We were asked recently if GPS tracking of company vehicles is allowed.
The workplace safety and operational needs are clear. For example, the need to know where lone workers are if anything happens, being able to confirm company vehicles comply with traffic and driver fatigue laws, and adhere to agreed safe routes.
However, concern has been expressed whether such vehicle tracking infringes other legislation, and if so which legislation takes precedence?
The challenges usually cite privacy and anti-surveillance laws as prohibiting GPS vehicle tracking in the workplace. Is this true?
So let’s have a layman’s look at these two pieces of legislation and recent case law e.g. how the courts have interpreted the law in this contentious area.
The Privacy and Data Collection Act 2014 would not apply to normal employer-employee relationships as employers reasonably need to collect and store some personal information for all employees. Also this Act only applies to the Victorian public sector, so does not apply to general industry.
The Surveillance Devices Act 1999 is primarily aimed at controlling “covert” (secret) surveillance and illegal recording of private conversations or activities.
This Act specifically allows properly approved covert surveillance by the authorities e.g. police and federal agencies. Therefore, properly disclosed (GPS or other) tracking with appropriate workplace consultation would almost certainly not be in contravention of this Act.
Recent FWC Decision on Vehicle Monitoring
The Fair Work Commission (FWC) confirmed in a decision, in July last year, that “driver monitoring systems can lawfully be installed”.
The Transport Workers Union (TWA) opposed the installation of out-ward and driver facing cameras in trucks operated by the major logistics firm TOLL, on the basis this amounted to an invasion of privacy.
The FWC acknowledged the issues on both sides including the privacy concerns, but ultimately concluded the workplace safety needs override the privacy concerns.
Implementation Tips for Vehicle Tracking:
1. Document clear objectives e.g. workplace safety, not surveillance or recording of private conversations.
2. Document a risk assessment to outline perceived risks including; business, safety and privacy, and detail how concerns will be dealt with e.g. fairness and equity.
3. Conduct consultation with all affected workers, and keep records in case challenged at a later date.
4. Provide training on implementation and operation of vehicle tracking system.
5. Display signage to ensure the monitoring is made known to all vehicle users i.e.. not covert.
The availability of technology to improve workplace safety, compliance and efficiency is growing rapidly in effectiveness and affordability. We can reasonably expect the use of GPS and camera monitoring of drivers and vehicles to become commonplace in the near future.
The current laws do not prohibit installation of GPS or other vehicle (and sometimes driver) monitoring systems for valid workplace safety reasons, if implemented correctly e.g. after appropriate consultation and prominently displayed signage to ensure the monitoring cannot be alleged to be covert.