Usage based insurance: Gorilla Safety co-founders see an opportunity for fleets

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Updated May 2, 2016
Gorilla Safety’s electronic logging device is currently available for Android devices, with an iOS version in the works.Gorilla Safety’s electronic logging device is currently available for Android devices, with an iOS version in the works.

Prior to 2013, Mark Walton and Tommy Johnson were strictly in the commercial insurance business. Most of their clients operated between 20 and 500 trucks. As insurers, they identified “quite a few” opportunities for how fleets could use technology to improve safety and lower their costs.

Document management was one area where clients were struggling, Walton says, such as keeping motor vehicle records (MVRs) and other items in their driver qualification files up to date. Another opportunity was to use current data in order to assess fleet risk and offer “right-sized” insurance programs.

As insurers, “we were always looking in the rear view mirror,” he says. The common practice of assessing risk and calculating premiums relied on historical data, which included the safety scores from the Compliance, Accountability, Safety program of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

In 2014, Walton and Johnson started a technology company, Gorilla Safety, to address these and other gaps in the market. Two years later in April, 2016, the company rolled out a new fleet management system that comes complete with electronic logs, driver vehicle inspection reports (DVIRs), document management, accident reporting and more features.

The electronic logging app is fully compliant with the ELD mandate, one of the first apps in the market to do so. A device plugs into the data port and communicates vehicle data to a tablet or smartphone device. The ELD app is currently available for Android operating system with an iOS version in the works.

The plug-in device for the ELD costs $175 and Gorilla Safety’s full software suite costs $50 a month on down to $40 per month with a longer-term agreement, he says. A different version of its automated log application is available for short-haul fleets. It also has an electronic logbook that is not an AOBRD or ELD-compliant version for drivers and fleets that may prefer to try before moving to the ELD-compliant version.

The company recently received a patent for its DVIR inspection application that has a closed-loop process for drivers, mechanics and fleet managers to identify defects and manage and document repairs.

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The document management features in the system let fleet managers enter data and upload images for driver qualification files and more. Alerts are sent in advance of expiring records and when information is missing. Drivers can also capture images of bills of lading, fuel receipts and supporting documents for their logbooks.

“The accountability is incredible. Nothing gets lost anymore,” he says.

The accident reporting feature guides drivers and fleet managers through a step-by-step process of capturing information to prevent stories from getting changed between the time of an accident to the time that a claim is reported.

“That is where we take the guesswork out,” Johnson says.

The system also tracks vehicle locations and fuel performance. Additional telematics features are being developed to monitor risky driving behaviors such as hard stops, speeding and acceleration.

Johnson says Gorilla Safety is working with insurance providers that are interested in offering a discount on premiums to fleets that use the system. He also believes insurance companies will use Gorilla Safety to create usage based insurance (UBI) programs to more quickly reward fleets for their efforts to improve safety and compliance.

A full scorecard system is part of the app, giving fleets an easy way to share information with insurance providers, he adds.

Currently, the company is exploring options to add a dispatch messaging feature by partnering with existing dispatch software providers or developing one themselves.

“We are getting a lot of requests to develop it ourselves,” he says.