If you run a small or medium-sized business that makes deliveries, here’s a story you might recognize: You’ve made an excellent product — great! Orders are coming in — yay! Your team gets them packed and out of the door with the delivery driver promptly — fantastic. And then… Silence. Did everything get delivered on time? No idea. Where is the delivery a customer was expecting at noon? You can’t give them an answer.
If you’re in the dark about what happens once your delivery drivers leave the premises, don’t worry: you’re not alone. It’s a sign that your business has grown and you need to level up to a proper last mile driver tracking system.
What is last mile driver tracking?
Driver tracking uses GPS devices or mobile phone apps to monitor the location and speed of delivery drivers in real time. It’s like having an invisible copilot riding shotgun with every driver, keeping an eye on where they are, which route they're taking, how fast they're going, and even how responsibly they're driving.
Let’s take a grocery delivery business as an example of how driver tracking works in real life. You've got multiple drivers zipping around town, delivering boxes of fresh fruit and vegetables. Without driver tracking, your only source of information about their locations, routes, and delivery times is the drivers themselves. You have no idea whether they are taking the most efficient routes, or if they're doing donuts in the parking lot when they should be working.
With driver tracking solutions, you can see in real time on a computer or a mobile device where each driver is on a map. If a customer calls asking about their delivery, you can tell them exactly where it is and how long it should take to arrive. If a driver is stuck in traffic, you can adjust their route or stop order to help out. And if you notice that your drivers are not following speed limits and safe driving practices, you can provide coaching to improve their driving habits.
In essence, driver tracking brings transparency, efficiency, and accountability to your business, helping you ensure timely deliveries, satisfied customers, and safer, smarter driving.
Why customer demand for delivery driver tracking is growing
Uncertainty and lack of control are among the biggest causes of stress — which explains why waiting for a delivery when you don’t have a clear ETA is so annoying, and why “where is my delivery?” calls from customers can be so tough to handle.
Recent research is very clear that consumers care more about consistent and reliable deliveries than they do about getting their deliveries as fast as possible. Forrester reports that meeting customer expectations means providing “transparency about delivery timelines, clear schedules and deadlines prominently displayed”. Similarly, Internet Retailing says “the last thing brands should be doing is making promises they cannot keep. When customers are left in the dark, expecting a parcel that arrives unexpectedly late, or never makes it to their doorstep, their trust in that retailer takes a hard hit.”
What customers really, really love, on the other hand, is real-time tracking that lets them follow their driver’s location as their delivery time approaches. In a survey by Anyline, a massive 96% of respondents said they found GPS tracking useful when waiting for deliveries. “We found that the biggest bugbears for customers awaiting their orders is a lack of visibility, control and accountability,” they reported. “Consistency is king and delivering on committed delivery times is what matters more than anything else.”
The takeaway? Customers crave the comfort of knowing what’s going on. And providing a combination of accurate ETAs, delivery notifications and live GPS tracking links is the best way to give it to them.
Understanding driver tracking, vehicle tracking, and telematics
While "driver tracking," "vehicle tracking," and "telematics" sound similar, they each refer to different aspects of delivery management and fleet management:
Driver tracking focuses specifically on monitoring a driver's location, speed, route, and delivery status. A digital map shows where all your drivers are and what they're doing.
Vehicle tracking is a bit broader. It includes not only the location and route of the vehicle, but also information about its condition. This includes things like fuel efficiency, engine health, and maintenance needs.
Telematics combines vehicle tracking and driver tracking, adding more complex data analysis. Telematics uses advanced technology to analyze and report on driver behavior, vehicle performance, idling, fuel efficiency, maintenance needs, and more. It's like having a team of experts constantly reviewing your fleet's performance and providing suggestions for improvement.
The two main methods of driver tracking
There are two main ways to implement driver tracking: GPS tracking devices (hardware based) and mobile apps (software based).
GPS trackers are small devices that connect to GPS satellites and are installed directly in the vehicle. They constantly send information about the vehicle's location, speed, and route back to your system. GPS devices are known for their precision and reliability, and they can help to locate stolen vehicles fast, if this is a risk where you operate. They do have higher upfront costs, though.
