By Laura Mauney
GPS (Global Positioning System) vehicle tracking devices that include fleet management software offer a full package of automated electronic tools to help with equipment and personnel management – helping contractors who deploy project resources to navigate a complex network of manpower and machine allocation.
Vehicle trackers combined with telematics and intelligent software makes contemporary GPS tracking and fleet management software one of the most valuable business technologies of the 21st century.
Projects such as commercial structures, public buildings, infrastructure, new housing developments, and renovations often require multiple workers and several types of equipment, vehicles, and storage containers.
In addition to on- and off-site vehicle and equipment tracking and theft protection, the records generated by GPS tracking can be used to assist with accounting and worksite compliance -- reducing paperwork, shortening invoice cycles and, most importantly, saving time.
GPS trackers have been around since the last century. They were originally developed for military use, but are now available to the general public for vehicle and equipment navigation and tracking, cellphone and tablet tracking, and even pet, wildlife and child tracking.
GPS tracking data is acquired from a group of dedicated satellites orbiting the earth. A GPS tracking device on the ground or at sea can be located by calling up three or more of the closest satellites.
Each satellite generates coordinates, and transmits the data via cell towers or communication satellites to a receiver. The coordinates are calculated by GPS software to identify the exact position (latitude and longitude) of the tracking device.
More recent innovations in GPS tracking software for vehicles and equipment include telematics integration, which enables GPS trackers to log and transmit engine activity, power-take-off (PTO) signals and even sudden directional changes.
One important feature is the automation of data entry. Electronic logging of engine on-off hours, fuel purchases, and miles driven eliminate manual data entry errors for related reporting, and provide verifiable logs for accounting and legal purposes.
Whether used to sum up fuel costs, validate payroll, or create compliance reports, electronic data reported and logged via GPS tracking can save project managers, bookkeepers and CPAs a lot of time and headaches year round, especially at tax time.
Hourly timesheets, for example, can be electronically generated for employees operating heavy equipment on site. GPS tracking software can be used to log ignition on-off events, monitor equipment movements, record idle times, and send notifications if equipment is moved out of a specified area.
More advanced GPS tracking technologies include the ability to map specific operators to specific vehicles with individually-assigned key-fob devices. The device is activated when plugged into a vehicle by the operator, and deactivated when removed.
Key-fob devices can be used to map a single operator across multiple machines, and to ensure that time-sheet records based on ignition activity are credited to the correct driver.
Similarly, GPS tracking can be used to manage single vehicles across multiple job sites, near or far, making it easy for managers to locate and redirect heavy equipment, materials and personnel to new locations.
GPS tracking systems can also be used to monitor and generate reports or alerts for fuel usage. When integrated with fuel cards, GPS software can track fuel purchases electronically, virtually eliminating the need for paper receipts and handwritten expense reports.
Additionally, fuel card integration can help prevent fraud. Fuel card usage can be restricted to specific fuel amounts, or to specific dollar amounts. The number of permissible transactions can be limited for each day, and black-out periods can be set for after hours and weekends.
Better yet, fuel usage combined with fuel purchase reporting can be used to verify costs, and back up expense itemization for tax returns and other financial reports.
For projects that involve transport of equipment or materials across distances, GPS tracking with integrated ProMiles software makes it easy to generate electronic, IFTA-compliant trip records that can be used to validate tax records.
ProMiles helps projects comply with state and federal regulations by adjusting calculations automatically when a vehicle moves into a different state, and collecting data that can be used to determine state fuel tax payments.
For any building project, large or small, worksite safety and municipal code compliance are key to smooth operation and timely completion without extra strain on a budget.
Worker safety rules, local noise ordinances, and even parking restrictions can all be handled efficiently using records and alerts enabled by GPS tracking.
An added bonus is that the same tracking records can be used to prove compliance if a challenge is ever mounted.
For example, landmark and GeoFence capabilities can be used to protect workers, as well as comply with safety laws and local restrictions. These tools allow managers to map electronic boundaries for jobsite arrivals and departures, and employee vs. equipment parking zones to prevent operators from moving equipment into protected areas.
Movements inside and outside of the boundaries can be tracked via GPS, and alerts can be sent to managers if the boundaries are crossed.
Using ignition on-off data, alerts can also be sent if equipment is operated past a designated time, providing another valuable tool that benefits both employees and employers.
One of the biggest problems confronting contractors is the risk of equipment and asset theft. GPS tracking software can be used to alert owners and managers - via ignition on-off activity - if equipment is powered-up after hours and/or driven offsite.
Non-motorized assets, like storage units and trailers, can be tracked via battery-powered GPS devices.
Additionally, in the case of a theft, GPS tracking devices can be used to locate and recover the stolen items.
Using GPS tracking devices and software to deter jobsite theft can save operations money, lower insurance rates, and help legitimize insurance claims and crime reports.
Finally, businesses new to GPS tracking or who simply want to upgrade to a more robust system, may qualify for a Section 179 tax deduction for GPS equipment purchases (check with a CPA about eligibility requirements).
GPS tracking deployment on construction projects can help streamline management tasks, cut costs, maintain budget goals, and improve completion dates - all factors that contribute to saving your business time and money.
Laura Mauney is Marketing Manager at GPSTrackIt.com, a leading GPS vehicle tracking and fleet management solutions provider. Laura is also the daughter of an architect.