Driver's perspective in a car with a GPS on the dashboard.

Tracking is one of the most effective legal forms of surveillance and counter-surveillance. It places a person in a specific place at a specific time and provides robust evidence that protects the employee as much as the employer. Employee vehicle tracking is most typically conducted on company-owned cars. Still, in cases where it is appropriate and legal, employee's may be tracked driving their own vehicles using a vehicle tracker. However, employee vehicle tracking must be done ethically and legally for the evidence to be admissible in a UK court.

Benefits of employee vehicle tracking

Tracking an employees vehicle can provide several benefits. Firstly, it enables you to monitor employee productivity and efficiency and identify areas in which process improvements can be made. For example, an employee might be taking a longer than necessary route to make a delivery. Vehicle tracking can also indirectly discourage unproductive or potentially unethical behaviour.

The fact that the employee knows his or her movements are being tracked is often enough to ensure they dont take unscheduled detours. Employee security is also increased via vehicle tracking, especially for those who might be delivering expensive merchandise or commercially sensitive material. Employees also benefit from tracking because it protects them from false allegations. With the knowledge that your employee's whereabouts at a given minute in the day can be accessed quickly and easily, you can safely vouch for them should anyone attempt to accuse them of unethical or illegal activity.

Vehicle tracking - employee rights

It's important to understand the rights of the employee when it comes to vehicle tracking. The Data Protection Act and the right to the privacy section of the Human Rights Act protect your employee. This is to prevent unwarranted snooping that breaches their reasonable expectation of privacy. There are two key things to remember when considering tracking an employee in their own vehicle; do they consent, and do they at any point have a reasonable expectation of privacy?

In most cases, consent is gained by including a clause in the employee's contract. Once they agree to have their vehicle tracked, the reasonable expectation of privacy is no longer valid. In agreeing to be tracked, they accept that the time they spend in the car is not private time. However, this only applies to office hours. An employee should have a reasonable expectation of privacy when driving their own car outside of office hours. While it may be reasonable to use out-of-hours tracking to ensure employees aren't abusing fair usage policies or mileage limits in a company car, there is no commercial or business reason to track an employee using their own car outside of office hours.

Your employee, therefore, must be able to deactivate tracking or be assured that tracking is automatically deactivated once his or her shift ends. The only potential way around limits on vehicle tracking is to explicitly explain to the employee that you plan on tracking them outside of hours and have the employee express their consent in writing. Even then, this may breach unfair employment practices legislation, and it is probable that this level of surveillance would discourage people from taking a job if offered one.

You must also remember that even if your employees consent to track, you are still bound by the Data Protection Act to take reasonable steps to ensure their privacy isn't breached. This chiefly means keeping recordings or GPS data safe and secure at all times and not sharing data or recordings with third parties unless as part of a legitimate investigation

How to track an employees vehicle

Once you've secured all the necessary permissions and agreements, tracking your employee's vehicle is relatively easy. Most vehicle trackers operate on GPS. The degree of data and the speed you can access it may vary. On some models of the tracker, for example, the Mini-Mag real time tracker, the information is instant. In contrast, on others, it is only accessible after a journey. Some trackers can keep you up-to-date by SMS too. Fitting a tracker couldn't be easier; many are magnetic and discreetly attached to any metallic car part.

To ensure that the tracker isn't removed or stolen, it's smart to attach it to the underside of the chassis or inside the wheel arch so others dont spot the device and remove it. Our guide to the laws surrounding spy equipment explains in more detail how to legally and ethically track an employee driving a car.