Small Business Management

What You Need to Know About GPS Tracking Laws in Illinois

People value their privacy. As a result, laws across the country help define who can use GPS tracking and in what circumstances it is legally and ethically permissible. As a business owner, you may be considering using GPS tracking devices to monitor your fleet vehicles or employees. Before you do, you should know the right and legal way to do so. 

In the article, we summarize what business owners in Illinois need to know about using GPS tracking devices for employees and vehicles (Illinois Criminal Law ILCS 5/21-2.5) and discuss its lawful uses to optimize and scale your business. 

What are the GPS tracking Laws in Illinois?

The Illinois Vehicle Code defines an electronic tracking device as “any device attached to a vehicle that reveals its location or movement by the transmission of electronic signals.” 

Illinois law prohibits tracking individuals in most circumstances; however, an exception is made for businesses using tracking devices in fleet vehicles. 

According to Illinois law (ILCS  5/21-2.5), the legal definition of the business-use exception to this law is: 

When the vehicle is owned or leased by a business that is authorized to transact business in the State and the tracking device is used by the business for the purpose of tracking vehicles driven by employees of that business, its affiliates, or contractors of that business or its affiliates.

Another exception is when the manufacturer installs telematic services with the consent of the owner or lessee. Consent of the registered owner or lessor of the vehicle constitutes consent from any other passenger or driver. In other words, if you use built-in GPS systems from your vehicle manufacturer to track your fleet vehicle and use this telematics system for tracking your fleet, you must obtain consent from every driver of that vehicle. 

Are GPS tracking devices legal in Illinois?

Tracking devices used for personal use to track the movement of a person are illegal in Illinois. You may use GPS tracking for assets related to your business, however. 

It is also legal for a law enforcement agency in Illinois to use a GPS tracking device if a search warrant has been obtained, and for tracking vehicles owned by employees or contractors of a state agency.   

When is an electronic tracking device illegal in Illinois? 

To comply with Illinois criminal law, your business must be the registered owner of GPS devices used in your fleet vehicles. You must also inform all employees that the GPS tracker exists and what is explicitly tracking. 

The use of a tracking device to determine a person’s location (such as tracking a spouse’s whereabouts without their consent) is also illegal. That’s why lawful use of tracking assets in Illinois state follows the physical vehicles, not individuals through phones or personal GPS devices.  

Best practices for using GPS tracking apps

If you decide to use GPS tracking services to monitor your fleet vehicles, in addition to following your local rules and regulations in your region, there are some ethical and administrative best practices to consider:

  1. Disclose GPS status: While this is a legal requirement, we’ve included it here as an ethical consideration too. It’s your moral obligation to inform your employees that you are using GPS to monitor their company vehicles. You should also disclose what other tracking or telematics data you are collecting, including video feed data, vehicle speed and driving habits, and location. Remember, it’s not legal or ethical to secretly record your employees. 
  2. Track assets, not people: Ensure that your GPS devices track your assets (vehicles), not people. This means installing a GPS tracker in your vehicle (through a vehicle mount, plugged into the OBD-II port, or stored in the glovebox) rather than using personal or mobile phone trackers. 
  3. Emphasize why you’re using GPS tracking: Some employees may feel it’s a violation of their privacy to be monitored during work hours. They worry about their employer having access to sensitive information about their activities (even when they’re doing their job correctly). Be sure to communicate why you are using GPS tracking and remind them that you are tracking your assets (the vehicle) and not the person. 

In your company handbook, create a GPS policy. Use simple, clear language to outline how their activities are monitored and disclose when GPS devices are used. For example, if you allow your employees to use company vehicles for personal use, you are not legally permitted to record any GPS or telematics data outside of work hours.

Your policy should also include any repercussions for turning off, removing, or computer tampering with GPS trackers in the vehicle. 

How your business can benefit from vehicle GPS tracking devices

When you follow the legal and ethical laws surrounding GPS tracking of fleet vehicles, your business will quickly see some positive benefits by tracking your fleet vehicles. These include:

  • Providing proof of service: If a customer claims they didn’t receive your service or delivery, you can provide GPS tracking data to confirm (or deny) these claims. 
  • Monitoring driver safety: When you use an electronic tracking device, you can also monitor the safety of your drivers by getting real-time vehicle speed and alerts about aggressive driving behavior like fast acceleration or excessive braking. 
  • Monitoring vehicle safety: Some electronic tracking devices are connected through your vehicle’s OBD-II port so you can monitor vehicle alert codes to diagnose any vehicle breakdowns or equipment failures quickly. This will minimize vehicle downtime and help you better plan vehicle maintenance needs and schedules. 

A GPS device in fleet vehicles can give you a more detailed insight into your business operations and employee productivity. You can use this information to determine where you can optimize fleet operations to increase customer satisfaction, improve driver and vehicle safety, and scale your business. 

Legally track your fleet with with a GPS tracking device

Electronic tracking devices are prohibited in Illinois unless you follow the laws. Force by Mojio offers an excellent solution to track real-time location data and driver and vehicle safety information. It’s ideal for small and mid-sized fleets in Chicago and throughout Illinois to help small businesses like yours keep their employees safe, better maintain their vehicles, and scale their business by providing a better customer experience. 

If you’re curious how GPS fleet tracking can streamline your business operations, try a 30-day risk-free trial of Force today. 

Published February 10, 2022
Joni Taisey
Joni Taisey
Director of Growth Marketing
Force by Mojio