News Feature | May 15, 2014

Tracking Solutions For Field Service: Do Benefits Outweigh Employee Objections?

By Cheryl Knight, contributing writer

GPS Tracking Solutions Employee Objections

When companies deal with employee misconduct in the field, they increasingly turn to GPS and phone-tracking technologies. Not only do solutions like these monitor how safely a field service technician drives and at what speeds — spurring profits and improving field service safety —  they can also provide location information on field service vehicles and workers.

A recent article in the Hamilton Spectator in the port city of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, gives an example of a case for the latter use of the solutions. In that city, garbage collectors allegedly were working an average of five hours a day while earning pay for eight. The city responded quickly to this concern and installed GPS devices on all of the fleet’s trucks.

Use Of Telematics To Increase Sharply By 2019

With an increasingly mobile workforce, more businesses rely on telematics to monitor field service personnel through systems installed on their vehicles or mobile devices. According to ABI Research, by the end of 2019, the number of service vehicles equipped with telematics systems increasing to around 25 million on a global scale.

“A state-of-the-art mobile workforce management system can monitor all workers in real-time and help a company manage its operations dynamically, ensuring compliance with rules and regulations, as well as providing managers with important metrics on every worker and vehicle,” said ABI Research principal analyst Garth Owen.

Unions Push Back Against The Installation Of GPS

Your customers, however, could be facing objections to these technologies from their employees concerned that “Big Brother is watching.” Unions have taken measures to question how data collected from the devices will be used to determine employee misconduct. In 2013, Columbus, OH, fire and police unions filed a grievance over GPS tracking of vehicles. Union officials threatened to not accept any discipline as a result of newly installed GPS tracking units unless the city altered existing contracts. In early 2014, Sommerville, MA, unions vowed to file an unfair labor practices complaint if the city installed GPS devices in its vehicles.

As a solutions provider, be aware of laws, regulations, and terms of agreements with employees that pertain to your customers as you work with them to deploy solutions — and be sure that solutions are in compliance. There are federal and state laws related to monitoring with electronic devices.  For example, in Connecticut, businesses must notify workers in writing of when and where they will be monitored. You should also ask to see your customer’s electronic systems policy as you develop the solution — and if your customer doesn’t have one, suggest they seek counsel to determine if their business should.