Running a business fleet, and tracking your vehicles is a practical and modern way to take good care of the fleet. You need to know where your vehicles are when they are on route to services, working with clients, and visiting job sites.
Geofencing and precise location tracking ensure that your team stays on track during work hours and can even help spot and avoid bad roads or dense traffic on future routes.
However, there are also some important legal matters to consider any time tracking data is used to follow employee activity.
What does the US law say about vehicle tracking for your commercial fleet management?
Federal and State Law on Vehicle Tracking
There are currently no federal laws regarding vehicle tracking. However, there are several state laws regarding any or general employee monitoring. In California, you must get the consent of anyone being tracked, while Connecticut prohibits tracking without first informing the employee. Most privacy laws regard personal data like name and bank information, but location data has been ruled as a potential risk factor if tracked or shared.
If you do business in Europe, you may also be subject to GDPR matters regarding the tracking and use of personal data - including behavioral data like location tracking.
That said, it is generally legal to place tracking equipment into any car that is owned by the fleet, and to use that equipment during hours when the driver is operating the vehicle for company purposes.
The Thorny Issue of Employee vs. Vehicle Tracking
When considering the legality of vehicle tracking, it's important to also see location data as both a behavior and an address connected to your driver. For example, location-tracking a personal cellphone might reveal a person's bank branch or their child's school address.
When you consider how creepy it would be to have a web page that tracked your personal location at all times - and how dangerous that could be with malicious viewers, it's clear to see why some elements of location tracking should be respected. This is why vehicle tracking must be limited to work vehicles and work hours.
Tracking Your Own Vehicles on Company Time
It is legally safe to install GPS and telematics tracking into vehicles owned by the company or fleet. This allows you to optimize your own fleet's performance, and employees using company vehicles can be universally notified that vehicles are tracked for safety and efficiency.
Tracking Your Vehicles in Personal Use
What if you permit drivers to take vehicles home, use company vehicles during travel, or drive vehicles on personal time? If this can happen in your fleet, the location tracking should be turned off except to find the vehicle in an emergency. Do not create data that tracks employee location data during their authorized off-time with a company vehicle.
Tracking Employee-Owned Vehicles on Company Time
What if an employee uses their own vehicle for company purposes? Can you track that vehicle? The answer is yes, but you need far more consent and cooperation to do so legally. Consider the insurance Snapshot program, where drivers insert an OBD when they drive to clock driving behaviors - with a discount for safe driving data. You might use this voluntary tracking method to include personal-vehicle fleet drivers to participate in fleet telematics and GPS tracking - but only when they consent to do so and during work hours.
You can also use a timer program to automatically switch off installed tracking devices at the end of each scheduled fleet shift.
Rules of Thumb for Legal Vehicle Tracking
Transparency and Consent
First, always inform your drivers of when and how they will be tracked when using fleet vehicles. Get consent to track drivers when they are on shift and get that consent in writing. You should also offer your drivers some of the benefits of the tracking - like driver performance telematics so they can a data-driven improvement challenge.
In states where employee tracking is tricky, signed consent is often the protection you need.
If you are tracking vehicles used personally or employee personal vehicles, install protections so no recreational or private use is tracked in your servers. This will make it nearly impossible for even questionable personal data use compliance.
Your fleet can and should track your vehicles' location and performance data. Doing so with company vehicles and on fleet time is the best way to optimize your fleet and stay on the right side of employee data privacy rights laws in your state. Contact us for more fleet management insights.