Driving at work: Using telemetry data to enforce safety standards

Tomasz Kroker was recently jailed for ten years for causing the deaths of four members of a family, including three children, under the age of 14.

Tomasz Kroker was recently jailed for ten years for causing the deaths of four members of a family, including three children, under the age of 14. Mr Kroker, a heavy goods driver, crashed into the back of the family’s car which was stationary in traffic. The cause of the crash was found to be due to Mr Kroker failing to brake in time, as he was changing music on his mobile phone immediately prior to the impact. The police have recently shared the in cab footage of the incident which showed what Mr Kroker was doing at the time. Only an hour before the incident, he had signed a declaration with his employer that he would not use his phone whilst driving.

The rise in the use of telemetry in vehicles provides employers with a better insight into what their drivers do when out on the road, when they are not able to be under direct supervision. It is not just about the use of cameras though; bus companies and many hauliers use telemetry to monitor fuel efficiency and driving behaviours to encourage safer and cheaper driving.  The development of this technology provides an insight into what drivers do in the cab as well as, subject to the equipment installed, external footage of their actions. In this case, the employer and the police were able to quickly identify the cause of the incident. However, the technology can also be used to come to the assistance of both the driver and the employer where claims are made against them for poor driving or accidents, when they are not at fault. They can then be quickly exonerated and potentially lengthy periods of suspension can be avoided.

In the event of a serious accident, your company and/or your driver could find themselves under a detailed and lengthy criminal investigation in the event of a road traffic accident, if you have no policy as to who is responsible for and how road safety is managed by those employees and senior managers within the business.

You should ensure that you have appropriate policies in place if you intend to use telemetry technology. Policies should anticipate and specify the proposed use and control of the footage, and be compliant with data protection rules and the Information Commissioners Office’s (ICO) requirements. Key to the ICO’s requirements is that the capture of data is proportionate, processed securely and for a fair reason. Proportionality is now assisted by the fact that the data is not continuously recorded and stored. Modern technology is triggered by an incident or an event (for example a crash, or harsh braking) which applies a force to the vehicle. The technology then records and retains the data captured immediately prior to and after the incident (say for 10 seconds) which can later be viewed by the employer.

It may also be necessary to agree with any recognised trade unions how you will utilise the technology prior to its use. If data captured is to be used as part of disciplinary proceedings then it is important that reference is made to this in the disciplinary policy. You will be expected to have told your employees of the standards required of them, if they are then to comply with those standards. Failing to do this can result in unfair disciplinary action.

The ongoing development of this technology is certainly a positive step to ensuring that high safety and driving standards in the work place are maintained. However, its use should be approached with caution and the appropriate application of policies to avoid potential issues.

Chris Bailey-Gibbs (chris.bailey-gibbs@weightmans.com) is a Solicitor in the Employment, Pensions and Immigration Team and is based in Leeds. Chris has extensive experience of advising employers in the transport sector on all aspects of employment law.

If you have any questions about the employment law implications of introducing a telemetry system, or making use of collected data in a disciplinary investigation, please get in touch with Chris or speak to your usual Weightmans advisor.

Our Regulatory team would also be happy to advise your organisation. If you have any questions please contact Partner Chris Green (christopher.green@weightmans.com).

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