UK Vehicle Tracking Laws, Privacy Policies and Data Protection

By Julia Watts | Content Manager | Updated: 10 May 2021

Whether by camera or cookie, our behaviour is monitored more today than ever before. Handling employees’ personal data correctly is vital, and that includes information about their journeys

In 2021, there may be as many as 5.2 million security cameras operating across the UK. In fact, there's now one camera for every 13 people.

If that figure makes you feel a bit uneasy, you're not alone. Nobody likes to feel as though Big Brother is watching them, even if Big Brother is also paying them a wage.

What we mean by this is that, while having an effective vehicle tracking strategy in place is a must for any fleet business, it's important to respect your drivers' privacy, and abide by the laws that dictate what you can and can't track. There's also GDPR legislation to contend with.

So, what are these all important vehicle tracking laws? Read on, and we'll explain everything you need to know.

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Vehicle tracking laws: what's legal, and what's not?

The first thing to understand is that there are no laws that relate specifically to commercial vehicle tracking. What you do need to abide by, though, is what UK law says about using GPS technology for surveillance.

This law says two important things:

Firstly, the information that GPS tracking devices can gather about your employees is considered personal data. Therefore, this data must be dealt with in accordance with the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). We'll explain this in more depth later in this article.

Secondly, it is legal to use GPS technology to track employees and assets (in this case, your vehicles) if:

  1. Your employees know when they are being tracked
  2. Your employees have given their consent to being tracked
  3. You only track your employees during their working hours

Let’s put this in context by exploring the legality of the following scenarios:

Tracking activityLegalIllegalAdditional info
Tracking business vehicles with employee consentVehicles that are company property may be tracked for the benefit of the company
Tracking business vehicles that are also used by your employees privatelyThe tracker must have a privacy button or other option to ensure privacy outside of business hours
Tracking business vehicles without the knowledge of your employeesEmployees must be aware of, and consent to, the vehicle they drive being tracked
Tracking business vehicles using covert tracking devicesYou can use a covert tracker to track a vehicle, but the employee must be aware of this

In this short video, Derek Ryan from Verizon Connect (formerly Fleetmatics) discusses the use of privacy buttons, and how society’s attitude to ‘privacy’ is shifting

How to legally track your business vehicles

Tracking business vehicles (with the consent of the employees driving them) is not only legal, it makes complete business sense. Telematics tracking can monitor the quality of driving, fuel consumption, and can map out the fastest route for your drivers. It makes a business more agile, more efficient, more organised – and it can lower your insurance premium, too.

1. Write a vehicle tracking policy and get your drivers' consent

Tracking business vehicles without the knowledge of your drivers is illegal. The data collected with a vehicle tracker counts as private data, and GDPR legislation states that this can’t be collected and used without permission.

So, the first thing to do is write up a clear GPS tracking policy, share it with all of your drivers, and obtain their consent to go ahead with your vehicle tracking plan.

Your GPS tracking policy should set out:

  • The reasons you are going to track your vehicles
  • The data you will collect from your vehicles
  • How and when that data will be collected
  • How you plan to use this data for the benefit of the business
  • How you will safeguard this data
  • Any disciplinary action you will take if a driver removes or disables a tracking device without your knowledge or permission
Did You Know?

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, your company has a responsibility to protect the safety and wellbeing of the drivers who work for you. By helping you to spot and rectify dangerous driving, and quickly recover vehicles and their drivers after road traffic accidents, vehicle tracking systems can be a big help in complying with this legislation.

2. Find the right vehicle tracking system for your fleet

If the vehicles you want to track are only used by your employees during business hours, to complete business journeys, then any highly-rated vehicle tracking system should be able to suit your needs.

Vehicle tracking systems for private vehicles

If your vehicles are also used by your employees for private use, however, you'll need to install a vehicle tracking system with particular privacy settings.

Say your employee has a company car that they are also allowed to use as their personal car. You want to be able to track them during the working day, but not when they’re on their own time.

In cases like these, your vehicle tracking devices should have at least one of the following features:

  • A privacy button that your drivers can press when they go off duty, telling the tracker to stop sending private data to your system.
  • The ability to be disabled remotely by you when a driver clocks off.
  • A timer that automatically disables the tracker at a set time or location.

Such functionalities enable your employees to go into privacy mode whenever they're not working, so they can enjoy the peace of mind of being ‘off-grid' (kind of like James Bond’s invisible Aston Martin, but not quite as cool), while you can enjoy knowing that you aren't invading anyone's privacy and breaking the law.

