GPS Tracking Laws by State

July 26, 2021 Published by

Peace of mind is a priceless commodity. GPS tracking systems can give you the calm assurance that you track your fleet at all times, and you can be almost instantly available to assist your operators.

But peace of mind isn’t all trucking companies gain from their GPS tracking systems. Since 1998, GPS tracking systems by GPS technologies have saved our customers millions of dollars. GPS data both prevents theft and aids in recovery. GPS data powers telematics that help you keep tabs on your drivers and their rigs, so you can anticipate and take care of problems before they interfere with on-time delivery.

But is it always legal to put GPS in your vehicles? In all 50 states?

The answer is “usually.”

GPS units have to be properly mounted. Every state mandates that drivers must have a clear view while they are driving. States require that a GPS device must be mounted either:

  • Within a 5-inch square in the lower left corner of the driver’s side windshield, or
  • Within a 7-inch square in the lower right corner of the passenger’s side windshield.

GPS units must be used in a way that does not distract the driver operating your vehicle. It’s not likely, but it’s possible for your driver to get a ticket for using a GPS unit while driving. Operators need to study their routes and program their devices before they start a run.

It’s also possible, if not likely, that operating a GPS unit while driving could lead to a crash.

Why take the chance? Make a policy on how drivers can use GPS to protect them and to limit your liability in the event of an accident.

When you get your fleet GPS through GPS Technologies, we’ll take care of the details of mounting. But is it legal for you to install GPS at all?

Although laws have different wording from state to state, here’s the bottom line:

  • It’s always legal to put GPS in a vehicle that you own that you drive for yourself.
  • It’s always legal to put GPS in a fleet vehicle you own that is driven by an employee.
  • It’s usually legal to put GPS in a fleet vehicle you own that is driven by a contractor.
  • And it’s almost never legal to track some other company’s vehicle with your GPS unit (and we won’t install it for you on someone else’s rig even if you wanted us to).

Most fleet managers will have some issues with the third rule, usually legal to put GPS in your fleet vehicle driven by a contractor.

There’s a simple way to head off complications resulting from using tracking devices put in vehicles operated by contractors. Inform drivers of the existence of GPS devices (they’ll see them) and telematics connections (that is, tell them you are monitoring their driving) as a condition of their service. Make the use of GPS an explicit part of their contract.

It’s not like they won’t notice the GPS unit in the windshield. Where there could be a misunderstanding is over factory-installed telematics systems. Be upfront about them. They shouldn’t be an issue, but keep them from becoming an issue by having a written and signed understanding about them.

What can go wrong when an employee drives your vehicle with GPS installed?

An argument can be made that you don’t have a right to track your employee’s movements when they aren’t being paid for their work. You have a right to expect your drivers to have a blood alcohol of 0.0%, but you don’t have a right to track them after hours to find out whether they visited a liquor store. You have a right to expect your employees to uphold your company image while they are in the rig and on the road, but you don’t have a right to track them to a strip club.

The National Labor Relations Act gives employees a right to meet to discuss forming a union and taking actions to assert their legal rights as employees. However, it does not give them a right to use your rig to drive to the meeting.

Of course, you can always tell your employees where and how they will park your vehicle at the end of their shift. And if you do that, you have the legal right to use GPS to make sure they comply.

What about installing GPS on vehicles you don’t own?

There are situations in which it is legal to install a tracking device on the outside of a vehicle you don’t own to get information you could get by following the vehicle. But doing this can also be evidence of stalking, which carries a stiff criminal penalty. We advise against this.

GPS tracking has become an essential tool of fleet management. You need GPS to keep tabs on your assets and your cargo. You need GPS to deter theft.

You need GPS to confirm hiring decisions, and to be able to help your employees when emergencies arise. You need GPS to help you schedule last-minute changes in delivery destinations and fastest, safest routes.

Our advice is to be frank with your employees about where, what, and why you are tracking them and your vehicle. We’re not lawyers, and we don’t give legal advice, but we can install your GPS units and monitoring in ways that meet all state and federal laws and regulations. Your choice of drivers will take care of the rest.

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This post was written by Malcolm Rosenfeld

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