GPS tracking & the law

posted by -
With GPS tracking filtering down to the smaller fleets, grey fleets and company cars, many companies find that they need guidance on how to implement a gps tracking system. What does the law say? What rights do the employees have? ABAX is here to help!
GPS Tracking Laws - ABAX

I have already broken one of the ABAX golden rules. Tracking is a dirty word and I have used it several times in this article. Tracking is an industry term. It is the Coke or Hoover umbrella term incorrectly used to collate many different products with many different aims.  At ABAX, the product we install in vehicles is Triplog. It is designed to offer a tax compliment trip recording system to drivers and businesses with the added benefits of fleet management.

'Tracking' is generally the point at which managers who look after staff and their vehicles in businesses not large enough to employ a specialist fleet manager first experience resistance. The word 'tracking' will generally be enough cause unrest amongst employees. ABAX find that one of the more common reasons for fleet management systems not being implemented is because of the headache of staff citing their legal rights against such a system.

What the law says

A misinformed employee who feels that they are about to be tracked will generally consult their worker's union, friends and family and my personal favourite, Google. Quite rightly, they will deliver chapter and verse the reasons why tracking violates the human rights act, data protection act and various other laws that aim to protect us all in the work place - daunting for those who have not managed a fleet before. "We listen to what our staff have to say, and they have clearly done their homework on this... we'd better not rock the boat."

But it isn't so clear cut. The majority of acts and laws are grounded in a time before such technology actually existed. The use of GPS tracking technology is very rarely referenced in legal script. Instead one must begin to read the laws surrounding privacy and monitoring and adapt the legal framework to the technological application.

Essentially, using GPS to monitor vehicles and staff at work is not generally an issue. However it depends on what they application is being used for. Private monitoring is a BIG NO though - I think we can all agree that monitoring staff outside of work crosses a line!

The Information Commissioners Office gives the best guidance and supplementary material for in-vehicle monitoring offered by a government body or independent regulatory body. The ICO is the UK's independent body set up to uphold information rights. Unite the Union back the ICO's findings. They summarise that employees must be made aware of what is being monitored and why this is the case. Installing a tracking system is essentially about being prepared and clear on what the purposes are before effectively communicating this to employees.

ABAX

Now that I can bring ABAX into the equation, I could stop using the word tracking. I can do so because this is not the purpose of our Triplog product. The aim of our product is to ensure total tax compliance surrounding the use of any vehicles used within the business and financial gains through increased efficiencies. Triplog is sold to fleets where the vehicles are essentially used in one of two ways. Business use only, or personal and business use - typically for the company car and grey fleet sector.

In a vehicle where personal use is allowed, Triplog will be set up in such a way that the driver is in complete control of all privacy settings. Nothing has to be conveyed to the employer without the prior permissions of the employee. The aim of the Triplog is to record all business mileage for accurate mileage expense claims. This keeps the tax man happy and saves £1,000's in benefit taxes. The employer can however request that the employee gives full transparency of any trips taking place in business hours. The business has a duty of care to protect their workforce - as laid out in the Health and Safety Act 1974 - and is required to do so by HMRC.

In a commercial vehicle, many perceive the situation to be in line with that of tracking, an infringement on employee privacy. Few employees will actually have the rights to sign into and administrate their Triplog, let alone amend their privacy settings. Why? Well that all comes down to tax compliance again.

Very few employees with company vans actually pay the required benefit in kind taxes to use the vehicle privately, regardless of whether their company allows private usage or not. Therefore as every journey undertaken in a company van should solely be for business purposes, there is actually no infringement of privacy through the introduction of a GPS monitoring system. That would only arise through misuse and abuse of the system by an administrator.

Like the ICO recommends, providing that clear instructions are laid out for the implementation and use of a fleet management system, with guidelines for both drivers and those administrating the system, everything is perfectly above board and legal.

For more information, contact ABAX on 01733 69 88 88 or email info@abax.co.uk

/ Chris Miller