Here are some vehicle trackers that have privacy buttons:

SupplierButton locationInfo hiddenInfo shown
Masternautdashboard• location
• speed
• journey times
• journey duration
Road Angeldashboard• location• mileage
• date
• time
Navmandashboard• location
• journey information
• mileage
Tracker UKdashboardn/an/a

Covert vehicle tracking systems

Covert trackers attach to the underside of the vehicle, so are not obvious to anyone driving it. They’re mainly used as a security measure, the logic being that a potential thief won’t be able to spot and disable it.

Covert trackers won’t be obvious to your employees. That’s why it’s especially important to let them know that they're there, and to get their consent.

Vehicle tracking laws for HGV drivers

The laws around vehicle tracking remain the same whether your employees are making short trips across town in cars, or long-haul journeys across the country in HGVs.

However, if you manage long-haul drivers, you'll need to be aware of the additional laws that apply to their journeys – namely the UK driving hours limits that are designed to keep your drivers safe from the risks that come with fatigue. These state that your drivers must:

  • Take a 45-minute break every four and a half hours
  • Not drive for longer than nine hours a day
  • Have an unbroken rest period of 45 hours each week, or 24 hours every other week

Alongside other rules.

To make sure your company is abiding by these laws, you're legally required to fit your HGVs with tachographs, which track the amount of time your drivers spend driving in a single stretch.

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GDPR and vehicle tracking: how to handle tracked data

What changed for fleet managers back in 2018, when the Data Protection Act 1998 was replaced with the GDPR? The short answer is not a lot.

However, it's important to understand that the public nature of the GDPR's inception led people to be more aware than ever of their personal data, and the obligation that businesses have to protect the data that they have access to.

As well as obtaining your drivers' consent to having their vehicles tracked, to abide by the GDPR you also need to:

1. Only collect the data that you need to monitor for business purposes

There's a dazzling variety of data that can fit this bill. For example, tracking your vehicles' locations enables you to track your drivers' progress on jobs, give your customers accurate ETAs and updates, and recover any vehicles that break down or are stolen – the business justification for this is obvious.

As an example from the less obvious end of the spectrum, you also have a business interest in monitoring your employees' driving behaviour (for example, how often they speed, or brake too harshly). This is because calling out and stopping unsafe behaviour protects your business' reputation and your vehicles' conditions, and keeps the fuel you pay for unwasted, ultimately helping you to manage a range of costs.

Handily, a legitimate vehicle tracking system will not enable you to track anything that might be considered illegal. The responsibility you have is to ensure that you're not collecting needless data from your drivers while they're off duty.

2. Carefully safeguard the data that you collect

Make sure that the data your vehicle tracking system collects can only be seen and processed by users who have a legitimate reason to do so – for example, a back office fleet manager whose job description depends on it, or a driver whose performance you're appraising.

Do not allow any unauthorised person to process the data that's been collected and stored by your tracking system.

Your vehicle tracking portal and dashboards should be password protected. Ensure that only the right people are granted access to the system, and that they don't share any log in details with anyone else.

Under the GDPR, you must keep any data you hold about your employees as accurate and up-to-date as possible. Your employees also have the right to know what data you have collected about them.

Did You Know?

Your vehicle tracking system supplier will have a wealth of knowledge about the legal side of vehicle tracking. If you're ever unsure about how to use your system legally, your supplier will certainly be able to advise you, so don't be afraid to reach out and ask.

You can also run any questions you have by your business' HR or legal team, if you have one. That's what they're there for!

Next steps: what vehicle tracker should I get?

Now you’re completely clued up on vehicle tracking laws, it’s time to choose the right vehicle tracking system for the job. Check out our research into the top five vehicle tracking suppliers for UK businesses, or read our guide to how much vehicle tracking systems cost.

Short on time? The quickest and easiest way to find the best system for you is to have suppliers get in touch with you directly. Our free quote-finding service can help you there. You'll just answer a few quick questions about your fleet, and we'll match you up with leading system suppliers that can cater to your unique needs. They'll then be in touch directly with a friendly ear to answer your questions, as well as no-obligation quotes that are tailored to you. This service is quick, easy, and totally free – why not give it a go?

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Julia Watts Content Manager

Specializing in the complex realms of telephone systems, business energy, vehicle tracking, asset tracking, and fuel cards, Julia writes content that cuts through the noise to help you find the right solutions and technologies for your business. Having spent five years working across the dynamic world of entrepreneurship, she loves helping exciting ventures – big or small – to flourish.

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