General AVL Faq

We've compiled and provide this FAQ page as a resource for customers in order to supply answers for the most common questions end-users ask when investigating the option to purchase an AVL system.

The most common question we get is "Why should I track my vehicles using GPS equipment?"

The answer to that question is simple... to save money.

A study published in December 2007 by the Aberdeen Group quoted a 13.2% reduction in fuel costs when companies adopt GPS vehicle tracking. What would a 13.2% reduction in fuel costs mean to your bottom line?The Aberdeen Group also sited a 13.4% reduction in overtime costs. These two items alone should save you enough to pay off your investment in fleet tracking in a very short period of time. GPS fleet tracking by TerraTrax allows you to get control of your assets when they're not within eyesight, you cannot control what you can't see.

How does GPS work?

GPS stands for Global Positioning System. Each tracking device includes a GPS antenna and receiver. This receiver captures GPS satellite transmissions, signals. The US government operates 24 satellites in orbit which provide this service. It uses the data contained in these transmissions to calculate its exact location. This location information (i.e. latitude - longitude - altitude - direction of travel - time - speed) is then transmitted via cellular or satellite systems and the internet to servers which processes it in various ways. Accuracy of the information can deviate from between 3 to 100 meters (yards) based upon how many GPS satellites the receiver can see. The more GPS satellites in view the more accurate the location report is.

Because GPS signals are radio transmissions, any GPS service has limited to no service in some areas. The following are examples of where GPS based systems will have limited or no service:

  • Indoors
  • Underground and even above ground parking garages
  • Wooded areas with heavy foliage, especially in the spring time
  • Metropolitan areas with tall buildings
  • Extreme weather conditions, snow or rain
  • Next to or in metal buildings such as service shops

How will I save on fuel costs?

Fuel cost savings can achieved from several different areas. Monitoring how much time an engine is allowed to idle and reducing this time can provide anywhere from 5% to 30% savings. Reducing the speed at which your workers travel can also drastically reduce fuel costs as well as reduce the possibility of accidents and insurance claims. By dispatching the closest vehicle to a client, one can also reduce fuel costs and increase efficiency.

Can I use your system to monitor how and where my teen is driving my car?

Yes.

Will this system make my teen a safer driver?

Good luck with that.

Can I tell when my wife/husband is at the mall/golf course?

Yes. (sorry guys)

How will I save on insurance rates?

Insurance companies would rather recover than replace vehicles, as this costs them far less. In many cases just letting your insurance company know that you have real-time GPS monitoring equipment installed can save you from 5% to 15% on you premiums. Not all insurance companies are offering reductions at this time but the number is increasing. Contact your insurance company and ask them what they can offer.

It's not uncommon for the amount of money you save on insurance to cover the cost of implementing a GPS tracking system in the first place.

Is GPS tracking a security system?

Yes and no. While being able to track and retrieve a stolen vehicle might be considered a security measure AVL systems do not notify the owners in the same manner that most car alarms do (i.e. a key fob/controller). However features such as Geofencing, movement during off hours, or door open alerts can be sent via text messages and e-mails to alert the owner of unauthorized use. A true car alarm however has no way of tracking a stolen vehicle. Ultimately a combination of both systems may be desirable for some users.

Can I use your system as a security service to perform transit tracking?

Yes. If for security reasons you need to ensure that certain shipments follow the correct route, perform a U-turn, or stop altogether, then our system can provide this level of security.

Are there other names that are used besides AVL?

AVL and IVMS are probably the two best-known and used acronyms, they stand for Automatic Vehicle Location and In Vehicle Monitoring System. Other acronyms/terms commonly used are GPS Tracking, Vehicle Tracking, Asset Tracking, Asset Monitoring, Satellite Tracking, Fleet Tracking, M2M, Mobile Resource Management, IVRM - In Vehicle Resource Management, and Worker Safety Monitoring.

What is the minimum or maximum number of vehicles that I can track at once?

Clients can track literally from one to one million plus units. It all depends on what your needs and fleet size are. The important thing here is that there is no minimum so there's no reason for small fleets to avoid implementing a solution.

What is GPRS?

GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) is a digital, IP-based wireless packet data service offered by GSM-based cellular carriers (Rogers in Canada, Cingular & T-Mobile in USA and the significant majority of cellular providers internationally). It is the world standard for cellular and data over cellular systems.

