Operators warned against reliance on GPS systems

Rand Logistics ordered to pay $29k for sacking driver based on GPS data, after doubts raised over device's reliability

Operators warned against reliance on GPS systems
Operators warned against reliance on GPS systems
By Brad Gardner December 4 | 2009

Trucking operators that sack speeding drivers based on GPS data may face hefty payouts after doubts were raised over the reliability of the technology.

In an unfair dismissal case involving Rand Refrigerated Logistics, the Australian Industrial Relations Commission ruled driver Glenn Gervasoni should not have been sacked because the company’s GPS system, developed by CoolTrax, was flawed.

Commission Wayne Blair says the data showed the driver speeding down a NSW domestic street at 114.6km/h and in another instance travelling 123.7km/h on a road with a sharp right hand turn.

"In viewing the Google map the Tribunal is convinced it is absolutely absurd to assert that on such a street a vehicle weighing approximately 40 tonnes…would be travelling at a speed of 123.7km/h. And then, within a matter of minutes, appear back on the Hume Highway at Tarcutta doing a speed of 25.7km/h," Blair says.

"The Tribunal is therefore of the view that the applicant should have been given the benefit of the doubt, given the information provided by the CoolTrax system is not totally reliable."

Rand was ordered to pay $29,484.04 to Gervasoni, who had acknowledged he had sped but not to the extent identified by the operator.

Gervasoni claimed the company targeted him because he suffered medical conditions, but Blair dismissed the allegation as unfounded.

The AIRC also ruled companies do not need to gain consent from drivers if they want to install GPS devices in their vehicles.

During the case, Gervasoni objected to the use of the device because he was not told it was attached to the vehicle’s trailer.

However, representatives for Rand argued the company was not obliged to inform the driver because the CoolTrax system was not a tracking device.

The AIRC upheld the operator’s claim by ruling the GPS was not bound by Surveillance Devices Act because its primary function was to monitor the temperature of the freight.

"The primary purpose of the CoolTrax system is not to determine the geographical location of a person or an object. However, if it can determine the geographical location of a person or an object this is purely incidental to its primary purpose," Blair says.

Because of this, Blair also rejected an argument from Gervasoni that Rand should not be able to use the GPS data as evidence.

"Having determined that the CoolTrax system is not a tracking device as defined under the Surveillance Device Act 1999, the information that has been gleaned from the CoolTrax system as part of this matter will be deemed to be admissible as evidence by the Tribunal," Blair says.

Rand told the AIRC its actions were consistent with its responsibilities under chain of responsibility laws, which require all parties in the supply chain to manage speed.

Earlier this year, the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) argued for the Intelligent Access Program (IAP) to be used to monitor speed and fatigue because commercial systems did not have "high levels of reliability, data quality and tamper evidence".

The department made the comments in its submission to the National Transport Commission’s policy paper on electronic work diaries.

However, the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) says operators should be able to use their existing systems.

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