Request for ProposalWriting an effective RFP for GPS Tracking & Telematics
We often see unrealistic requirements and broad statements. While this is expected because customers and RFP writers are not always industry experts, an RFP without basic industry knowledge bears more questions than answers. This guide serves as a walk-through for the process of writing an effective RFP.
The most successful requests for a proposal put as much time into the first phase as the third phase. Skipping steps and a general lack of commitment will diminish potential Return on Investment (ROI). Understanding the following three phases ensure you will address the requirements in the RFP.ÃÂÃÂ
Phase One ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ Getting Oriented
Understanding the Industry
Explaining the scope of information will also clarify your needs. There are many industry terms that offer a wide range of potential solution and options. For example, “engine diagnostics” may be defined as reading fault codes from vehicle computers, but there are many options for levels of data available. While writing an RFP, you should define the exact knowledge your company is trying to acquire by enabling engine diagnostics. Simply requesting engine diagnostics is inadequate because any company offering basic mass air flow or fuel tank level data will have met the requirement you defined. However, some GPS tracking systems, like the GO System, will provide all the available fault codes and status codes instead of just a few basic variables.
If You Don't Know What You Don't Know
In some scenarios, fleet operators have experience with GPS tracking, telematics and/or engine diagnostics. While this knowledge makes the firstÃÂÃÂ phase much easier, you should still get presentations from severalÃÂÃÂ potential vendors becauseÃÂÃÂ technology is constantly evolving. One new feature can have an exponential impact on your ROI from GPS tracking devices.
Understanding Communication Components
Cellular ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ GPS data is just data being moved on a carrier network, similar to a picture or email, but much smaller in size. Cellular networks are the most cost-effective method of communication, but there are areas with little or no coverage due to a lack of cell towers. GPS signals that are sent with telematics and engine diagnostics data significantly increase the amount of data being transmitted. The more data, the higher the cost. In high availability scenarios, customers may opt to add a satellite modem failover or go satellite communication only.
Satellite Communication ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ To communicate globally and in the most remote areas, the GPS data is sent back to communication satellites, instead of cellular towers. These are different than the GPS satellites. The cost of satellite communication is significantly higher, therefore the amount of data transmitted is reduced to make it cost-effective to use satellite communication. Most GPS trackers that use satellite communication only transmit every 5-30 minutes, or by exception. To put in perspective, a call on a cellular network might cost $0.02 per minute on average, while a call on a satellite phone might cost $2.00 per minute.
- Log rate – the rate at which GPS coordinates are captured and presented as a location on the map, generally depicted on a map showing a vehicle route.
- Update rate – The rate at which the GPS position information is transmitted to the cellular network. The GPS device might log the data, bundle the data, and then transmit several data points at one time. Therefore, a 1-minute log rate may result in a 2-minute update rate.
- Map refresh rate – Data that is transmitted arrives at the server at different times. This requires the map to be refreshed periodically to display a more current location.
These variables should be different for vehicle tracking, asset tracking, equipmentÃÂÃÂ tracking, battery trackers and other variants. The more data, the higher the track resolution, but also the higher the cost. Ask yourself how much resolution you need to accomplish your goals? How much are you willing to pay to get it? What is the communication coverage footprint needed?ÃÂÃÂ This forces you to find a balance.
- Time-based log rates ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ Time based logging is just what it sounds like. It plots the GPS systems location every X seconds. Today the standard is every 60 seconds. This type of logging is generally less accurate since distance is most often measure as a straight line between log points. In a straight line the distance accuracy is high, in a urban environment with lots of turns, it is less accurate.
- Behavior-based log rates ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ This term refers to GPS logging based on what the vehicle does. Variables such as acceleration or deceleration, exceptions or changes in direction, result in a log point. This significantly increases the quantity and quality of the data being provided to the end user. When set to high sensitivity you can see every turn made and sometimes multiple log points as a vehicle comes to a complete stop at a light or railroad tracks.
Watch theÃÂÃÂ video on behavior-based logging.
Other Terms to Know
- Heartbeat -ÃÂÃÂ A heartbeat refers to an update being transmitted when a vehicle or asset is not in motion or running. Most GPS devices have this feature to confirm the location of an asset such as a cargo container that otherwise might not move often. Vehicle tracking units also have this feature to confirm location, identify towing, theft and to reduce the time to acquire the first position log when a vehicle starts moving.
