Fleet Management Weekly had the opportunity to discuss LifeSaver Mobile with Ted Chen, one of the company’s co-founders, to hear more about how the company is fighting mobile distraction on the road. Here’s what we learned from the interview:
How can LifeSaver Mobile change your fleet safety culture?
As we know, the phone is the biggest cause of accidents today in all drivers–not just commercial drivers, but all drivers. When it comes to the phone and tackling that phone as a safety change, you want to stop it, not coach it or warn it, because it’s too late then. So you should be looking for technologies that stop the problem from happening in the first place. And that’s how we do it–we tackle the number one cause of crashes by stopping the problem before it’s too late.
We target companies that have a specific profile because it makes it easier for the company and for us to deploy our solution across many, many employees. Companies that have corporate phones obviously own and control those phones, so they can put whatever they want on them. So that’s first and foremost. Second, of course, is that they have a transportation risk. If you’re giving a corporate device, tablet or phone to an employee, they’re probably going to be on the road at some point during the day, right? For many companies, as soon as you give that corporate device, you’re exposing the company to some transportation risk and transportation liability. So the more that transportation risk exists, the more this is a relevant solution for that type of company.
Can you give us an example of a customer without an obvious risk who could use your product?
We were at a conference the other week with a lot of colleges and universities attending as customers. They issue corporate devices to their employees, so I said, “Well, do you have a transportation risk?” They said, “No, I don’t think so,” so I asked, “Well, don’t you have maintenance workers running around in maintenance vehicles all across campus? Aren’t the students always on their phones and looking down and not looking where they’re walking? Don’t you think that that would be a major risk between the driver who might be on their device and the student who’s also on their device?” That’s just a recipe for potential disaster. Then suddenly the light bulb lit up and they said, “Yes, we probably need your product.”
Tell me some of the ways that LifeSaver Mobile can protect Last Mile delivery drivers.
Lifesaver Mobile works really well in certain categories of fleet. We work primarily with work truck fleets, Last Mile fleets, and field sales fleets. In the Last Mile category, we work with a lot of delivery trucks and delivery fleets. For example, we have a top three package delivery firm who uses us on every single Android package scanner they have. Because they’re stopping and starting 200 times a day, we have to match that stopping and starting as quickly as they want to access their device. So when they stop, they can scan the package, then as soon as they start up, we need to restrict that access to that scanner.
These are single purpose work devices that they’re scanning the packages with, but some drivers might also be trying to use that package to multitask–to find their way faster or just do things quicker. This is obviously putting them and people around them at risk. So, during the pilot, we measured that baseline, and then of course, once we went live with the post pilot, we took away that ability to unlock and get in trouble. Then we found that the distraction events went down significantly, about 80% between the pilot versus the post pilot phase.
How can LifeSaver complement your current telematics provider?
Our whole platform’s all about stopping the problem before it becomes too late. We stop mobile distraction from happening. And we don’t do it with any hardware requirement in the vehicle, so no additional hardware to be installed. Why telematics systems and providers like Geotab and Verizon Connect (who are telematics partners of ours) like us is because they look at this as a great safety complement to what they already do.
Telematics providers are really good about measuring a lot of different things: where the vehicle is, how safe or how risky the driver is from a behavior standpoint. What they don’t really focus on is the prevention of some of these risky behaviors like mobile distraction and mobile usage. For example, on the speeding side, we actually do verbal cues to the driver to say, “Hey, slow down. And if you don’t, then we’re going to mark you down for a violation.” That’s all verbal cues based on what you type into our portal. You can also record a voice, if you have a scary voice, and you want to do that too.
Can you tell us about a success story?
We work with a company called Nabholz Construction, a fairly large commercial construction firm headquartered in Arkansas. They found us in the middle of 2020 and deployed us as the first and only driver safety thing that they did. And over the last two years, they actually came to us and said, “Hey, guess what? Look at our numbers. Ever since we deployed the Lifesaver Mobile Program, our at-fault collisions annualized went down 80% year over year.” Which is incredible considering this is the only safety program that they did.
What is different about LifeSaver Mobile when you look at competitive companies?
I think our biggest differentiator as a company is the fact that we’ve designed our platform to be a software-only solution. It’s been that way from the very beginning, and as far as I’m concerned, it will stay that way. The advantages are fairly obvious, because it becomes a lot easier when you don’t have to install a piece of hardware in every single vehicle across thousands and thousands of vehicles.
Then, of course, there’s cost, because the cost of the hardware is always going to drive up the cost of the solution. Everything that we do is software as a service solution, which basically means we can update and improve our changes automatically. The new app just gets uploaded to the phone and boom, they have the latest and greatest.
As you’ve mentioned, telematics companies are big on metrics and delivering the necessary data to the fleet manager. Do you supplement that with information that you gather?
Yeah, we do. And we’d love to be able to kind of marry that in. Geotab, for instance, has their marketplace, which we’ve been in for three years now. What they do is they enable partners to provide modules inside their dashboard. Then you can look at that partner module inside their dashboard with a single sign-on, so that you don’t have to go to two different places.
That’s kind of a rough example of someone trying to marry the two together. What would be really nice (and we do have APIs for this) is when more and more partners start to ingest our data into their dashboard and show it in a more integrated format. That’s what we really want and that’s where we can deliver that today.
Where did the impetus for this company come from?
We started the company about nine years ago. It was born out of just a need from our personal lives, which typically a lot of founders do. Me and my co-founder both had children. Our oldest children were about to get their driver’s licenses, and we were really concerned about this burgeoning, looming effect of phone distraction behind the wheel. So we wanted it for our kids, but then two years later we discovered that while it was great for kids and teens and parents, it was not so great from a business model perspective. So when the fleets started calling us, which they did organically, we discovered that that was the right business model. And the rest is history.
Are the channel partners helping you get to the end users, or are you pulling through yourself?
It’s both. Some are reselling, like Geotab, so we partner with the top 10 or 15 resellers. They want it on their own paper, they want to own that relationship, so they’re reselling. In the first early deals, we will help them, but it’s on their paper and stuff. We answer a lot of the questions in the first few deals. We also do a lot of referral partnerships as well, where they say, “We don’t want you to be the experts, we just want you to know when this is relevant, like that education example. Spot the risk and then send it on over and we’ll take care of the rest.” I’m actually going to Minnesota next week to do a training session for the sellers of one of those MDM providers.
Has the LifeSaver brand itself been taken back because the channel partner is busy selling this as part of their end user experience?
We haven’t been asked yet to white label anything. They promote LifeSaver as a portfolio option, but they resell. So we haven’t had that issue come across yet.