Mobile apps are a more recent and flexible approach to driver tracking. Your drivers simply install a tracking app on their Android or iOS smartphones, and the app uses the phone's built-in GPS to track location, speed, and route. Some apps can even track deliveries, log hours, and help with route planning. Mobile apps are generally less expensive and easier to implement than GPS devices, but they rely on the driver's smartphone and can be affected by issues like battery life or signal strength. Drivers might also have privacy concerns about whether they’re being tracked while not on duty.
By selecting the tracking method that suits your business best, you can ensure your driver tracking system provides valuable, actionable information that helps you streamline your delivery process, improve driver performance, and increase customer satisfaction.
Driver tracking in real life
Kevin Kronrad, VP of All Star Specialties Ice Cream Corp., used to hand his drivers a stack of delivery orders and let them decide their own routes and schedules. He had no visibility into where his drivers had gone and when they’d be back. Life changed when he started using Routific to plan routes and track his drivers: “If I know that the guy is supposed to be back at five o'clock and it's 5:30 and he's still not done for the day, I can call him and say, ‘Hey man, route planner said you're supposed to be back at five, what's going on?’ "
“Or on the other hand, I can tell my employees, ‘Hey, your route will probably take you until 6:30. I know you're used to getting done by five, so let me give a stop to somebody else or let me change something around. I can kind of adjust everything and just make sure that my employees are happy. And then because I can optimize routes based on time constraints, I can keep my customers happy too because they won't get any late deliveries.”
Top reasons to use driver tracking in your delivery business
1. More efficiency
Modern delivery management software combines route optimization, driver tracking and AI-based traffic predictions to ensure your drivers take the quickest, most efficient paths to their destinations. If there are unexpected delays or other problems, you can also adjust your schedules in real time. This can lead to significant time savings, more on-time deliveries and more deliveries per route.
2. Better customer service
When a customer asks where their delivery is, you can provide precise answers instead of guessing or estimating. Plus, with the data collected from driver tracking, you can provide more accurate estimated delivery times.
Even better, with automated, real-time customer notifications and a live tracking link they won’t need to ask at all — the information will come to them.
3. Increased accountability
Driver tracking creates a transparent environment where drivers know their routes and actions are logged. This often leads to more responsible driving behavior, fewer unauthorized stops, and a stronger commitment to punctuality.
4. Lower fuel costs
By helping drivers take the most direct routes and avoid traffic congestion, driver tracking can lead to significant reductions in fuel consumption, which is good for both your bottom line and the environment.
5. Driver safety
Driver tracking can provide data on driving habits such as speeding, harsh braking, or rapid acceleration. This data (especially together with dashcams) can be used to provide constructive feedback as part of your driver management process, encouraging safer driving and reducing the risk of crashes and injuries.
6. Driver happiness
As the story of All Star Specialities Ice Cream shows, the benefits of driver tracking aren’t all on the side of the business. Dispatchers and route planners can use the real-time data provided by the driver tracking system to allocate workloads fairly, plan realistic schedules, and adjust routes on the fly if needed.
A live tracking link shared with the customer also answers the “where is my package” question, so drivers never have to be distracted by taking calls on the road. Finally, driver apps that include functionality like photo or signature proof of delivery (POD) make each delivery quicker and easier, and mean there's much less end-of-day paperwork. All this can help to retain delivery drivers.
7. Maintenance alerts
While more a feature of vehicle tracking and telematics systems, some advanced driver tracking systems can alert you to maintenance needs based on driving patterns, helping you keep your fleet in good shape and prevent breakdowns that could disrupt your service.
By harnessing the power of driver tracking, you can enhance your delivery operations in numerous ways, all aimed at creating a more efficient, customer-focused, and profitable business.
8. Vehicle and fleet security
Driver tracking can also add another layer of security for your vehicles (and possibly reduce your insurance costs). If a vehicle is stolen, a tracking system can help locate it quickly and precisely, increasing the chances of recovery.
Some driver tracking systems also offer geofencing capabilities. If a vehicle moves outside the virtual boundaries you’ve set, you get an alert. This could alert you to a theft before anyone knows it’s happened — and it’s also a deterrent to unauthorized use.
