California’s New Fleet Tracking Laws Aim to Guard Driver Privacy

Civil penalties may be $250 for a first violation, and rise to $1,000 per affected employee for each additional violation.

California's new vehicle tracking regulations are set to roll out across the next year, ushering in a set of laws aimed at enhancing privacy protections for the drivers of trucking fleets operating within the US state.

The new law, designated as Assembly Bill No. 984, will add a handful of guidelines surrounding technology that monitors drivers' activity.

And since “monitoring activity” describes how almost all major fleet management system hardware works, any fleets operating out of California will need to double-check what type of data they're collecting.

That said, there's no huge rush: The bill gives everyone up until January 1, 2024, to ensure that their monitoring devices are up to par.

How Does This Change Fleet Activity Monitoring?

Governor Gavin Newsom signed the bill into law back in September amid a wider push for privacy protections. In general, it's okay to use an electronic tracking device only when the vehicle owner being tracked has consented.

When it comes to fleets, the new law is intended to add further restrictions. First, the employer can't use a device unless it is during work hours. Second, it can only be used if “strictly necessary for the performance of the employee's duties.”

Violate these rules, and your fleet will be hit with civil penalties. In addition, the law covers any potential for an employer to retaliate against any employees who push back against unlawful use of tracking devices, as the summary explains:

“The bill would also prohibit retaliation against an employee by an employer or a person acting on the employer’s behalf for disabling an alternative device’s monitoring capabilities outside of work hours, and would authorize an employee to file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner for a violation of that prohibition.”

Employers will need to notify employees about exactly what type of activities will be monitored and what data will be gathered as a result, including dates, times, and frequency of data collection, and how long the data will be kept.

How Could I Be Fined for Vehicle Tracking?

Civil penalties may be $250 for a first violation, and might be $1,000 per affected employee for each additional violation. But what data is “strictly necessary” data to collect? That part isn't currently defined.

For years, the more expensive dash cams have been able to use AI and facial recognition tools to check up on who's driving a truck and whether they're taking the proper safety precautions such as buckling their seat belt before starting up a vehicle.

Under the new bill, it seems likely that these types of panopticon-esque tools will be considered too much. But until the government issues a few examples of what's allowed and what isn't, we won't know for sure. The legal wording is simply too vague at the moment.

Staying Safe While on the Go

The California bill covers plenty of additional ins and outs on what drivers can do, but most elements under scrutiny aren't exactly surprising: If a driver is found to have falsified or forged a “disabled person placard” or a clean air sticker, they'll be fined and could be imprisoned in some cases. You (hopefully) don't need to be told to cease and desist any forging of documents.

As always, we'd recommend staying in touch with your local fleets and verifying with them what they've learned about how best to stay on the good side of these new regulations.

But one thing's for sure: You can still use a top fleet management system, even if some of the more extreme data-collection features aren't for your fleet. At Tech.co, we've done the research and ranked the best FMS options over here, with industry giants including Verizon Connect and Samsara leading the pack.

And if picking out the right dash cam is a challenge you'll be tackling ahead of 2024, we've listed which dash cam features and prices might be the optimal ones for your fleet as well.

Written by:

Adam is a writer at Tech.co and has worked as a tech writer, blogger and copy editor for more than a decade. He was a Forbes Contributor on the publishing industry, for which he was named a Digital Book World 2018 award finalist. His work has appeared in publications including Popular Mechanics and IDG Connect, and he has an art history book on 1970s sci-fi out from Abrams Books in 2023. In the meantime, he's hunting down the latest news on VPNs, POS systems, and the future of tech.

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