- ÃÂÃÂ Engine Protocols – With the introduction of GPS trackers that can also read engine diagnostics, it is important to know how your vehicles are used and to specify the quantity and type of protocol in your fleet. If you can provide a VIN list most companies that service these types of GPS trackers can lookup the protocol for each vehicle. OBD trackers will likely require an adapter cable if not a totally different GPS device to work on different types of protocols. The GO GPS device uses an adaptor harness so the same device can be used for all protocols.
- OBD -ÃÂÃÂ On-board diagnosticsÃÂÃÂ (OBD) is anÃÂÃÂ automotiveÃÂÃÂ term referring to a vehicle’s self-diagnostic and reporting capability. OBD systems give the vehicle owner or repair technician access to the status of the various vehicle subsystems. The amount of diagnostic information available via OBD has varied widely since its introduction in the early 1980s versions of onboard vehicle computers. Early versions of OBD would simply illuminate a malfunction indicator light or “idiot light” if a problem was detected but would not provide any information as to the nature of the problem. Modern OBD implementations use a standardized digital communications port to provide real-time data in addition to a standardized series ofÃÂÃÂ diagnostic trouble codes, or DTCs, which allow one to rapidly identify and remedy malfunctions within the vehicle. Wikipedia
- J1708 -ÃÂÃÂ SAE J1708 is a standard used for serial communications between ECUs on a heavy duty vehicle and also between a computer and the vehicle. Wikipedia
- J1939 -ÃÂÃÂ J1939ÃÂÃÂ is theÃÂÃÂ vehicle busÃÂÃÂ recommended practice used for communication and diagnostics among vehicle components. Originating in the car and heavy-duty truck industry in the United States, it is now widely used in other parts of the world. Wikipedia
If you accomplish X, your boss will be happy and your company improves. X may be a level of ROI, a new service, reduction in expenses, etc. The key is a measurable, definable set of KPIs that you can put on a screen and show the team the vision for the project from the start, how to measure it and the end result. This removes the guesswork in the go forward decision-making process.
Top 3 – “Must Have” Features
Customers often publish RFP requirements that list pages of features they “must have”. Unfortunately, this often results in a waste of everyone’s time and no decision being made. The best approach is to narrow the project focus to the core reason for making the investment; the 3 things that will provide you the needed ROI to go forward. If a vendor cannot provide any of the top 3 features, they are immediately eliminated. Getting to the top 3 also forces an organization into a realistic planning process and ultimately pulls the project together.
Top 10 – “Like to Have” Features
The next step is to list the top 10 features that would enhance the overall success of the program. The more of these you can add to the top 3, the greater your ROI. List these in the order of importance or create a weighted scale that quantifies the response. After the top 10 go crazy and list everything you would like to get from all departments to see what you get in return.
Phase Two – Writing the Vehicle Tracking RFP and Selection
Planning for Success
It is important to involve a committee when possible. In medium to large companies this, practical but not in owner-operators. Committees should represent many, if not all, areas of a company. GPS tracking data touches many areas other than fleet and getting everyoneÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs buy in helps improve the ROI. GPS data can benefit ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ risk, safety, legal, HR, fleet, admin, payroll, delivery, IT, training, communications, marketing and service.
The HR policies need to be in place for the drivers as well as the leadership. This means the managers need to be held accountable for enforcing the policies. Some of the most successful companies wrote their managers up if they didnÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂt enforce the policies with their drivers. This level of accountability sends a clear message that the company is committed to the technology and the data.
To help address this, require the consultant not receive financial gain from 3rd parties involved in this process. This doesnÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂt mean you cannot hire a consultant from a fleet tracking company but the evaluation needs to be across multiple technologies, not just theirs, and educational in nature. Avoiding specific product demonstrations at this stage ensures a more honest and unbiased educational experience. Working with consultants that have experience with multiple GPS systems will provide a broader understanding of the options.
Request for Information
Writing the RFP
Pick a file format, such as Microsoft Word, that allows information to be added inline. Locking down a document or offering very limited space means you may not get critical information or it becomes very hard to follow along between several documents. With Word, you ask a question and the response is inserted directly below it. Because it is efficient, more fleet management companies are likely to respond. Make it difficult, and your options go down.
