The Wonderful World of GPS

How Truck Drivers and Fleet Operators Would Be Lost Without One
By Dr. Todd Zeh
Challenge Magazine
January 2008

It happens to the best of us. You’re on the road, pressed for time, lost and without a map. It’s for these hard-pressed moments that the GPS was invented. Most of us couldn’t find our living room in the dark. Why on earth would you want to replicate this experience while driving and carrying a heavy load?

A Brief Introduction to the World of GPS Before the 1980s, the Department of Defense set up a network of 24 satellites that revolve in a precise orbit in space in order to locate military applications and devices and to calculate their exact position on a map. This is done through satellite transmission: The satellites signal information to Earth, and the GPS, or Global Positioning System, receiver looks at the signal and the exact time it was received.

The time is critical. The time difference between transmission and reception tells the GPS receiver how far apart the satellite and the recipient are. Once a few other satellites communicate, the exact position of your vehicle can be determined.

In this article, we’ll touch on two types of GPS products that you may encounter when shopping for a device: a “tracking” GPS and a “navigation” GPS. Most people think of the latter when they hear the acronym. It sits on top of your dashboard and tells you inch by inch how to navigate your vehicle to your destination.

A tracking GPS typically will track the location of your truck even when you’ve switched off the engine. If your truck is stolen, or if you veer off course, the tracking GPS alerts the dispatcher that something is awry. It’s best to outfit your truck with both.

Huge Savings in More Ways Than One
The idea of installing GPS devices in his trucks occurred to David Hunt when a colleague said he was saving money with them. “It’s a no-brainer,” says Hunt, president and owner of Two Men and a Truck, Michigan district. “I only had GPS installed in my trucks five to six weeks ago. We basically used the navigation software to get from our office to the load site, and this resulted in better customer service.”

Minimizing the time from point A to point B is critical in delivering household goods, Hunt says, and a GPS navigation device shows the most efficient way to reach a destination. With live traffic updates on Garmin GPS models such as the Quest and the Nuvi, drivers can get a sense of which streets are congested before encountering them.

Says Hunt, “We have e-mail notifications sent to us if our guy drives over the speed limit. We helped drivers save time and fuel because of these devices.”

Tracking GPS
By installing a tracking device like the TrackNet GPS system in your truck, you can, at any moment, know where your truck is, how fast it is moving and even if a cargo door has been opened. When the vehicle starts moving, the device transmits the data through a wireless network by CORE and the back end (operations) can see everything.

“The little box is not super intelligent; it’s the application or the program that we provide that does all the work,” says Bill Cahill, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at TrackNet Fleet Tracking Systems. “Our devices grab the GPS Tracking data and transmit it “Live” to our data center (via cellular technology), where we crunch this information and give the customer a solid tracking product with Detailed maps and Reports.”

The average cost of these devices is about $300 each, plus about $35 per month, depending on how many bells and whistles and alerts you choose to have.

Keep in mind that the device is not like the TomTom navigation GPS. If you want a navigation GPS as well, Tracknet can easily install one that communicates with the same wireless network. The only caveat is that the driver will not be able to change any pre-existing routes without the approval of the operations team, but that usually takes only a few seconds.

“Updates occur every two minutes or whenever a vehicle has a change of state: For example, an engine that stops and starts again, or veers off course,” says Cahill.

Don’t Go It Alone
You’ll never really go it alone with a GPS device installed in your truck. If you’re prone to traveling long distances, particularly on different routes each time, you’ll love the convenience of preloaded maps and live traffic reports.

And the ability to save your truck in case you are hijacked is priceless. If you don’t have GPS installed in your vehicle, you should consider it.

After all, the price of the investment is tiny when compared with the peace of mind.