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App developers sharpen focus on driver performance

Until fully autonomous trucks are powering loads, motor carriers will continue to invest in new technology to better evaluate and improve driver performance.

Blue Tree Systems' Driver Performance Mobile App

Blue Tree Systems’ driver performance app scores drivers in the categories of safety, fuel performance and compliance.

Since the dawn of the 21st century, technology has advanced to effectively close the gap between the office and the cab. Today, the company is in the cab with the likes of video event recorders, telematics, mobile apps and other technologies that make it possible to capture instant information.

Unless the information can be digested and put into action quickly, however, the opportunity to positively influence change is lost.

Mobile apps have become a common strategy to give drivers instant access to performance data they can easily understand and apply. In this installment, CCJ looks at a few recent developments from LinkeDrive and Blue Tree Systems.

Fitbit scoring

LinkeDrive’s web-based driver performance management system uses a mobile app, PedalCoach, and a wired connection to the vehicle’s ECM to instantly make sense of driver performance data.

Data from the ECM feeds proprietary algorithms that determine the optimal amount of fuel at any given moment. The app also captures a wide spectrum of data for further analysis online.

The PedalCoach app gives drivers instantaneous feedback on throttle input. The UI has a gauge with a needle to represent the flow rate of fuel. The bottom third of the gauge’s arc is the fuel target — a green zone — followed by the yellow and red zones.

Drivers learn to keep the needle in the green by judiciously applying throttle and progressive shifting. The fuel target accounts for factors that drivers do not control such as the size of the engine, load weight and topography.

Recently, LinkeDrive has been developing new applications for fleets to automate a broader spectrum of driver performance management. The company recently added a new driver scorecard feature that has a modern “Fitbit” style UI and gamification elements.

Driving scores: fleets using new tech to engage driver performance

Fleets have new opportunities to 'gamify' the job experience to recognize and reward drivers.

Presenting drivers with daily performance statistics can be counterproductive, says J.D. Doyle, chief information officer of LinkeDrive. One day a driver might achieve a high mpg, and the next day have below-average results. When drivers see variability in a scorecard they tend to lose interest and “come out average,” he says.

To counter this trend, LinkeDrive is developing a new UI for its mobile app that will give drivers daily constructive feedback. Rather than just showing a driver a daily fuel score, the app will provide specific recommendations to improve results.

For example, a driver might receive a message that says: “Yesterday you took it out of cruise too early,” says Doyle. The driver will be able to drill down to see more details like where and when he should have used cruise control to achieve better results.

The scorecard can also be used by fleets to identify which drivers to give PedalCoach to, such as the bottom 15 percent in terms of fuel efficiency, and to provide drivers with instant visibility of metrics for performance-based pay programs, he says.

360 Driver Scoring

Telematics provider Blue Tree Systems developed an app that installs on Android or Apple devices that fleets can use as a companion for the Blue Tree in-cab fleet management system.

LinkeDrive recently developed a “Fitbit” style app that scores driver performance with gamification elements.

The performance app has a “360 Driver Scoring” feature that fleets can configure for the metrics and weights they wish to use. The app has three categories for driver scoring: compliance (hours of service and road speed limits), fuel performance and safety.

Drivers use the app to view updated scores in each category daily. When drivers click on a score the app gives coaching advice.

One of the unique safety metrics in the app shows the time that lapses from when a driver lifts his foot from the accelerator to when he applies the brakes, says Charlie Cahill, president of Blue Tree Systems.

The metric is an easy way to evaluate if a driver is looking ahead and maintaining a safe following distance, he says. A driver should be coasting for a few seconds before braking. The time period is different according to the driver’s average speed. In general, the data shows that safe drivers with an average speed above 30 mph have at least two or three seconds between accelerator and braking, he says.

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Aaron Huff is the Senior Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. Huff’s career in the transportation industry began at a family-owned trucking company and expanded to CCJ, where for the past 14 years he has specialized in covering business and technology for online and print readers and speaking at industry events. A recipient of numerous regional and national awards, Huff holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Brigham Young University and a Masters Degree from the University of Alabama.