Go easy on the legal requirement. When a company says a vendor must defend the company, employees, and officers against all of X, it creates an unreasonable and unbalanced relationship. If a 100 vehicle fleet says the vendor must have $5 million in GL insurance, the cost of the insurance exceeds the profitability of the account or it is simply billed back to the customer. Think about a win-win relationship that provides an acceptableÃÂÃÂ level of risk based on the technology.
Things to consider putting in the RFP
- Warranty and failure rate
- GPS log rate – resolution
- Update rate – frequency of transmission of data
- Engine diagnostics
- ELD – FMCSA
- Integration – paid or freeÃÂÃÂ API and SDK
- Installation requirements – BIG consideration in initial cost and cost of ownership
- Financing and taxes
- Users needed
- Training available
- Support available
- Implementation process
- Financial stability
- Company history and legal issues
- Reporting capabilities
- Samples of reports, maps and functions
These things can be added without making the RFP extremely difficult or time-consuming. List the “must have” features at the top so if they are not met you can stop reading the rest of the response. Vendors will also not spend hours responding only to catch they are not qualified on the last line item.
If the GPS tracking requirements are fairly basic almost any company in the vehicle tracking space is a potential vendor so a survey is not needed. Do an online search for several keywords and make a list of those to receive the RFP.
- Fleetistics 😉
- gpsÃÂÃÂ tracking
- vehicle tracking
- fleet tracking
- fleet management
- equipment tracking
After sending the RFP to the vendor list get confirmation of receipt expressing interest. This way you know if enough vendors received it and you can potentially ask some why they were not interested in responding.
Questions and Answers
Phase Three ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ Selecting a Fleet Management Partner
At this point, you are working to really get to know the companies, people, and solutions. A minimum of two hours should be allocated for each meeting with breaks in between. Again, a scoring mechanism should be utilized to structure the process. People will get tired and not be able to remember the first presentation although it may be the best GPS solution with the highest ROI.
Don’t be afraid of PowerPoint presentations but ask to see the user interface live at some point. You want to see how the site looks and responds and if the presenter can show you the answer to some of your questions.
Try Before You Buy
Pilots will last between 1 week and 60 days. 1 weeks is for a smaller fleet with simple requirements. A 60 day pilot is much more involved and is more of a study than a review of the user interface. Fleetistics offers a 60 day process called a SEP or solution evaluation process. Click here to read about our enterprise fleet evaluation process that takes the guesswork out of selecting a fleet management system.
After the RFP
Phase Four – Implementing a GPS Vehicle Tracking System
What is the plan?
As with most things, lack of information leads to fear and resentment. Demonstrating the ROI from the evaluation process enables the concept to be “sold” to the internal customer. Showing operations managers how the GPS vehicle tracking data can help them reach their bonus goals will ensure more support for the program. Take your time and introduce the fleet management system to all levels of management from the top to the bottom. Customize each presentation to maximize the time and attention span of your audience.
Build it into your business
Human Resource Policies
Phase Five -ÃÂÃÂ GPS Installation Project Management
Time is Money
A good GPS installation partner is a long-term relationship. Your fleet will likely turn over about 20% per year. This means the GPS devices need to be uninstalled and put in new vehicles. At scale, this is best done by a GPS installers instead of the local manager who may not get every aspect correct. Something as simple as the orientation of the GPS unit can make a big difference in the accuracy of the GPS log data. Failing to secure the GPS car tracker to the frame of the truck can cause excessive accelerometer data and bad data.
Know your limits and what you are good at. If you have done your homework and know your ROI, funding the installation process is far less difficult to get approved.
Fleetistics has been in the fleet management industry since 2001. We are a GPS tracking company first, not a cell phone or mobile app company adding GPS tracking to our portfolio. We work with customers across the United States and Canada and with fleets ranging from 1 vehicle to over 5,000. We have a lot of experience in fleet management but we don’t know it all. We’re more than happy to point you in the right direction if we cannot meet your needs. We do offer consulting services if you need assistance writing your RFP or selecting a specific technology. A good RFP means good responses and more quality choices to meet your goals.
Thank you for your interest and good luck with your GPS program.