Telematics equipment can help employers manage duty of care requirements, but might be viewed with suspicion by staff, says Curtis Hutchinson
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- Telematics is an emerging technology that can provide a plethora of management information on vehicle location and use.
- The volume of telematics data is set to grow as the technology becomes increasingly sophisticated but this needs to be carefully managed back at base.
- Telematics can play a duty-of-care role by reducing stress, and helps in monitoring driving hours and scheduling for fatigue purposes.
- HR should be involved in any plans to introduce telematics to protect employees’ rights under the Data Protection Act.
Employers are increasingly taking the decision to install telematics equipment, such as Global Positioning System (GPS) technology, across their fleet of company cars. Telematics systems generally entail the integrated use of satellite-based GPS technology and an in-car black box device which can receive and transmit information to a PC-based system back at base.
There are undoubted benefits for both employers and employees. Businesses employing staff for time-critical operations, such as mobile service engineers, chauffeuring services and deliveries, can provide drivers with precise routing information, which can also be updated according to current road conditions. While such equipment can help maximise business efficiency by reducing mileage and eliminating wasted time, it is also helping employers to manage their broader duty-of-care issues. Employees with access to telematics devices are likely to have lower stress levels. Furthermore, employers have the ability to monitor drivers’ hours and ensure that they have regular breaks, therefore reducing exposure to accidents caused by fatigue.
However, organisations using such equipment should take care to ensure that, from the employee’s perspective, it is not seen as unwelcome Big Brother-type intrusion, designed to monitor their every move.
Risk-management toolALD Automotive, the vehicle leasing and fleet management arm of the Soci™t™ G™n™rale Group, has telematics devices fitted to more than 7,500 of the cars and vans it supplies to businesses. It promotes its package as a risk-management tool which helps organisations to comply with their duty-of-care requirements by providing staff and management with accurate business mileage records.
One of ALD’s high-profile customers is the mobile phone company O2. David Gogerly, O2’s compensation and benefits manager, says the provision of telematics data has improved administration efficiencies and reduced operating costs across its 1,500-strong fleet of vehicles.
But despite the proven advantages of telematics, organisations may find themselves overwhelmed by the volume of data they have access to as the reporting functions of such systems increase.
Andy Leech, sales and marketing director at fleet software provider CFC, says: "Black box telematics has the potential to bring about levels of control over fleet operations that would have seemed like science fiction a few years ago."
This can lead to a feeling among some drivers that they are being watched, especially outside of work hours where they can still be tracked. Independent fleet consultant, Colin Tourick, says organisations need to formulate a HR policy to allay such fears. "In due course, no doubt, drivers will begin to complain about privacy issues. The Data Protection Act will become important here as it only allows organisations to hold data on individuals if they have agreed to that data being held and if they have received an explanation of its use," he says.