Here we will explain the main types of vehicle tracking devices that are used for commercial and private use. We will explain briefly how they work and what they are used for.

3 Wire Tracking Devices

These are the most common vehicle tracking devices you will find. The three wires are as follow; positive, negative and ignition sensed. These three wires are wired into the vehicles electrics. When the vehicle is turned on the tracking device becomes 100% active. The tracking device can still operate when the vehicle is turned off and the device has its own battery just in case the vehicle battery goes flat or is removed.

More often than not tracking devices have peripheral extras attached to them to monitor speed, the temperature of a trailer, whether a door is open and driver ID to many just a few.

The tracking device will send location information and other vehicle information to the user via the mobile phone network and a central computer at frequent intervals. The frequency of these intervals varies from device to device, but on average is between 10 seconds to 1 minute.

CANbus Tracking Devices

Most modern HGVs, cars and vans have a CANbus. The CANbus is a piece of equipment which enables the various pieces of equipment within your vehicles to communicate with each other. Due to this there is a lot of information which passes through the CANbus. This information can include such things as miles per gallon, engine revving, cornering, acceleration and heavy braking to name just a few.

A CANbus vehicle tracking device integrates with the vehicles CANbus to deliver some of this information back to the user. Such information as miles per gallon and driver behaviour can be very useful in cutting down on fuel consumption.

The only drawback of a CANbus integration vehicle tracking device is that they are quite expensive due to the sophisticated technology behind the devices. Therefore many businesses feel that the extra expense outweighs the savings on fuel that can be made. Often fleets of HGVs are fitted with CANbus tracking devices as the ROI is greater on such vehicles due to the huge amount of fuel they use. Any savings that can be made on an HGV are much greater on an HGV.

Contactless CANbus devices are now available and have all the advantages of hard wired CANbus integration and the added advantage of being much quicker and cheaper to install and avoiding the problem of voiding vehicle warrantees.

Portable Tracking Devices

Portable tracking systems work in much the same way as a 3 wire tracking device, but they are not hard wired into the vehicle. Therefore they use accelerometer to detect movement and have a rechargeable battery for their power source.

Portable tracking devices can be used to track vehicles and anything that the device can be attached to. They are often used by companies which do not keep their vehicles for long periods of time or if the employees or sub contractors use their own vehicles.

The disadvantages of portable tracking devices are that they use their own battery which has to be charged separately. If this is left to go flat then the tracking device will no longer track. In addition to this an employee can tamper with the device to stop it tracking so effectively. If it is possible, it is probable best not to tell the employee it is in the vehicle and simply hide it in the vehicle somewhere it will not get discovered.

Anti Theft Tracking Devices

The previous types of tracking devices I described here are all GPS systems and use satellites to locate themselves. Anti theft tracking devices usually work using VHF. They are usually fitted to the vehicle discreetly and in a place which is hard to find an to get to so that thieves find it hard to locate and tamper with them.

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