Home: Telematics Glossary: What is Geofencing?

What is Geofencing?

What is Geofencing

Geofencing is a technological advancement in GPS fleet management that can be applied in different ways, for varying purposes. As a basic definition, geofencing is simply the capability to use signals from a device to pinpoint that device’s location (known as geolocation or geotracking) and draw a digital boundary to encircle the area, the fencing part of the word.

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Common Applications

Marketers use geotracking and geofencing to send phone messages to consumers who happen to be passing their retail stores — often including a discount coupon for whatever product that person may have been searching for online. Another application of geofencing is to disable a handheld device — for example, a laptop computer — that is carried away from the premises where it is supposed to remain.

In the trucking industry, geofencing has long been a valuable tool for fleet managers. It can send them an alert if a truck departs from its assigned boundary — and help hasten recovery in the event the vehicle is stolen. Managers can also monitor the time spent within geofence boundaries to determine if drivers are giving attention to the right jobs.

Top Geofencing Issues

  • Driver Privacy

Useful as it is, this technology gave rise to some discussion after the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate introduced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration included geotracking as a feature of the system. Vehicle location is one of the monitoring functions that the FMCSA considers important in ensuring compliance with the hours of service (HOS) rules that drivers must follow.

Some drivers, however, are of a different opinion: that geotracking, as a record of where the vehicle is 24 hours a day, represents an unwarranted intrusion on their private time.

  • Driver Protections

The FMCSA took these objections seriously, and when crafting the ELD Final Rule specified a geofencing provision that is designed, at appropriate times, to fix the location approximately rather than exactly.

As called out in the particulars of the Final Rule, when a driver is not operating the vehicle — during off-duty hours — the location software is switched to privacy mode, and creates a geofence having a ten-mile radius. That is, it draws a circle 20 miles in diameter, in which the truck or other vehicle is located somewhere within that space.

A Reasonable Solution

It would be difficult to make the case that even with the privacy protections, a geofence is intrusive. If, at any time, including in the days before electronics existed, a person’s whereabouts could be established only within a 20-mile circle, that hardly constitutes being under a microscope.

In this light, geofencing is a practical tool that allows fleet managers to identify inefficient trends and find remedies before it is too late. The fleet as a whole can become more productive by identifying assets that are misused, tracking movement within a site, and creating job site estimates of productive entry and exit times.

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