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Vehicle Trackers and the UK Law

Discover everything you need to know about vehicle tracking and UK laws, compare vehicle tracking companies and GPS trackers, and read our guide on how to implement legal vehicle tracking into the workplace.

Useful Information:

Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), around a third of all accidents involve an individual who has to drive for a living. As a result of this, the HSE has made it abundantly clear that it expects employers to manage and, where possible, reduce the risks that their employees face on the road.

In 2008 an additional piece of legislation came into force: the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. This new Act was particularly relevant for employers who have staff who rely on transport to carry out the functions of their job. In instances where death has resulted from a road traffic accident caused by either a defective vehicle or a lack of driver risk management, companies can be held responsible under corporate manslaughter for the lack of vehicle maintenance and the driver behaviour dependent on whether the behaviour can be attributed to fatigue.

Employers must ensure that risk is managed effectively and that employees are safe at all times. Employing GPS tracking devices and a suite of sophisticated analytical programs can transform cost analysis for any fleet operated business and help them to work more efficiently whilst also ensuring that vehicles and drivers are managed effectively.

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Vehicle Tracking Policy: What Can You Do To Help?

You may be tempted to install trackers into company cars without telling your staff. Do not be tempted to do this under any circumstances; to do so will be breaching vehicle tracking laws and could land you in a lot of trouble. It’s clear that demonstrating you have a transparent and fully documented health and safety policy in place for drivers, and a means of ensuring their safety is of paramount importance. Employees who work out in the field have just as much rights as office-based employees to be adequately protected, and having a tracker on their vehicle provides this.

legal fleet tracking

Fleet tracking may not be popular with employees initially but it will help to demonstrate that you are discharging your responsibilities.

Understanding that employee tracking will be carried out in order to ensure their safety whilst in the field, should help to overcome any objections to the technology from employees. It is however essential that you inform your employees that their vehicles will be subject to company vehicle tracking systems as to do it covertly would be breaching their rights.

By being transparent with staff you will encourage more honesty amongst the workforce. Additionally, the use of GPS tracker devices can provide an employer with cost-savings among many other benefits.

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The UK Vehicle Tracking Laws Explained

The UK vehicle tracker laws fall under the category of processing personal data and accordingly, it is governed by the Data Protection Act 1988. In order to ensure vehicle tracking legality, it is vital that organisations maintain a vehicle tracking policy that is fully transparent and compliant with the Data Protection Act. Furthermore, when implementing vehicle trackers, companies should be sensitive regarding its deployment, particularly in terms of respecting the privacy of their employees.

Below we have outlined the most important features of the Data Protection Act 1988 and considered their relevance to vehicle tracking. Subject to specific constraints and requirements vehicle trackers are considered legal and should be used to ensure driver safety.

The Data Protection Act 1998

Driver Data

As a general rule, any company using vehicle tracking devices will be collecting data about the individual, not just the vehicle itself. As well as their location, a wealth of information, such as driving behaviours, will be recorded which has implications under the Data Protection Act.

Under this Act, workers have the right to know what information is being held about them and the purpose for which it will be used. For this reason, collecting data covertly is considered to be in breach of the law.

The Data Protection Act 1998 concerns data which is classified as personal data (the latest definition of this was adopted in June 2007). The Act is highly complex and can be difficult to interpret; it is common for companies and organisations to be unsure about its intricacies. However the Act is underpinned by the concept of “permission”. Fundamentally, personal data cannot be processed unless the person it concerns has given permission.

Essentially personal data is data that relates to an individual who is alive and who can be identified from the data, or from a combination of that data and any other information that is held by, or may come into the possession of, the data controller.

Relevance to vehicle tracking

legal gps trackers

The relevance of the Data Protection Act to vehicle tracking involves two principles: whether tracking data is personal data and whether or not permission has been granted for that data to be collected and processed.

Is vehicle tracking data personal?

If the subject can be identified from the data, or from a combination of that data and any other information held by the data controller, then it is personal data. Clearly, apart from some special exceptions, this is the case as the vehicle’s movements can be linked directly to a specific driver.

Has permission been given?

It is illegal to track vehicles if the subject is unaware that he is being tracked, but as long as the subject has agreed to it taking place and has consented to it either explicitly or implicitly, for instance if it is part of an employment contract, and the data is used only for its intended and stated purpose (e.g. to improve driver performance and efficiency) then vehicle tracking is permitted by the Act.

The basic principles of the act call for: fair and lawful processing of the data; its use must be only for its specified purpose; it must be relevant to that purpose, accurate and up to date; it should not be retained for a longer period than is necessary; measures should be taken to protect it against unlawful use; and it must not be transferred to countries which do not provide adequate levels of data protection.

To conclude, personal data can only be processed if at least one of the following applies:

  • The person concerned must have consented to the process
  • There is a contractual or legal obligation to process the data
  • It is necessary in order to protect the vital interests of the subject

Information Commissioner’s Code of Practice for Employees

The Information Commissioner’s Code of Practice for Employers sets out the expectations for the way in which staff have the right to be treated. These principles, specifically those relating to covert surveillance, were recently confirmed by the European Court of Human Rights.

The Code contains lots of detail, but in summary, requires that employers monitor the performance of employees by using the least intrusive method possible. It also stipulates that employees are made aware of how they will be monitored.

The Human Rights Act also sets out the right for employees not to be monitored during their private time. This means that even if they are informed about a tracking device being installed in their company vehicle, if they are permitted to use it out of hours, there should be the facility for them to switch it off.

You can’t hide the use of vehicle tracking devices from your employees; however with all the cost saving benefits and added ability to increase productivity and efficiency it is possible to make their use a positive feature rather than it being viewed as ‘spying’.

Can the Laws Around Vehicle Tracking Cause a Problem?

Although the word ‘tracking’ has negative connotations, there's no reason why it should - telematics can very often actually enhance employee satisfaction. The potential problems lie in the fact that very occasionally tracking data, depending on your business service and where and when it happens, may mean that you are collecting what is defined as 'personal data'. This data would therefore be covered under the Data Protection Act, which means that as an employer you would have to deal with that information just as you would with any other sensitive data. As long as the implementation is made in an upfront and honest fashion you will not have anything to worry about.

Introducing Vehicle Tracking Into the Workplace

Fitting GPS tracking systems can resonate negative connotations with employees to begin with. However, these negative views can be effectively managed and turned into positives. Companies must be transparent with all employees about introducing vehicle trackers. It is very important for the company to communicate the reasons why the trackers are being installed as well as highlighting the many benefits to the employees and company. In particular, vehicle tracking systems will not only allow you to monitor drivers’ safety and competence but also positively impact your businesses productivity and efficiency as well as reducing various fleet costs including fleet insurance premiums.

Looking at tracking in terms of employee ability will be key in identifying any savings you will be able to make by becoming more efficient. As an example, the data collected via trackers is sufficient to tell you where a driver went wrong on a particularly day or journey, and how they might improve in the future.

What’s more, in an office environment having management around inevitably motivates your workforce to work harder. You may find that your staff on the road do not always benefit from this, but with vehicle telematics it is possible to essentially 'ride along' with a driver. As a result, the benefits this could have for your business are plentiful.

To conclude, it is strongly recommended that you alleviate any fears of not being trusted and crucial to clearly state that your workforce will not be tracked out of work hours.

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