Using GPS to track workers and vehicles is catching on with a growing number of business and government employers, bent on improving productivity and customer service, and keeping tabs on labor costs.

“If you’re not out there baby-sitting them, you don’t know how long it takes to do the route. The guy could be driving around the world, he could be at his girlfriend’s house,” said Viento of Automated Waste Disposal Inc., a commercial and household trash hauler doing business in western Connecticut and neighboring New York counties. “Now there’s literally no place for them to hide.”

Some long-haul trucking companies have used GPS to manage their fleets for several years. But the range of employers adopting GPS – usually fitted in vehicles or in cell phones and other devices workers carry on the job – is broadening, particularly among companies dispatching large numbers of service technicians, in the building trades and others whose workers span wide territory.

UPS Inc., for example, will distribute new hand-held computers to its 100,000 U.S. delivery truck drivers early next year, each equipped with a GPS receiver. The company says the feature will not be used to monitor workers, but to alert them when they’re at the wrong address or help them identify an unfamiliar location.

But for many of the employers adopting the technology, including many smaller firms, the primary benefit is not just the ability to smooth business operations. They want to keep closer track of workers who aren’t always doing what they’re supposed to be doing, even though they’re on the clock.

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