Is Trailer Tracking (Non-Powered Assets) different than AVL?

Typical AVL units are connected to a power source in a vehicle, car, truck, or tractor. While providing the same service, trailer-tracking units are generally equipped with an internal battery and are sealed against the weather. Depending on the device used, some units are connected to power lines on the trailer so that when the trailer is connected to the tractor the batteries are recharged. While they report the standard GPS information the biggest difference between trailer tracking and AVL devices is how often they report. In most cases trailer-tracking units only report 1 to 4 times a day rather than every 3 to 5 minutes. The reason for this is simple: if the unit is moving, its attached to a tractor which is already reporting much more frequently. Therefore the purpose of trailer-tracking is really to ensure that trailers are always able to be located. The purpose of the battery within the device is to ensure that the unit still reports after power is disconnected in order to enable the client to know its exact last location. Devices that rely solely on long life batteries can be programmed so that they report their location for one cycle after stopping and wont report again until the built in motion sensor detects that the trailer is being moved. This results in a large savings in battery power and allows the unit to be in the field without servicing for up to 7 years.

Is AVL the same as handheld or dash mounted GPS devices?

While both types of devices use GPS signals to calculate location they differ widely beyond this point. Handheld or dash mounted devices are designed to show the person using the device where they are, where they travelled, and how to get to certain destinations. Most of these devices also allow the user to save this trip data onto memory storage devices which can later be used to analyse and display information about the trips. This is a passive way to monitor and track vehicles. Due to the fact the information is not received in real-time passive monitoring allows for no control of the asset or any way to retrieve the vehicle if it is stolen. AVL systems can provide last-known-location details for stolen vehicles but the focus is on getting location and driver performance information back to the office where it can be utilized in many different ways.

With real-time monitoring solutions there may be times when information simply cannot be transmitted immediately (e.g. In areas where there is no cellular coverage). Units have the ability to store location and other information as it happens and then forward the data to our system once the vehicle is back within range. There is no net data loss in this example. Many devices available today have this store and forward capability.

Can the tracking devices be installed so that my drivers don't know about them, and isn't this just a "Big Brother" way to keep an eye on staff?

The actual equipment is very small as are the antennas In some cases the antennas are even contained within the device. Covert installations provide the best possibility of catching a thief in the act of stealing your assets but in our experience it's best to make your employees aware that the system is being installed and that they will benefit from it. In most provinces and states it is now mandatory to have some sort of lone worker monitoring to ensure the safety of the employees. While some employees may be reluctant and see this as a big brother tactic, a simple explanation of what the system is really being installed and used for results in greater employee acceptance. Rewarding the behaviour patterns is a great way to get buy-in from your employees and can save you even more as they compete to be the most efficient driver of the month, etc.

How long will it take to install the unit in my vehicles?

Generally speaking, it will require between 5 minutes and 1 1/2 hours to install a unit per asset, depending on the vehicle and the type of equipment being installed. Trained personnel will install devices in your vehicles after reviewing the installation with you. Wherever possible they strive to install equipment to your preference. There are cases where, due to equipment/antenna requirements, customization may not be possible. After every installation the unit has to go live which means it needs to be parked outside with a clear view the sky. Within 2 to 10 minutes, the unit should report to our servers and the installers can confirm proper functionality.

Are there installation costs?

Yes and no. Some equipment requires no installation, simply plug the device into the vehicle OBDII port. Other product installation costs can vary depending on the vehicle or equipment that requires tracking.

What is active versus passive tracking?

Dozens of Vehicle Tracking devices exist. There are two classifications that each device will fall into: Passive and Active.

Passive devices store information such GPS location, heading, speed and other pre-programmed events such as ignition on/off, door open/closed, seatbelt on/off. Typically when the vehicle returns to a predetermined point (e.g. an office or yard), the device is removed and then connected to a computer in an office or connected to a laptop brought into the vehicle itself. The data is then downloaded and utilized in various ways. Some of these systems are also capable of being connected to a wireless transceiver which allows a controller to download the information wirelessly as long as the truck is within about 100 meters (300 feet).

Active or Real-Time devices/systems collect much of the same data as a passive system, but regularly transmit this data at pre-programmed intervals, (e.g. anywhere from 1 minute to twice a day depending on the client requirements). To retrieve this data, cellular, satellite, or both systems are utilized. Passive systems are no longer as popular because they only allow access to vehicle information after an event and are less dependable when a vehicle or piece of equipment is stolen. It's important to note that most active devices have the ability to become passive devices if they are out of cellular range and are able to hold weeks’ worth of information. This is of course not an issue if the vehicles is equipped with a dual mode (cellular and satellite) system.

