Telematics - A Legally Grey Area

  • Posted on: 26 May 2015
  • By: interactive

The telematics industry seems to be expanding at a rate of knots as an increasing number of us turn to technology in order to make both our businesses and our lives easier.  Modern technology is changing the ways in which we work, live and play and this is particularly true of driving.  In vehicles telematics solutions are becoming more popular with both private drivers and fleet owners as they realise the benefits to be reaped from installing vehicle tracking devices.  The benefits to private drivers come in the form of lower insurance premiums as drivers adopt safer driving techniques which lower fuel consumption as an added benefit.  For fleet owners, installing telematics products in their vehicles provides a wide array of advantages, including:

  • Reduced fuel costs
  • Reduced unauthorised vehicle use
  • Reduced vehicle maintenance costs
  • Reduced operating expenses
  • Increased productivity
  • Improved customer service
  • Improved fleet safety and security
  • Longer vehicle lifespan

For the fleet owner, installing telematics in your vehicles is essential nowadays if you want to compete on a level playing field.  However, there have been concerns raised on the legal issues involved and fleet owners often face resistance when installing telematics technology in their vehicles.  One of the main reasons for resistance is that the technology is often seen as an invasion of privacy – drivers feel that “Big Brother” is watching every move they make.  There is also the issue of trust involved here – some drivers feel that they are not being trusted to get on with the job in an efficient manner. 

Let’s take a look at some of the legal issues involved when a fleet owner decides to adopt telematics technology in order to improve business.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is responsible for the enforcement of the Data Protection Act 1998 and is also responsible for Freedom of Information.   According to the ICO, employers are obliged to notify their drivers of in-car monitoring systems if the systems are to be used for anything other than asset tracking.  Not telling the drivers that they are being monitored constitutes a breach of the Data Protection Act. 

  • Fleet owners/managers need to be au fait with what sort of information they need to collate in order to streamline their business practices as unnecessary monitoring is a breach of the Data Protection Act.
  • Employers should act on the information they collect in the manner that they have set out to their employees.
  • The information collected should be deleted once it has been used.

Telematics technology is so new that it is still a grey area in legal terms and the monitoring of employees is linked to employment legislation as well as privacy issues.  A fleet owner needs to determine what the purpose of the telematics system is – whether it’s to monitor the vehicle (asset protection or location) or to monitor driver behaviour (speed, braking, working hours, etc.).

No doubt the legal system will catch up on these issues over the coming years, but, in the meantime, any fleet owner thinking or installing a telematics system would do well to check out the Information Commissioner’s Office official website in order to make sure that they comply with current legislation.