A Comprehensive Guide to Fleet Tracking Systems


Chapter 12

There are two sides to every story, and fleet management is not an exception. Some quarters say that fleet management is a great deterrent to crime and could have lasting good effects on the business. But others say that it is an invasion of privacy and could be illegal.

Is it legal? The short answer is yes. The long answer is it is legal, but it is not always the case. The best way to find out is to know the laws of the places where you operate and see if your plans and strategies fall within the boundaries of laws. The problem is that different jurisdictions have their own version of what is legal and what is not. For instance, in the United States, the fleet management and tracking devices laws differ from state to state.

So what should you know about the laws concerning the usage, applications, installations and anything that has to do with your fleet tracking systems?


1. United States Laws


Different states in the United States have their own rules, but a good majority allows employers to track their fleet during business hours. That is, provided that the company owns the vehicles that they track and that the operator, driver or employee affected by fleet tracking would be informed about the fact. That goes beyond the business. It is generally legal for anyone who owns a vehicle to install a tracking device on his or her cars.

If you do track a vehicle that you do not own, or lease your vehicle to another person and then use your tracking device to see their movements, then it becomes illegal. The punishment varies from state to state. In Texas, such an act is considered a misdemeanor and could earn you a year’s jail time. In California, an individual guilty of inappropriate tracking would get a maximum of six months in jail, while businesses lose their license. For most other states, illegal tracking could earn you a significant amount of jail time.

As fleet management laws and regulations differ from state to state, here are the important differences: California requires you to inform any person you are tracking and get their consent, or else it is a misdemeanor. Connecticut prohibits monitoring employees without their knowledge.

On the other end of the spectrum, a New York court allowed an employer to track an employee’s private vehicle because the employee has already been disciplined for lying on his time sheets. A New Jersey court ruled that using GPS tracking devices, even covertly, is legal because you are driving on public roads, where you would have a diminished expectation for your privacy.

As with any new technology, the laws are still being figured out. One case differs from another, and what might be legal in one jurisdiction might be illegal in another.

Compliance with DOT regulations

The US Department of Transportation has issued guidelines on how interstate carriers are to be tracked. Under the CSA 2010, fleet manager must provide:

  • A list of all the violations that have been detected during inspections.
  • State-supplied crash reports.
  • The reports for all violations as identified by federal or state investigators.

Congress has also mandated that all fleet management systems should have electronic on-board recording (EOBR) devices in all vehicles. These devices should be duly certified by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Advisor and should be able to log a record of duty status and send this to the authorities concerned.

Another item in the EOBR report the number of hours that drivers have worked, which should not go beyond 14 hours without taking a 10-hour break after each shift. Drivers are also not allowed to drive more than 70 hours in an eight-day period.

All of these requirements can easily be met with the right fleet management systems.

European-Union-64 2. European Laws


In Europe, countries generally follow the same line of reasoning when considering which types of fleet tracking is illegal and which ones are well within the law. For instance, in the United Kingdom, it is legal to track business vehicles owned by the company and employees should be made aware that they are being tracked and that they should give express consent for it. If you were tracking business vehicles that are also for private use, you would need to install a privacy button on the vehicle to ensure that the driver’s privacy is protected when the vehicle is used outside business hours. Covert tracking is only used for locating vehicles and the employee in charge of that vehicle should know that the tracker is there.

And in under no circumstances it is legal to track an employee.

In the European Union, however, there are two other laws that you should know about. One is the EU Drivers Hours and Tachograph Law. This law states that all business vehicles should obey driver hours regulations and have their vehicles fitted with a tachograph if these vehicles weigh more than 3,500 kilograms. This means that you would be able to log engine speed over a period of time even if you have no plans of tracking that vehicle.

Speaking of hours of service, a driver in the EU operating a vehicle that weigh at least 12 tons is only allowed to drive nine hours a day or 56 hours in a week, and they need to take a 45 minute break after 4.5 hours of work, and they need to rest for 11 hours every day.

Another law that fleet managers in Europe need to take note of is the European Union Data Protection Directive, which governs the transfer of identifiable data. This means data that identifies an employee by name, ID number or any other means. In such a case, affected employees would need to be informed about the data being collected and who will be able to access it, and for what purposes. This is especially cumbersome to global fleets, because the EU directive prohibits the transfer of data of European citizens to any third party company, fleet management service providers included.

3. Other Major Market Laws

The same principles also apply in other markets. That means that it is generally legal for you to track your company’s vehicles no matter where you are in the world, but you can only track vehicles that you own during business hours. And that you also cannot track individuals, such as your employees.

You should take measures to ensure that individual privacy is upheld. In Australia, for example, workplace surveillance acts from different states requires an employer to give a written notice to employees 14 days in advance if fleet tracking devices are going to be installed into the vehicles they operate. The written notice should include the following information:

  • What type of surveillance is going to be done?
  • Why fleet tracking is being done (such as monitoring driver behavior, vehicle speed and employee productivity)?
  • When the fleet tracking devices would be installed and when the company will start using it?
  • How long would the data be collected, as well as how long it will be stored?

On top of the written notice, the vehicle that is being tracked should have a clear notice on board, which states that it is being tracked.

If you do not do all of these, you might be taken to court for covert surveillance. And that is a criminal offense. A landmark case in Australia involved telco giant Telstra, which was sued after it installed tracking devices on 7,000 technician cars without their consent. What’s more, the telco was also accused of pressuring employees to give their consents to the tracking devices by making the consent a condition for their hiring. The move allegedly drove Telstra technician of more than three decades, Leon Dousset, to commit suicide, according to family and friends.

India’s government has also mandated that radio frequency identification tags or RFID tags are to be placed on medium-sized to heavy motor vehicles. RFID tags are primarily used for electronic toll collection, but it could be used by the government to track any vehicles, even without the consent of the vehicle’s owner. The mandate also circumvents an existing privacy law in the country that allows people to opt out from providing personal information. By requiring vehicles that fall under the category of medium to heavy vehicles to install RFID tags, there is no chance for the owners to opt out from providing personal information. The government also has plans to use GPS based devices that limit a vehicle’s speed so that all cars on the road stay under the speed limits.

So overall, the basic rule of legally tracking your fleet is that, you track the vehicles, not the employees. And you can only track the vehicles that you do own. And when you do track, you should inform your employees about it and they should consent to such activity. It would help to list out the benefits of fleet tracking to your business and downplay any concerns about spying and using the collected data to take actions against them.