How often will I get position and event reports?

The frequency of reports retrieved varies from client to client and even from asset-to-asset within a fleet. We work with our customers to customize the reporting periods to meet their needs. For assets that travel exclusively in a metropolitan area such as tow trucks and taxi's, clients may want updated information every minute to be better able to efficiently dispatch the fleet. On the other extreme, assets such as construction trailers or heavy equipment may only need to report location once a day or once every few days. Since these assets are not moved often there is no need for frequent updates. Generally speaking, one update per day is considered standard.

Most fleet units report positions every 3 to 5 minutes within metropolitan areas and every 5 to 10 minutes while on faster moving roads. For the greater majority of fleet owners this provides sufficient information to manage their assets.

Since every client’s needs are specific to their industry, we tailor settings to their requirements.

Are there systems that use satellites instead of cellular systems?

Yes. We realize that not every fleet stays within cellular range and we can offer systems that are 100% satellite based or dual mode. Dual mode systems use cellular networks while within coverage areas, as sending data via cellular is less expensive option. The system can then fall back to a satellite system such as Globalstar or Iridium when out of cellular range thereby providing the greatest possible flexability available.

Will these devices drain the vehicle batteries?

No. When not in use the devices power themselves down. In this sleep mode current consumption is negligible.

How do I monitor my vehicle's, and do I have to install additional software?

Our system allows you to use a standard web browser. As long as you are at a computer with internet access and a web browser you can login and see what your fleet is doing, run reports, and perform other administrative tasks.

I need to have more details than I see on the popular internet map's. Can you provide this?

For selected areas such as Western Canada we can provide detailed oilfield mapping which provides several layers of information including well sites and lease roads. We are also able to layer hi resolution aerial or other types of images provided by our clients in order to meet their needs. There is a small additional cost for this service. Please contact us pricing information.

Why is the location information sometimes incorrect ?

The accuracy of location information can be affected in some circumstances. If only a minimum number of satellites (3) are in view the accuracy can be off by up to 100 meters. The more satellites in view the greater the accuracy. Understandably, this is an issue beyond anyone’s control.

Where will the system work?

GPS signals can be received around the globe. Terrestrial-based networks, while covering large portions of the planets population are still limited. To overcome this limitation satellite networks can be used to send information to our servers. However this premium coverage is more costly.

Is historical information for my trucks available?

Yes. Our system maintains a log of all data for a minimum period of 6 months. Clients can also download this data in several different formats at any time allowing local (client-side) backup of the data.

Can I view all my assets on one screen even if they utilize different devices?

Yes. Our interface brings all your units into view no matter what hardware or carrier is used.

Can you integrate the data I receive from my CAT or other heavy equipment into the system?

Yes. This will require some planning and our developers will be happy to discuss how this can be done.

Can anyone else see my assets?

No, not unless you give them access to your account information. For many clients with multiple locations the system is easily configured so that intercompany users can view assets designated to them even if these assets are in different geographical regions of the country.

Can tracking devices be moved from one vehicle to another?

Yes. Tracking devices are not tied to any particular vehicle. They can be moved from one to another as needed and the asset details can then be updated in the system by the clients. Depending on the device/s used this can be as easy as simply unplugging it from one vehicle and plugging it into another. Installed devices will require the device to be removed and reinstalled by trained personnel which can be accomplished by your own technical people if they have had training in GPS system installation.

This sounds complicated, is it difficult to use?

No. Basic operation is as simple as logging in and looking at the map to see where your fleet is. We suggest that you take advantage of the free training provided with every system as this will allow you to experience the extended options and features of TerraTrax.

How many computers can I have logged in at once?

You may have as many computers logged in to TerraTrax as you would like. Other systems require you to purchase costly software for use with one computer or download free software but charge you per login. As long as you have access to an internet connected computer with a browser you have access to your fleet.

Is the price fixed, are there hidden extras?

The only additional fees are centred on the degree to which your company is required to customize TerraTrax in order to fulfil your specific needs. However, the system as developed is already as flexible as most companies will ever need. In cases such as these, simply enjoy..