How to choose driver tracking software
Driver tracking is built into most fleet management and delivery management systems. Depending on the exact needs of your business, look for additional functionality like:
Real-time GPS tracking: This is the core of any driver tracking system. It allows you to see exactly where your drivers are at any given moment, improving efficiency, customer service, and security.
Route optimization: A good driver tracking system should do more than just track. It should also offer dynamic route optimization, adjusting routes based on traffic, road conditions, and delivery priorities to ensure efficient use of time and resources.
Vehicle and driver performance metrics: Detailed reports on vehicle and driver performance can provide insights into fuel efficiency, driving habits, and more. This data can help identify areas for improvement and enhance the overall efficiency and safety of your fleet.
Predictive maintenance alerts: Some driver tracking systems can predict when a vehicle may need maintenance based on factors like driving habits and mileage. These alerts can help prevent breakdowns and disruptions, keeping your operations running smoothly.
Integration with your existing systems: Many driver tracking systems offer APIs that make it easier to integrate with your existing order management, customer relationship management, or enterprise resource planning systems.
User-friendly interface and good customer support: Finally, look for a system that is easy to use and supported by an excellent customer service team. Even the best systems can have hiccups, so having reliable support is crucial.
Privacy settings: Since these systems do involve tracking individuals, they should have robust privacy settings, including the ability to turn off tracking when drivers are off duty. At Routific, for example, we only track drivers while they’re actually using our mobile app.
How to integrate a driver tracking system into your existing operations
Integrating a driver tracking system into your delivery operations shouldn't disrupt your business if you do it right. Start by analyzing your current delivery processes, and identify what specific improvements you want to achieve by using driver tracking. Whether it's route efficiency, driver accountability, or customer communication, knowing your needs will help you choose the right system and integrate it more smoothly.
The next step is training. Remember, a tool is only as good as the person using it. Make sure your staff and drivers understand how the system works and how to interpret the data it provides. Consider hands-on training sessions and real-life scenarios to make the learning process practical and engaging. Encourage questions and feedback to ensure everyone is comfortable and confident with the new technology.
Fortunately, modern delivery management systems and fleet management software is designed to be easy to use, even for people with limited computer training.
By thoughtfully integrating a driver tracking system into your operations and choosing one with the right features, you can improve your delivery process, enhance customer service, and run a more efficient, secure, and profitable delivery business.
Pam Sykes has a PhD in History and a background in Journalism. She is the Lead Content Strategist at Routific with a focus on delivery management, delivery experience, route planning, and the last-mile industry in general. She has a passion to help delivery businesses scale with her craft of storytelling.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the main purpose of driver tracking?
The main purpose of driver tracking is to enhance operational efficiency, safety, and customer service in delivery and fleet management. It provides valuable data that can be used to optimize routes, monitor driver behavior, and provide accurate delivery updates to customers.
How can I track my driver location?
You can track your driver's location using a driver tracking system, which can be hardware-based (like a GPS device installed in the vehicle) or software-based (like a mobile app on the driver's smartphone).
What does a driver tracking device do?
A driver tracking device uses GPS technology to monitor a driver's location, speed, and route in real time. It provides valuable data that can be used to optimize delivery routes, improve driver accountability, and enhance customer service.
How do delivery companies track drivers?
Delivery companies often use driver tracking systems that combine GPS technology with mobile apps or in-vehicle devices. These systems allow companies to monitor driver location, speed, route, and delivery status in real time.
Should I track my miles as a delivery driver?
Yes, tracking miles is essential for managing fuel efficiency, calculating expenses for tax purposes, and optimizing routes. Many driver tracking systems include automatic mileage tracking.
Is it legal to track work vehicles?
Yes, it's generally legal to track work vehicles, as employers have a legitimate interest in monitoring company property and optimizing their operations. However, privacy laws vary by location, so it's important to inform drivers and use tracking responsibly.
What app tracks your deliveries?
There are many apps that can track deliveries, including Fleetio, Onfleet, and Routific. These apps provide real-time GPS tracking, route optimization, delivery status updates, and more. The best app for you depends on your specific needs and the size of your delivery operation.
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