Telematics: The law and you

Legal concerns and a lack of resources are becoming major reasons why fleets decide against implementing telematics systems: if the data shows they have a driver who regularly speeds, they feel they do not have the time to act on the results.

Consequently, if that driver had an accident and the police analyse the telematics data, the fleet would be held culpable for effectively permitting such driving behaviour.

We’d rather not know what we don’t know,” says one fleet manager who asked not to be named.

But is this the right view to take? Do the positive benefits of telematics outweigh any negatives, such as an increase in the administrative burdens?

Certainly telematics is gaining ground in the fleet market with more than half of businesses questioned in a recent survey by Sewells Research & Insight saying they were considering telematics for some of their vehicles or had already taken action.

However, they also admitted that they were unlikely to make a quick decision over investment in telematics because they had to weigh up the pros and cons, particularly from a legal perspective.

The positive elements of vehicle tracking are compelling, with fleets able to monitor vehicle mileage and performance quickly and in great detail.

Fleets report immediate savings through reduced mileage, fuel use and accidents, either because drivers are more careful or because the business can review vehicle use and plan more effectively.

This can lead to fleet downsizing or simply improving company profitability as less money is spent on transport.

Telematics can also play an important role in defending fleets and their drivers.

As insurance scams become more common, including ‘crash for cash’ incidents, telematics is being highlighted as the way forward in countering bogus insurance claims.

If a driver suffers a collision with a road user making false insurance claims, the tracking system can alert the fleet manager instantly and supply them with the necessary data to counter any fraudulent allegations.

However, what concerns companies is the difficulties involved in introducing systems and the light it may shine upon serious issues in the fleet of which the business had been blissfully unaware.

Drivers and unions have to be persuaded to support the introduction of the systems and a wealth of legal issues have to be considered, such as employee contracts, data protection and even human rights legislation.

When data does start being produced, there is also the challenge of how to interpret it and how to use it, with some companies reporting that extra staff have been employed just to handle it.