Remote immobilisers or GPS immobilisers, when used on company vehicles, are an excellent way of preventing your vehicles being stolen or, if they have been stolen, to prevent them getting too far away.
Currently, there are no regulations or even guidelines from WorkSafe, Police, the Ministry of Transport or the NZ Transport Agency for the use of immobilisers which can disable a vehicle remotely. Without any guidelines, this is a massive health and safety risk for which the company could be liable.
The potential ramifications if an employer disables a legitimate employee’s vehicle while they are driving are:
- If the immobiliser also cuts power to the steering and brakes, a serious accident could occur, especially if it’s on a 100km/h road as the vehicle will be uncontrollable
- If the immobiliser is activated when the vehicle is pulling across traffic, it could be stranded in a lane, facing down oncoming traffic that may not have time to stop
- If the immobiliser is activated when the driver is in a remote area and they are stranded, forcing them to walk a considerable distance to safety, all kinds of accidents or incidents could occur
- If the immobiliser is activated and there are goods in the vehicle that a legitimate driver can’t carry on their person, there’s a risk that those goods might be stolen while the driver goes for help.
The only time an immobiliser should be activated is if the vehicle is stationary or if Police advise you to in order to bring a chase or other dangerous scenario to an end.
If the immobiliser is activated and someone dies or is injured, the person who activated it, as well as officers of the PCBU, could be prosecuted under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. If a person died, then it may result in a manslaughter charge.
An employer has a multitude of other remedies and tools available to discipline employees who do something wrong behind the wheel. If using a GPS-based tracker there will be evidence of whatever transgressions the driver has made.
Guidelines for immobilisers for company vehicles in New Zealand
- All vehicles should be fitted with an immobiliser (modern vehicles are)
- A remote immobiliser with GPS tracking is a good failsafe if you have vehicles which are at high risk of theft
- Vehicles should never be immobilised while moving unless instructed by police – all employees with the ability to do this must understand the implications of this
- Immobilisers should ideally be wired to the starter motor (this prevents them from being immobilised on the move, just not able to be restarted)
- If vehicles are part of a pool, there should be a robust booking system so that the person in control of the GPS knows who is driving the vehicle.