For many service companies, large and small, vehicle tracking has become part of everyday life – most field service management programs incorporate GPS tracking to some degree, while more advanced programs such as Fleetmatics or FourKites are utilized by both service franchises and logistics fleets to monitor driver location, speed, braking, fuel economy, and more. Even at the consumer level, outside of the service industry, GPS tracking programs have become part of life – Google storing locations of Android users; buses using tracking to notify smartphone users of estimated arrival and even onboard to announce the next stop.
In some cases, there is resistance to tracking programs by both field technicians and business owners – field technicians feeling like the use of tracking is a sign of distrust and micromanagement; business owners believing that tracking isn’t required because they trust their team. In a world where privacy is being constantly eroded and consumers feel that they have almost nothing in the way of privacy in the digital world, this attitude is justified – to some extent.
However, GPS tracking doesn’t have to be tied to the idea of micromanagement – the uses and importance of tracking is far more robust than simply a tool that untrusting business owners could use to monitor their employees. There are several key reasons for the use of tracking that are entirely unrelated to simply know where an employee or truck is.
Safety of Employees
A service business faces some unique challenges that a storefront does not – one of which being that your employees are field technicians, traveling to customer sites, oftentimes alone or maybe with one other person. In a standard retail establishment, a business has cameras, alarms, and other security measures in place – not the case with a work van out on the road.
While we don’t generally think of plumbers, cleaners, or pest control men as a target for robbery and abuse – in fact, many homeowners are concerned about being the target themselves – doesn’t mean that it’s an impossible conclusion. There are countless stories of plumbing trucks being robbed, maids being attacked, and more.
These stories are rarities – but they are a reality, and a fleet management or field service program containing GPS tracking can help to provide employees with some level of safety. Dispatchers can look to see if a vehicle has gone off its route, or if a vehicle is no longer progressing as it should be – potentially a sign that something has gone awry at the job site, and signaling them to check in. While these situations are rare, they can provide insight that helps to keep employees safe.
Accountability and Customer Complaints
In any business, there are great customers to work with, and others who look to be malicious and get 'free work' or paint a company in a poor light even when work is completed correctly. For most service businesses; they’ve dealt with at least a handful of customers who look to make false claims to obtain free services.
Tracking systems, along with work order management software; allow business owners to negotiate these types of attacks by providing proof of the technician’s location and the work being completed. With a tracking system in place, consumers can not claim ‘the technician never showed’ – between location tracking and work order management; business owners have physical proof that the work was in fact completed and payment becomes due.
Tracking capabilities also protect employees from unscrupulous colleagues who make false claims against them. By having the tracking records from their device or vehicle, employees can refute claims from malicious co-workers or managers who claim they were not at a customer location.
According to United Kingdom law, a vehicle is considered a workplace when being used to perform business functions – be that in a company vehicle or a personal vehicle; in either scenario, the UK recognizes the car with the technician driving it as a workplace and property of the employer. To this extent, directors and business owners can be held liable for road accidents and labor violations that occur while the employee is driving a vehicle for work purposes. Companies are required to have a ‘driving at work’ policy in place and vehicles must meet certain roadworthiness requirements to be in use. Tracking capability provides these business owners with some level of insight into vehicle usage, allowing them to avoid violations of the law.
The United States and Canada do not have laws expressly written in the same language, and most of these requirements are left to local authorities. However, in many cases, the same duty of care carries over – employees using a vehicle for work, that vehicle is considered a workplace, and the company could potentially be summoned for violations of law.
GPS tracking provides both employees and employers a level of legal documentation that can be used in a court of law to prove speed, route, etc. – the same as with dealing with customers, these records can show where the technician was, estimate how fast they are moving at the time of incident, and more.
While GPS tracking programs are viewed by some as a form of micromanagement – and it can be used in that manner – there are many benefits to it more valuable than simply monitoring employees to ensure they are at the right location.
For business owners concerned about coming off as micromanagers, or who face employee resistance to implementing these programs – it’s key to focus on the benefits beyond ‘micromanagement’. Tracking programs help your employees be safer in the field, provides proof against false accusations from malicious parties, and helps to avoid legal trouble if an accident does occur – all key considerations that can save both employees and business owners from frustrations down the line.
Many business owners and field technicians are resistant to GPS tracking – concerned that tracking is a form of micromanagement. However, tracking provides some important safety and accountability measures for field service companies