Distracted driving could be solved for fleets with a simple technology

Sometimes one solution creates another problem. Then, a solution to the new problem becomes necessary. The problem is that now we have now ELD apps on smartphones, we’ve created a need for more user interaction with a smartphone in a truck. Granted, some ELD apps can’t allow a driver to change duty status when in motion but you can still pick up the phone and look at your hours.
   “The other factor is that for many small fleets who don’t have a hard-wired in-cab mobile comm solution such as an Omnitracs or PeopleNet device, the phone is the primary means of communicating with a driver,” says Dean Croke, Chief Analytics Officer with FreightWaves.
   That makes an upstart company like Live Undistracted effectively a large fleet solution.  Liability drives their safety agenda, as in being able to prove they had technology that stopped the driver from being distracted in the event of an accident. While owner-operators are not likely to adopt such a technology of their own accord, it is also often the case that the best drivers are owner-operators. They tend to have the most mileage and experience under their belts.
   The company estimates that phone-related accidents cost commercial fleet operators over $2 billion per year and they’re developing a novel approach to the problem.  They came up with this data from external reports such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and reports from other fleets.
   They looked at the issue from “top level down, and then a bottoms up approach,” according to CEO, Mike Falter. There are $8 billion in annual costs total, with about 50% related to the phone, and about half of those involve truck drivers.
   While there are several solutions currently on the market, the company’s patent-pending approach is differentiated by its reliability, low power consumption, and what they call seamless integration. Fleet operators have the flexibility to define SafeMode, allowing for hands-free voice, navigation and music, or disabling the phone completely (except for emergency use). Once assigned to a vehicle(s) the App will run seamlessly in the background with no further action required by the driver.
   While they are currently looking for their first round of seed money, and most of their competitors “have been out on the job for several years now,” Falter says they feel like their “technology is a refresh on the problem.”
   The PhoneSafe System allows Fleet Managers to track and enforce their phone policies, prevent costly accidents, and ensure the safety of their drivers. “We do see it as a problem,” says Falter.
   The company was founded in 2016, when they saw the problem for their own drivers. They weren’t satisfied with the solutions they were seeking. “We’ve heard similar concerns. Almost every company has some kind of policy in place. Our tool allows the managers and operators to track and trace the policy they already have in place,” says Falter.
   For drivers, it’s about the relationship between them and the managers. “It’s in the driver’s best interest for their own personal safety,” says Falter. “It’s a way to help drivers do what they want to do, which is comply and to develop the behavior and good habit for their own personal safety. After a while they don’t even look for the distraction.
   PhoneSafe integrates with the existing vehicle telematics system (or any third party OBDII dongle) and uses patent pending technology to detect when a vehicle is being operated, or in any gear other than Park.
   The idea here is that the technology is universal, but also has something no one else has, which is to detect when a vehicle is in operation. “The way we detect it is proprietary. We have a unique approach that will be a differentiator.”
   When the installed App detects the vehicle is being operated it places the phone in SafeMode which blanks the screen, or otherwise modifies the phone capabilities as required by company policy. There’s still the ability to make emergency calls, and it can’t get in the way of the ELDs, and you can still use hands free calling.
   If technology caused the problem, the least it can do is provide a solution.