The economy may be holding back some companies, but satellite-based and wireless tracking systems remain a popular and integral part of fleet operations, Clem Driscoll, founder and president of C.J. Driscoll & Associates, told Fleet Owner.

Driscoll, author of the 304-page 2009 Mobile Resource Management Systems Market Study, said that because of the high return on investment and strong customer satisfaction with tracking solutions, fleets should "consider using these solutions as a way to cut costs in this difficult economy."

The 2009 report is the third edition focusing on tracking solutions for both local and long-haul fleets. The study said there are approximately 3.6 million satellite or wireless-based GPS [global positioning system] devices used to monitor fleet vehicles, trailers, construction equipment and mobile workers in the U.S. That number is expected to climb to over 6.5 million by 2012 with mobile resource management (MRM) hardware to surpass $2.5 billion in sales.

"The market has continued to grow," Driscoll said. "The long-haul portion of the trucking market has grown, but it really has not grown by leaps and bounds because it's a relatively mature market dating back 20 years since Qualcomm first launched its OmniTrac [software]."

Approximately 40% of long-haul truckload fleets utilize some type of tracking solution, Driscoll said. "The private fleets market is not as mature," he added, and as a result is showing more growth than the truckload sector. Driscoll pointed out that the study – compiled using both primary and secondary methodologies, including interviews with over 100 executives of MRM suppliers and wireless network operators – predicts the truckload sector will remain flat, or even decline, this year "mainly due to trucks being parked."

This is the first such survey on tracking system use in four years. The last study in 2005, which followed closely on the heels of a survey in 2003, forecast out through 2009. "We did not anticipate the [downturn in the] economy, especially in the truckload sector," Driscoll said. "We didn't expect [truckload] to keep growing [so fast] because it is a relatively mature market, but we didn't expect it to be as stagnant as it is today, primarily because of the economy."

Growth in trucking, however, is being fueled by technological advances. "They're not just tracking solutions; they're solutions that can be integrated with back office solutions," Driscoll said. He points to the growing number of uses for GPS-enabled devices, including remote vehicle diagnostics as well as driver behavior monitoring.

Asset tracking is another area that should see growth in the near future, according to Driscoll. Trailer monitoring, however, is not expected to grow as quickly due to the economy. "Over the last twelve months, trailer tracking has slowed quite a bit," he said, adding that more growth had been anticipated. Driscoll estimates about 10% of trailers in operation today use some type of tracking solution.

One big change since the 2005 report is the number of fleets that are shifting away from satellite tracking solutions. "Trucking fleets are increasingly coming to the conclusion that satellite tracking may not be needed," Driscoll said. Fleets are finding that GPS receiver/GPRS modems using cellular-based transmission networks are helping to lower costs for companies.

The full report provides a detailed outlook for the mobile resource management market as well as a 220-page MRM suppliers section. It can be purchased by visiting www.cjdriscoll.com or calling C.J. Driscoll & Associates at (310) 544-5046.