Empower Employees to End Fleet Distracted Driving

Empower Employees to End Fleet Distracted Driving

Road fatalities have increased 22% since 2019. Now more than ever it’s important to become educated on fleet distracted driving. David Coleman presents distracted driving trends and what employers can do to prevent employee texting and driving. By engineering out the problem, employees encounter 6x fewer distractions.

Join a 15 minute Safety Moment to Learn:

  • Data behind the digital distraction epidemic
  • Best practices to reduce fleet distracted driving
  • What is holding companies and communities back from tackling this issue head on

Watch Recording


Featured Presenter

tim levinger driver safety webinar

David Coleman

Strategic Account Executive

TRUCE Software

Featured Presenter

David Coleman is a Strategic Account Executive for TRUCE Software. David joined TRUCE in 2012 and is currently responsible for assisting enterprise customers navigate the sales and strategic sourcing onboarding process.

Before joining TRUCE Software, David held business development and information technology leadership positions in driver safety technology and fleet management companies. 

David received the 2006 American Business Stevie Award for Best New Product. He has been actively involved in the automotive fleet industry for the last 25 years.


Bethany Brownholtz: Welcome, everybody. Thanks for joining us to take a safety moment: to empower employees to end distracted driving. I’m Bethany. I work for TRUCE Software as the Marketing Director, and I’m excited to introduce you to David Coleman. 

David is a fleet safety enthusiast, champion, and advocate, and he’s worked in the industry for over 20 years. So David, I’m going to mute my camera here and let you take it away.

David Coleman: I appreciate it, Bethany. Thanks, everybody, for joining. Here we are at the end of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, April. I can’t believe we’re already four months into the year. 

A couple statistics up front: we now know that one out of every 10 drivers is using their cell phone while driving (National Safety Council). Almost 360 times a day, a fourfold increase – it’s just an amazing amount of touches, the number of times the device rings, chirps, beeps. Somebody calls you, you don’t answer, so then they turn around and text. It’s almost two, three transactions for every message.

The Landscape of Electronic Device Distraction

[01:09] If we go back in time, when we built TRUCE Software, we started back in 2009-2010 with the understanding that there was going to be an explosion of mobile devices. But we didn’t realize how bad it was going to be at the time. 

Along that journey, vehicles are certainly smarter. A new vehicle today is somewhere on the autonomous scale, probably not zero; we’re not at five yet. If you look at NHTSA’s autonomous vehicle chart, I think Tesla’s two, Mercedes released a three. 

So, your vehicles are definitely getting smarter, but also have introduced things like forward collision warning plus auto brake, lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alerts, fleet companies that put GPS tracking, telematics, cameras.

What kind of scares me is autonomous seems to mean a completely inattentive pilot. I almost wonder, will we actually ever get to level five? We’re already seeing people that think “Tesla’s on autopilot, so therefore I can be…” 

Driving is the last bastion of unfettered time for me to stare at my phone, and bad things are happening. So it’s not a good outcome, and it doesn’t matter how smart the vehicle becomes. I don’t think we want inattentive pilots.

Increased Screen Time

[02:30] Vehicles are getting smarter, but fatality rates have gone up, and that just seems counterintuitive until you look at the number of applications that have hit the market. I’m old enough to remember the car phone. I almost wish it still was the car phone. We could control it when the vehicle’s in motion. The car phone, the bag phone, the mobile phone.

Even though talking on a phone is terrible while driving, even on hands-free devices, it pales in comparison to looking at the screen. So in 2014, we had a little more than half of folks, smartphones already in their hands, 2 million apps in the App Store. Then you go forward, and it’s around 4 million apps between the App Store and Google.

Let’s say we get to autonomous level three – everybody’s got a smartphone, everybody’s staring at their screen. We’re not going to have good outcomes.

Laws Have Changed, But What About Behavior?

[03:31] Now what’s changed in the legal landscape? If I did this presentation 10, 12 years ago, there was a smattering of states that had addressed distracted driving laws. 

The 50 states in the United States have really codified some position on mobile phones and driving. The great thing about laws is they’re going to be more of them. The bad news is: making something illegal doesn’t necessarily make it inaccessible. 

I live in Maryland, a pretty aggressive state that bans cell phone use while driving. Washington, D.C., it’s 100% hands-free. You drive in Washington, D.C., everybody’s on their phone. So laws are not equaling getting rid of this brain science of addiction.

