS trackers, but also have much more advanced functionality. In addition there will be advanced software, typically accessed via a website, that can help with fuel tax credits, fringe benefits tax, and other features. These systems are designed to help with efficiency, safety, labour saving and fuel saving.
Typical functions include –
- Route Optimisation
- Intelligent Access Program
- Chain of Responsibility
- Pre Start Checklist
- Electronic Work Diary
- Electronic Logbook
- Driver Coaching
- Crash Detection
- Mobile Workforce Management
Benefits of Fleet Management Systems include –
- Fuel tax credits optimisation
- Improved safety
- Reduced maintenance costs
- Increased return on assets
- Reduction in unauthorised use of vehicle
- Improved productivity
- Reduction in fuel costs
- Improved customer service
- Reduction in administrative costs
Follow the links below to get more details on fleet management systems functionality.
ATO fuel tax credits are the excise tax that was paid on taxable fuel, then returned to the taxpayer in the form of tax credits when the fuel was used for specific business purposes.
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