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Location of company vehicles – ensuring security or crossing the line?

>We live in times when information has become the most valuable currency. Web applications collect data on our behaviour and preferences in real time. Many companies rely on digitization and data analysis to optimize business processes. This also applies to fleet management systems, where vehicle locators open up new opportunities for enterprises. Where is the line between employee privacy and company car security? Let’s explore this question further.

What is a vehicle locator?

A vehicle locator is an electronic device that uses GPS, GSM or radio satellite technology to determine the location of a given vehicle. Today’s locators are often connected to mobile device apps or desktop software, which allows for real-time monitoring of vehicle movement. Vehicle locators are not only used to track the current location of the car. They often also have other functions similar to tachometers, such as collecting data on driving speed, downtime or fuel consumption.

Types of vehicle locators

Vehicle locators available on the market are divided into three basic types:
• GPS locators – these devices use the global satellite navigation system to precisely track the location of the car. Thanks to this technology, the company can monitor every movement of its vehicle, regardless of where it is in the world.
• GSM locators – operate based on the cellular network, locating the vehicle by triangulating the signal. Even though they may be less precise than GPS, they are an excellent solution if the satellite signal is weak.
• Radio locators – focused on local areas, they are perfect for confined spaces, such as warehouses or storage yards.

Locating a car using any of the abovementioned technologies is not perfect and has some limitations. GPS connectivity is not available in many places around the world. The same applies to the limited range of mobile networks. What’s more, the signal is affected by external factors, such as weather conditions or signal jammers.

Advantages of using locators in company vehicles

  1. Increased security. Locating the car allows for a quick intervention in case of an accident or theft. The company can track the vehicle and notify the relevant authorities.
  2. Route optimization. By monitoring traffic, companies can adjust their routes in real time.
  3. Transparency towards customers. Customers nowadays like being informed about the delivery time. The locator allows you to provide accurate data about the status of the transport.
  4. Employee supervision. The employer has the ability to monitor their employee’s work and detect any irregularities.
  5. Analysis of the collected information. Vehicle locators can help optimize driving style, e.g. focus on lower fuel consumption.

    Drawbacks and controversies – locating company vehicles
  6. Invasion of privacy. There are concerns that employers may use locator data to spy on employees outside of working hours.
  7. Pressure and stress. Constant monitoring can negatively affect driver well-being, leading to feelings of being constantly under surveillance. The vehicle locator can also be treated by the employee as sign of distrust in the work they perform.
  8. No guarantees. Limited range, signal jammers and experienced thieves can make it impossible to locate a vehicle even if a locator is used.
    Legal and ethical considerations in using a car locator
    The use of locators entails some legal and ethical implications. In order for the company vehicle locator to be used in Poland, employees must be informed about the scope of monitoring and its purposes. Data from the locator should be processed in accordance with the applicable provisions on the protection of personal data. An employee using a vehicle equipped with a locator should also be informed that the data collected about their activity may be accessed at any time.

Employee tracking and ethics

From an ethical point of view, there are some dilemmas. Should an employer constantly monitor their employees? Does such control not violate privacy and create an atmosphere of distrust? On the one hand, locators can be used to protect an employee, e.g. in the event of vehicle theft. On the other hand, overuse of this technology can lead to excessive surveillance and violation of personal freedom. The key is to find a balance. Using vehicle locators is advantageous, provided that they are used while respecting employee privacy and dignity.

Where should vehicle locators be mounted?

Choosing the right place for the locator in the car is crucial. Here are a few suggestions that guarantee discretion, but at the same time the effectiveness of the device.

  • Under the dashboard. This is one of the most popular places that ensures discretion and is usually out of the driver’s sight.
  • Near the bumper. This way, the device has good access to the signal. However, make sure that the vehicle locator is not damaged in case of a collision.
  • Under the driver’s or passenger’s seat. This place ensures discretion and easy access to the device if necessary.
  • In the interior mirror housing. A less popular solution that allows you to hide the locator in the centre of the vehicle.

Where the locator is mounted in a company vehicle should be adapted to the specific vehicle model. On the one hand, the locator should be well-hidden. On the other hand, it should not interfere with the operation of other systems in the car.

The requirement to locate the vehicle in light of the SENT Act

Pursuant to the Act on the monitoring system for the carriage of goods by road and rail, carriers are required to provide current geolocation data for vehicles transporting goods covered by the SENT Act on the territory of Poland. This applies mainly to the transport of “sensitive goods” and heating fuels. The key element of this process is the geolocation locator. The required location data includes, but is not limited to, the vehicle’s geographical coordinates, speed, date and time of obtaining the coordinates, azimuth, error in the transmission of satellite data and the number of the locator or external location system. Drivers must remember that before starting to transport goods in Poland or upon entering the territory of Poland, it is their duty to activate the locator.

Summary: Is a vehicle locator more important than employee privacy?

We live in an information age where every minute and every liter of fuel matters. Technologies such as the location of company vehicles are becoming more and more common. They introduce transparency in relations with customers, verify employee effectiveness, or even provide additional vehicle safety. Vehicle locators will become a permanent feature of all company cars in the near future. The technology itself does not raise ethical concerns however the way it is used may be problematic. It is therefore crucial to develop a system that will limit the possibility of surveilling employees outside working hours.