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Your preferred Telematics information resource


Author: Lance Holt

Content Marketing Specialist

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Differences Between Diagnostic and Non-Diagnostic GPS Tracking Data

Smart Cities

Many people researching GPS tracking and the data it offers ask two main questions:

1. What data points do non-diagnostic GPS tracking devices provide?
2. What additional information do diagnostic GPS tracking devices provide?

Here is a brief breakdown of what you can expect from each.

Non-Diagnostic GPS Tracking

Data you can pull from non-diagnostic GPS tracking devices:

Ignition On/Off

Shows date, time, and location of vehicles turning on and off. This information can be used to set different types of alerts to know when vehicles start. Ignition on/off information is also used as the indicator for when trips begin and end.


What begins with an “ignition on” event and end with an “ignition off” event, trips are shown through a variety of reports showing information such as distance and time traveled during each trip.

Run Time

The number of hours the engine of the vehicle is on.


This metric is often used inside of historical trails to determine if drivers are being routed efficiently, taking the long way to job sites, etc.


One of the most common attributes of a vehicle to be tracked, calculating odometer data can automate many processes that were once manual and time consuming for customers such as preventative maintenance schedules.


Showing which vehicles are being used vs. unused, utilization data is often used to right-size a fleet and can help reduce maintenance costs by not overusing certain vehicles.

Idle time

The threshold that a vehicle’s engine is on but in park. Idle time is one of the main contributors to high fuel costs and can easily be reduced with alerts sent to the driver after a defined threshold (i.e. after the vehicle idles for at least 10 minutes) requesting that they turn off the vehicle.


Speeding information is used in two ways:
1. As a threshold to know when vehicles travel over a defined speed (i.e. 75 mph) specified by the user.
2. As a threshold to know when vehicles travel at a specified mph over the posted speed limit of the road (i.e. 10 mph over the posted speed limit).


Virtual fences which define an area. Common landmarks (or geo-fences) users set up are their vehicle yards, customer sites, etc. Landmarks help determine how long employees visit certain places and how many times they went there as well.

Rapid Acceleration & Harsh Braking

G-force is the measurement used in calculating whether a driver is slamming on the brakes or the gas. This data often correlates with repeat maintenance – if a driver is constantly braking hard, then chances are that vehicle (or vehicles they drive will have a consistent need to repair/replace those brakes.

Switches & Sensors

Switches and sensors are used for a variety of reasons and are installed (wired to our device inputs) through inputs. Our most common switches and sensors are power take-off (PTO), rear/cargo doors open and close, and temperature sensors for cold transport.

Preventative Maintenance

Preventative maintenance is set up through intervals either based on the odometer, runtime, or a date. Common preventative maintenance is oil changes, tire rotations, or vehicle registrations and inspections. Preventative maintenance also allows for record keeping of service costs, and any additional notes necessary. This can be extremely useful when managing various size service intervals i.e. rear end service is to be completed at 20,000 miles while transmission service is due at 25,000 miles, etc.

Diagnostic GPS Tracking

Some businesses have the need for pulling diagnostic information such as Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs). This is when a GPS tracking device with diagnostic capabilities is required. Alerting and sending DTC information informs the driver whether it’s an emergency and they should pull over, or an issue that can be addressed later. Here are some of the specific data sets you can obtain from diagnostic GPS tracking data.

Fuel Usage & MPG

Fuel usage and miles per gallon can be gathered with a non-diagnostic device but is less accurate without a fuel card integration.

Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs)

DTCs are pulled from the vehicle’s engine and used in determining what the issue is with the vehicle. Not all manufacturer DTC libraries are available to decode and may require further inspection. Below is an example of a decoded DTC.

Example of a DTC:
Code: P0320
Basic Description: Engine may not be consuming fuel efficiently
Technical Description: Ignition/distributor engine speed input circuit malfunction

Choosing the right type of device will factor in whether you can pull diagnostic data from your vehicles.

Related Content:
How to reduce fuel costs

Integrating Fleet Fuel Cards and GPS Tracking

When Machines Take Over

In-Cab Driving Alerts

ABM Improves Dispatching and Employee Safety

GPS Fleet Tracking: Assigning Drivers to Vehicles


Author: Lance Holt

Content Marketing Specialist


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