Van tracking – the legal implications

With growing numbers of van operators installing tracking devices, or telematics, the question of the legal position of the firm is becoming more apparent.

There are many reasons why the device is a good idea; it helps improve economy, productivity and driver behaviour but some firms and drivers worry about this ‘Big Brother’ approach.

One of the big questions being asked by employees is their right to privacy and the potential for breaching data protection.

These are valid fears and questions which means that employers need to be aware that they do not infringe the employment rights of their drivers who have a tracking system fitted to their vehicle.

Van tracking and problems with data collection

The big issue is that the data collected and then analysed is not done on a van basis but is geared towards the employee.

So employers need to be aware that the data they use from a tracker in a van could be an infringement of the Data Protection Act 1998.

Van fleet operators have no legal obligation to install a telematics system so they need to be aware that the data they collect is covered by a policy that is clearly worded – this is crucial should an employer decide to use the data as part of a disciplinary action against an employee because they may well be breaking the law at that point.

Issues with telematics for employers

However, there’s no doubt that most employees would not have an issue with the data being collected since some of the data is being analysed in their own interests to help improve driving style and road safety.

This is also why many firms with telematics introduce driver incentives to help boost economy and performance, and therefore profits, by helping drivers improve their driving style, and improving their routes if necessary, by sharing the information freely.

There are also positive reasons for a driver to welcome the installation of a tracking device that, particularly if they are in a remote area or working alone in a risky area, the employer will know exactly where they are and when something goes wrong they can react.

Boosting profits with telematics

Essentially, most employers who are upfront and honest with their workforce about the reasons why they want to install telematics should include the potential benefits that may bring about job security and more work.

This approach will also reduce the chance of potential disputes over the use of the data produced but this also needs to be backed up with a strong HR policy about how and why the data is being used.

By including the firm’s Human Resources department, if the business has one, and consultation with the tracking guidelines created by the Central Office of Information then the introduction of telematics or tracking can only be seen as a good thing.