Trailer Hub Odometer vs. GPS: Comparing Mileage Tracking Methods in Trucking



In the trucking industry, accurate mileage tracking is paramount for maintenance scheduling, regulatory compliance, and cost management. Two primary methods for tracking mileage are the traditional trailer hubodometer and modern GPS tracking systems. This article explores the differences between these methods, focusing on trailer hubodometes, to help trucking professionals choose the best option for their fleets.

 Hub odometers: The Traditional Approach

How Trailer Hubodometers Work

A trailer hubodometer, also known as a hub odometer, is a mechanical device attached to a trailer’s wheel hub. It measures the distance traveled based on the number of wheel rotations. This method has been in use for decades and is favored for its simplicity and durability. The device doesn’t require a power source and can function in various weather conditions.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The primary advantage of trailer hubodometer is their reliability. They are less susceptible to interference and do not rely on electronic signals, making them ideal for harsh environments. However, their simplicity can also be a drawback. Hub odometers do not provide real-time data, can be tampered with, and are not as accurate as GPS systems over long distances due to potential discrepancies in wheel rotation measurements.

 GPS Tracking Systems

Basic Principles of GPS Tracking

GPS tracking systems use satellite signals to determine a vehicle’s location and track its movements. These systems consist of a GPS receiver installed on the trailer and software to interpret the data. GPS trackers provide real-time location data, which can be accessed remotely through various digital devices.

Pros and Cons for Mileage Tracking

The advantages of GPS tracking systems are numerous. They offer real-time data, high accuracy, and the ability to monitor routes, stops, and speeds. This level of detail aids in optimizing routes and improving operational efficiency. However, GPS systems are more complex and expensive than trailer hub odometers. They require a power source, regular maintenance, and can be affected by signal loss in areas with poor satellite coverage.

Accuracy Comparison

Factors Affecting Accuracy in Both Methods

The accuracy of mileage tracking can vary significantly between hub odometers and GPS systems. Hub odometers depend on the wheel’s rotation, which can be influenced by tire wear and slippage. In contrast, GPS systems rely on satellite signals, which can be affected by environmental factors such as dense urban areas or heavy foliage.

Real-World Tests and Results

In real-world tests, GPS systems generally outperform trailer hubodometers in accuracy, particularly over long distances. GPS tracking provides consistent and precise data, while hub odometers may show slight deviations due to mechanical limitations. However, for short distances and specific use cases where simplicity and robustness are essential, hub odometers can still be a viable option.

 Cost Analysis

Initial Investment

The initial cost of implementing a hub odometer is relatively low. These devices are inexpensive and easy to install. On the other hand, GPS tracking systems require a higher initial investment due to the cost of the hardware, software, and installation.

Ongoing Maintenance and Replacement Costs

Over time, the cost dynamics can change. Trailer hubodometers are generally low-maintenance but may need periodic calibration or replacement. GPS systems, while requiring regular software updates and occasional hardware maintenance, can offer cost savings through improved operational efficiency and better route management.

 Regulatory Compliance

How Each Method Meets Industry Regulations

Both trailer hubodometers and GPS tracking systems can meet industry regulations for mileage tracking. However, GPS systems have an edge due to their ability to provide detailed records and real-time data, which can simplify compliance with regulations like the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate in the United States. Hub odometers, while compliant, may require more manual record-keeping.


Choosing between a trailer hub odometer and a GPS tracking system depends on the specific needs of a trucking operation. Hub odometers are reliable, low-cost, and suitable for simple mileage tracking needs. In contrast, GPS systems offer high accuracy, real-time data, and greater overall efficiency, making them ideal for larger fleets and those requiring detailed tracking and route optimization. As technology advances, the future of mileage tracking in trucking will likely see an increased integration of GPS systems, but trailer hubodometer will continue to play a role in specific scenarios where their simplicity and reliability are unmatched.