It is known that GPS vehicle tracking can give small businesses the control they need to effectively manage offsite vehicle fleets. Monitoring the location and speed of vehicles provides one way to gauge undesirable driver behavior and increase security.

But fleet owners have begun to recognize the benefits of GPS that directly affect their bottom lines. In fact, it provides fleet owners an opportunity to earn a significant return on investment (ROI).

If your company is not using a GPS tracking system to monitor its fleet, you may be losing substantial cash flow every hour your fleet is offsite. GPS can help businesses with fleet vehicles survive and thrive in the competitive marketplace by providing ROI in four ways: increasing billable hours, decreasing overtime hours, reducing fleet costs, and improving maintenance schedules.

Increasing billable hours
When employees know their vehicles are being tracked, they may be prone to complete assignments in a more efficient manner. By increasing the productivity of your employees, you will be able to increase billable hours, complete more jobs, and improve customer satisfaction.

A recent study by Aberdeen Group found that organizations with small fleets experienced a 23% increase in the total number of service calls completed per day per technician after GPS vehicle tracking was installed in their fleets.

With a tracking system installed, drivers will arrive to each jobsite quickly, resulting in happier customers and more jobs completed each day. You can even use the information as a measure of performance to reward exceptional employees.

Bob Bellini, CEO of Varsity Plumbing and Heating, Flushing, N.Y., sought a tangible way to gain better management control of the company's vehicles, increase operational efficiency, and more accurately track billable hours. Using a tracking system provided the perfect solution. "After installing GPS, we saw an immediate ROI," says Bellini. "Through improved productivity and operational efficiencies, we are projecting to add more than $300,000 to our bottom line in our first year."

Decreasing overtime hours
Overtime pay can be a huge burden on any small- or medium-sized company. Although employees should be compensated for all the hours they work, employers must ensure the time sheets reflect actual hours worked.

GPS offers fleet owners the ability to automatically track all the hours an employee spends in a vehicle and know exactly how long an employee spends at each jobsite. With this data, employers know how long an employee has worked on any given day, eliminating mistakes made on manual time sheets. By increasing employee productivity, you will find that your employees will complete more jobs in less time, further reducing overtime hours.

Reducing fuel costs
The unpredictability of fuel costs can wreak havoc on a company's bottom line. Even when prices are low, fuel commands a large part of a business' budget. With the power to pinpoint driver habits that waste fuel, GPS systems often show you which drivers engage in fuel wasting practices, such as speeding, excessive idle times, unauthorized journeys, and indirect routes to jobsites.

Lynda Silvestro, owner of Hoyt Livery, New Canaan, Conn., wanted to monitor her vehicles, reduce gas mileage, and eliminate costly personal use of company vehicles. "On fuel savings alone, we are on course to make an annual savings of $73,000 per year from implementing GPS," says Silvestro.

Improving maintenance schedules
Properly maintaining fleet vehicles ensures that each vehicle stays on the road and extends the life of your vehicles. A vehicle in for major repairs costs you money and productivity.

Regular maintenance also has a direct impact on fuel consumption. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a tuned vehicle can improve mpg by an average of 4%, and immediately fixing a serious mechanical problem can improve mpg by as much as 40%.

Some of the GPS fleet tracking solutions provide service alerts that tell you when a vehicle is due for routine maintenance and ensure that you keep your vehicles running in top, fuel-efficient form. By proactively avoiding mechanical troubles and running vehicles at peak efficiency, your business may keep more money in the bank.

Bob Generale is new media specialist for FleetMatics.