In GPS fleet tracking, two of the most powerful arguments to vie for attention (sometimes in opposition to each other) are workplace efficiency and employee privacy.
“The promise of GPS technology for increasing safety and security, reducing congestion, and improving efficiency [is] limitless. Quite simply, GPS has become the enabling technology for transportation.”
—Jeffrey N. Shane, Former Under Secretary for Policy, U.S. Department of Transportation
The Victoria Times Colonist of British Columbia recently described two rulings that have given the green light “for companies to track employees through cellphones and GPS navigation devices in vehicles”. While the issue makes its way across Canada’s provincial legislatures, advocates in the US are quick to cite The Fourth Amendment (protection from “unreasonable searches and seizures”) in defence of employee privacy violations by electronic surveillance. While no US federal statute directly regulates the use of GPS tracking of employees, several US states (notably California, Connecticut, Delaware, and Texas) have adopted laws to regulate electronic employee surveillance, and further changes are afoot in other states.
Why Track Employees?
From an employer vantage point, the quick answer to GPS fleet tracking might be, “Why not? I’ve hired them, they’re driving company vehicles, so I’m entitled to know where they are and what they’re doing, right?” True, but there are also a host of other reasons that make even more sense for tracking employees and assets, especially when they’re on the road.
Safety: As someone responsible for mobile workers, you are at risk whenever they work alone. Research proves that reduced idling, reduced driving speeds, and tracking employee driver behavior through GPS connected telematics helps you identify unsafe driving habits and make corrections. Further, if an employee runs into trouble on the road, GPS tracking can help you save their life.
Productivity: With ever-rising fuel costs, fuel economy is critical to reducing fleet expenses. Our customers continue to report that GPS fleet tracking has substantially improved their productivity through optimized routing, improved customer service, reduced material usage, and improved third-party billing.
Customer service: GPS fleet tracking allows you to monitor scheduled routes from start to finish, to locate mobile assets with precise accuracy, and with that the ability to redeploy vehicles as needed. Your customers will appreciate your improved ability to tell them when their deliveries will appear.
Reputation: From the perspective of your customers, your drivers are the face of your company, so fleet GPS provides you the visibility and accountability you need to know where your vehicles are and how they are performing.
Compliance: From CSA Safety regulation (automated Hours of Service) to IFTA Fuel Taxes to municipally mandated levels of service (in the case of winter operations), a fleet GPS tracking system allows you to comply with a wide range of regulations .
Those are just some of the benefits for you as a company owner. But what of the concerns of employee privacy? In some circles, employees view vehicle tracking as an infringement on their privacy. Here’s what you need to know to implement a fleet GPS tracking solution that doesn’t run you afoul with employee privacy:
1. Know the Regs
Know what laws affect your company. This month Jennifer L. Parent, a lawyer in Massachusetts, blogged specifically about employers monitoring employees using GPS technology. She advised, “Companies choosing to use a GPS type tracking device to monitor employees, at a minimum, should have a clear policy so that employees are aware their whereabouts may be tracked”. Read more.
2. Let them know
Many of the new employee privacy regulations that state and provincial legislators are enacting stipulate that employers must give written notice of electronic monitoring to employees prior to the implementation of a monitoring system.
3. Get their buy-in
Generally speaking, this is common sense. You can’t put a GPS Locator into an employee’s private vehicle without consent, just as you can’t monitor your employees without their knowledge. A related issue is tracking employees during their non-working hours while they’re still in possession of a GPS-enable device.
4. Be specific
There should be a legitimate business reason for tracking employees’ movements using GPS technology. GPS technology is a business solution that saves companies millions through cost reductions and work optimization. It’s not for lurking. Ensure you have clear objectives for GPS tracking.
GPS fleet tracking isn’t Big Brother if it’s used authentically to gather the business data you need to improve your operations. It’s about visibility and ultimately that visibility helps everyone do their jobs better.