Cell Phone vs. Vehicle Installed GPS Tracking

Get the Right Tools to Track Your Fleet
Are you interested in tracking your vehicles, assets, or maybe even an employee, but not sure if vehicle-installed or cell phone GPS tracking is the better method?


There is a common misconception that vehicle-installed and cell phone GPS tracking systems are practically the same technology, but they are actually very different. There are many GPS-enabled applications, like field service and workforce management software, that use GPS data from cell phones as their main source of location information. It is important to recognize that cell phone tracking information is not the same as what you will receive from vehicle-installed GPS tracking devices.

track trucks on tablet

Which Technology is Best?

To decide which type of system will provide the information you need, think about what you are trying to accomplish with GPS tracking.

Are you looking to track the movements of employees from job site to job site, or just have mobile time cards with location information? If so, then cell phone GPS tracking might be the right way to go. However, if you are looking to monitor productivity, reduce fuel usage, optimize miles driven, improve maintenance scheduling, and increase safety, a vehicle-installed GPS tracking system is likely the right choice for your business.

Find out why the lure of a cheaper, cell phone GPS system could be a disaster in the making, the potential disadvantages of a cell phone-based system to your business, and why vehicle-installed GPS tracking provides more reliable and valuable information.

Budget Concerns with Vehicle-Installed GPS Tracking


According to a recent report released by Bobit Business Media on the adoption of GPS tracking and usage within the light- and medium-duty fleet market, almost 30% of commercial fleets surveyed stated that they have not implemented GPS tracking due to budgetary constraints. If budget is the reason you have not implemented a system into your operations, you may be looking into cell phone-based GPS tracking systems in hopes to receive the same type of fleet intelligence at a lower cost.

“Can’t We Just Do That
With a Cell Phone App?”

If you are looking for a less expensive GPS tracking option and are not aware of the key differentiators between these two technologies you might be thinking, “Can’t we basically get the same information at a lower cost from a cell phone GPS tracking system?”

Boldly stated, you will not receive the same level of information with this type of platform because you are tracking a cell phone, not the vehicle itself. It is strongly advised that you do not choose any type of technology based on price if it doesn’t supply the information you need.

cell phone vs vehicle tracking
Fast Return on Investment
Vehicle-installed GPS tracking solutions improve fleet management by offering a service that typically yields 500% or more ROI. Fleets that use vehicle-installed applications are able to see 100% ROI in as little as a month.


The Disadvantages of Cell Phone GPS Tracking Systems

Now that we have piqued your interest, let’s discuss the disadvantages to using a cell phone GPS tracking system.

There are many differences in capability between the technologies that will result in substantial disadvantages, even some you might not suspect. Fleets that select a cell phone GPS tracking system are likely to have a difficult time holding drivers accountable for their actions and performance, have unreliable data, fall behind competitively, and have no visibility into your costly challenges.

