Boat Rental Management Service Helps Operators Keep Track of Fleets

The boat rental business is booming. As marinas continue to look for alternative methods to increase profits, adding a boat rental segment has become a lucrative way to bring more customers to their docks. In addition, boat clubs like Freedom and Carefree are rapidly growing as they embrace the boating population that loves to spend time on the water, but doesn’t necessarily have the time to maintain a boat of their own. But as boat clubs and boat rental companies continue to expand, this additional layer of business means owners and operators need to have the ability to monitor their fleet at all times.

Boat Fix, a telematics company that provides systems such as remote monitoring, GPS tracking, and geofencing for the recreational boating industry, has developed a management program called Fleet Manager Pro to help boat rental operators monitor and protect their fleet. Abel’s Marine in Port Charlotte, Florida, started using Fleet Manager Pro to monitor its boat rental fleet in November of 2021. “We installed the system on each of our 14 rental boats,” Katrina Towns, co-owner of Abel’s Marine said. “It was easy to set up and has become a great tool for us to track each rental boat.”

Monitoring Made Easy
The monitoring service allows operators of boat sharing programs and rental programs to keep track of the rental fleet, which protects the business and the renter. The service offers several unique advantages:

  • GPS tracking with playback functionality can be used in the case of an incident or dispute
  • Sophisticated, multiple, and time-driven geofencing to prevent unauthorized use, theft, and entry into prohibited areas
  • Live and immediate business support service is available 24 hours a day
  • Customized fleet management reports are available monthly, weekly, or daily
  • An onboard strobe light is triggered to alert the user when a boat enters a prohibited zone or misses its scheduled return time to the marina

Katrina and her husband, Tony Towns, have operated their boat rental business since 2015, with great success. The couple said their decision to install the service on their rental fleet wasn’t due to security concerns, but rather the ability to protect their investment as well as the renters using their boats. “During a busy day on the water, we are able to keep track of the location of each boat in our fleet,” she said. “We can now tell when a renter goes outside of zones and we can work with them to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future.”

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The device that operates the Fleet Manager Pro system includes built-in GPS and a SIM card that communicates via a 4G network. The system will transmit from any cell tower around the world, usually up to 20 miles offshore. If a boat does go out of range, the device will store up to 10,000 GPS locations every 60 seconds, which equals about one week’s worth of data. All saved data is automatically uploaded when the system is back in cell range. The service will also store all the tracking and monitoring data for seven years. This information is invaluable to boat rental operators who need to protect their business in the event of a dispute with a customer.

Fleet Manager Pro requires the purchase of the Boat Fix telematics device and a strobe for each boat. The device can be easily transferred to a new boat, as older vessels are retired. Similar to other online management programs, there is an annual fee for the SIM card data storage, business support, and reports. The rental, boat club or charter operator is then able to access the service via a web portal on a computer or through a cell phone app. Boat Fix trains the client on how to access and monitor each boat and offers 24/7 customer support for any questions that arise.

Protection and Peace of Mind
As more marinas look to open their own boat rental services to generate additional income, having a way to keep track of the movements of each rental boat should be considered a must-have. Alastair Crawford, founder of Boat Fix, said Fleet Manager Pro allows the rental or charter operator to know every movement of every boat. “Management is able to know how often the boat is used, where it went, how fast it went, how many days it sat idle, engine hours, and more,” he said. “Even dockhands can access the information on their cell phones, so if a boat is late returning, they are able to easily pinpoint its location.”

Crawford said the strobe alarm is an added layer of protection for both the operator and renter. The strobe is installed at the helm and, if a geofence is broken, the light flashes brightly within seconds. “If the rental customer is heading toward a no-go zone like a sandbar or an unauthorized area, the strobe immediately turns on,” Crawford said. He also added that the fleet manager can turn on the strobe if a boat is late returning to the dock.

Boat Fix is currently working with several Freedom and Carefree boat clubs franchises, along with independent boat rental and charter companies around the U.S. Crawford said many boat clubs and rentals start out with one or two devices to test and then generally expand to include their entire fleet. “We have some rental or charter companies that only have a handful of boats that they want to monitor, while some have hundreds in their fleet, located in different areas,” he added. “Our goal is to provide them with a system that makes their lives more efficient.”

Customer Support
One way Boat Fix works to improve that efficiency is by listening to their customers. Crawford mentioned a recent update to the monitoring system’s strobe light. “We had a customer complain about how they were writing out thousands of dollars in fines to a harbormaster because their boat renters were coming into the no wake zone at 15 knots, rather than 5 knots,” he said. “Now, the strobe goes off, warning the operator to throttle down as they enter the no wake zone.”

The customer service support associated with the Fleet Manager Pro has also proven to become an asset at Abel’s Marine. “Boat Fix’s customer service is able to help boaters with small issues they might have on the water, which in turn makes us look better to the customer,” Katrina said.

While it has only been a few months since Abel’s Marine started using the management service, Katrina said they believe it has been a beneficial addition to their business. “We have already seen huge improvements thanks to the monitoring service,” she added. “It has provided added security and service to our customers and protected our boats from unnecessary damage.”