In July, 2013 the American government enacted legislation ambitiously known as Moving ahead for Progress in the 21st Century and nicknamed MAP-21. Slated to take effect October 1, 2013, MAP-21 this legislation states that any commercial drivers involved in interstate transportation of goods which requires reporting of driving hours must keep electronic records.

This development may have fleet owners rethinking implementation of GPS tracking for fleet vehicles. Owners of essentially any fleet vehicles that use the interstate will have to install electronic on-board recording devices (EOBR). Basically, this is a GPS and tracking device.

EOBRs are not new technology. The first in-vehicle recorder was introduced in trains in the 1890’s. Called atachograph, it automatically recorded data like vehicle speed and distance. EOBRs are an updated digital version of this device. Mandatory in European Union countries, EOBRs were optional in America until this year. EOBRs measure and monitor driver patterns and obedience to driving laws. All driver timesheets now must be electronic.

Since installation of EOBRs has become mandatory, many fleet owners are now looking at the added benefits of GPS tracking for fleet vehicles. With such a fleet tracking system, fleet managers can monitor driver behaviors like speed and braking. Many drivers like the system because it proves they are doing what they are supposed to.

The cost of purchasing and installing GPS tracking for fleet vehicles is a worry to an industry already plagued by mounting fuel and maintenance costs. The estimated the cost of installing a single EOBR is between $1500 and $2000. This does not include annual service costs estimated at between $350 and $600.

Owners of smaller fleets are going to be particularly hard hit by the map-21 effects on fleet, especially there staggering startup costs. Fleet owners have two years to have an EOBR system up and running.

Fleet managers and owners have other problems besides the cost of installing and maintaining fleet vehicle tracking systems. Some drivers are already resisting GPS fleet tracking systems claiming that owners are spying on them. This has created a lack of trust between management and drivers.

Beyond the initial cost, fleet owners are concerned about man hours needed to manage a fleet tracking system.

Not all EOBRs are equal. Inconsistency of data and problems with information flow worry owners who are struggling with the question of which fleet vehicle tracking system is best for their business.

There are certainly advantages that come with installing GPS tracking for fleet vehicles. Once installed and in operation, the system will make accounting more efficient. EOBRs will improve driver compliance and lessen the concern with fines and penalties. Fleets will be able to make use of GPS tracking data to save on fuel and schedule regular maintenance on its vehicles at a convenient time. Fleets that use more than one driver for vehicles will benefit from fleet vehicle tracking systems data.

Like it or not MAP-21 is here to stay. Fleet managers have some hard decisions to make.

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