Less Driver Accountability
If drivers decide that they don’t want to be tracked at any given time, they can easily turn off their cell phone or simply turn off the GPS function. Cell phone GPS tracking systems give drivers the ability to choose where and when they are willing to be monitored, which is really too much power in your employees’ hands when they are on your time. It will also greatly increase the chance of unauthorized usage of company vehicles and reckless driving behavior.
“Can You Hear Me Now?”
If you choose to go with a cell phone GPS tracking system, you will be choosing a less reliable option of tracking. It is far too easy for cell phones to suffer signal loss or have a battery die to be your main source of GPS tracking technology. GPS tracking devices that are used in a vehicle-installed system are always on and always tracking. There are minimal battery concerns with a vehicle-installed device because it is wired into the vehicle’s battery as a constant source of power. Even if GPS tracking devices are in areas with no cellular coverage, they have the ability to “store forward” so information is never lost. When the vehicle goes out of your cellular provider’s coverage area, the device continues to collect location data from the satellites even though the vehicle cannot be seen live on a map. As soon as the vehicle enters back into an area with cellular coverage, all information is pushed to the GPS tracking platform’s servers for seamless reporting. Selecting a less reliable form of GPS tracking technology will eventually backfire, and praying it doesn’t happen in an emergency situation is not a sound strategy. If your driver is working on a remote job site and finds themselves in danger, having access to reliable location data will make all the difference.
Your Competitors Will Leave You in the Dust!
Fleets become more efficient by eliminating the traditional paperwork associated with fleet management, increasing route efficiency, evaluating time spent on the job site, streamlining maintenance management, and more. If your fleet uses a cell phone GPS tracking system for fleet management, you will become less efficient than your competitors that do use vehicle-installed GPS tracking platforms to achieve more significant goals. One of the biggest disadvantages for fleets that use cell phone GPS tracking is that they will not have the ability to provide the same level of customer service. Vehicle-installed GPS tracking platforms allow fleets to provide customers accurate ETAs, service more customers per day, and respond quicker to emergencies. If your business gains the reputation for not being as efficient as your competition, especially in time-sensitive situations, you will end up losing business. To stay competitive and provide the best customer service possible, your fleet should use vehicle-installed GPS tracking technology.
No Visibility into Costly Challenges
Another major disadvantage to using cell phone GPS tracking is that you will have no way to establish or measure your costly challenges that are critical to the success of your fleet tracking initiative. Receiving actionable information about fuel and labor costs, maintenance, fleet utilization, etc. are the only way to make improvements to your fleet operations. Without this vital information about substantial business opportunities, you have no way to know if you are spending more than you should be or if processes need to be restructured.
There’s An App for That
If you are still leaning towards cell phone GPS tracking because it seems like the more convenient option, consider the following: Many vehicle-installed GPS tracking systems have mobile apps for their software, so you will still be able to track your mobile workforce from your cell phone. You will be tracking the vehicle and not the employee’s cell phone, so you have the ability to receive even more information with the same level of convenience.

Receive Fleet Intelligence with Vehicle-Installed GPS Tracking

As we all know, cell phones are our main tool for communication these days and have great GPS for directions and current location, but they are not developed for high-quality fleet management. Using a vehicle-installed GPS tracking system is much more than just location updates; it is true fleet intelligence. Vehicle-installed GPS tracking applications will give your fleet the ability to reduce costs, reduce risk, and increase revenue.

reduce fuel costs with gps software

According to a recent Bobit Business Media research study, the #1 fleet cost for most businesses is fuel.

One of the most significant savings fleets experience with a vehicle-installed GPS tracking system is a reduction in fuel expenses. This is achieved by monitoring fuel usage and taking action to make sure vehicles are not excessively idling, speeding, or being driven more than allowed or necessary. Cell phone-based systems do not have the ability to track or report on any fuel information about your vehicles, so it is essentially impossible to receive the same type savings.

Improving safety takes GPS tracking software from a “nice to have” technology, to an essential resource for your fleet operations.

You will be able to advance your safety procedures, respond faster in the event of an emergency, monitor driver behavior, and ensure vehicles and equipment are safe to operate, which will profoundly reduce risk for both your drivers and the public. Cell phone GPS tracking platforms will not allow you to improve safety in any of these aspects, or provide any other significant safety benefits. When your employees’ safety is at stake; having the best resources available to ensure their well-being is a critical responsibility.

Using vehicle-installed GPS tracking systems don’t just reduce costs and risk; they will also drive revenue for your fleet.

One of the most effective ways to increase revenue with a vehicle-installed GPS tracking platform is by completing more jobs because your team is more productive with their time. Vehicle-installed GPS tracking technology will increase dispatch and route efficiency so your drivers are able to arrive at the job site sooner. This type of system can also be used to ensure employees are being as productive as possible once they are at the job. Stay on top time spent on the job site and track late arrivals to keep drivers on schedule throughout the day. By maximizing the workday, your fleet will be able to complete more jobs and increase revenue.


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