Device Negligence Litigation & Nuclear Verdicts

[04:21] The last piece of this, which always follows bad outcomes and state laws, is the lawyers, unfortunately. Hopefully, there aren’t any lawyers on the call, but lawyers have figured out that when a company that has a logo on their vehicle is involved in a fatal crash, “let’s look at all available data, including potential device use,” and it’s working for them. 

Cable One, Dyke, Holmes – you go down the list. These are significant nuclear verdicts. What’s unfortunate, if you look at the depositions that are occurring, part of it is they establish in front of the jury the fact that the company has a policy. 

“Yes, we have a policy,” and they discover all the evidence – whether it’s telematics, or cameras, or coaching, or motor vehicle records, succession, they get it all – and they prove that the company has a policy, and then they prove that the company doesn’t have the ability to enforce the policy. 

Clearly, the employee was wrong, but the dollars are behind the logo, and large companies have a big payout. 

COVID-19 and Employee Distracted Driving

[05:23] The pandemic did not make things better. Everybody was disconnected from work, disconnected from friends and family, always on their device, and that hasn’t gone away. 

Now, working remotely, heck, I’m in a home office. Working remotely, we are always connected, and it’s really blurred – the lines between home-time and work-time. 

Safe Driving Program Solution Spectrum

[05:49] Then when we think about the driver safety programs that we have in place today, I think of it in terms of hierarchy of controls. Over on the left we have administration programs. 

I’m a big fan of technology, all of the above, but things like running motor vehicle records, looking at frequency and severity of braking, looking at camera clips, even with AI, the number of times you may alert somebody they’re doing something wrong, it’s really an administrative approach. 

It ends up being we’re catching the data, it’s discoverable like I was talking about before, and then we have to do something about it. We’ve caught the incident after the fact, we score, we confront. It’s a very contentious relationship you have as a supervisor when you’re constantly having to coach an employee. 

Device Addiction & Fleet Distracted Driving

[06:43] Then the next goal was: let’s substitute. Can we substitute their habit of being addicted to the phone and get them to better skills? For a lot of things that has worked in the past. Unfortunately, the brain science of addiction coming out of university studies, that doesn’t seem to work with the phone. 

There’s something about the brain science of addiction and phones that no matter how many times you tell somebody that this is risky behavior, they’re still, unfortunately, making bad decisions. Putting posters in break rooms and trying to run, like this month, running a campaign of awareness, I think unfortunately it doesn’t work the same way it has on other things.

Moving all the way to the right – the rest of this presentation is going to be about: let’s engineer it out because if we engineer out the habit, if we suppress the device and enable only what people need, we’re not in this catching people situation. 

We’re not in the coaching; we’re still going to have to coach people on things like excessive grooming. We’re going to have to coach them on not fiddling with the radio. We’re not going to replace the core values of driver safety and training, but we can certainly engineer out this societal problem that we all have to acknowledge we have.

Engineering Out Digital Distractions

[08:03] What does it mean to engineer it out? A couple things. First, we need to know the environment that they’re in. We need to know the context of the activity that they’re involved in. We need to understand what the company policy is for that activity, and then we need to make sure the device has all three of those things and, therefore, has a compliant individual. 

The topic of the presentation is distracted driving, so I’ll stay on the top with the context of movement. I know somebody’s driving, I look at the company policy, and I can automatically then enforce what’s correct. 

It’s a really elegant way to do it because when a vehicle’s moving, an engineering control can actually remove access to the things that somebody shouldn’t be worried about while they’re moving. In this case, navigation system’s accessible, but TV, things like that, weather… We don’t need those while the vehicle is moving.

Device Distraction Beyond the Vehicle

[09:02] Distracted driving is a problem, but mobile device distraction in the workplace, in general, needs to be thought about. As we continue to go forward with the younger generation, they learn how to use a mobile device before they learn how to drive. They’re addicted to the mobile device when they come into your organizations. 

We need to think about it from an enterprise standpoint. Driving’s obviously low-hanging fruit. It is the societal problem we have right now, but there are other activities that people are doing that put them at risk for distraction. 

That could be operating equipment and machinery where the context is lift truck is turned on, therefore it’s vibrating. Well, at that point, once a lift truck is on and vibrating and speed is greater than zero, let’s make sure that only the features and functions and audio and visual access that somebody needs are actually present. That is, by definition, the engineering control, and by doing this, we engineer out the problem.

This is not just about when I’m driving or on location machinery. Now we have a lot of remote workers. What are the things we should be thinking about in terms of mobility, visibility to where people are, communicating with them in the right context and not in the wrong context? 

Measuring Driver Distraction

[10:34] Let’s talk about measurement. This is actually a publicly traded public utility, and they thought they had a problem. They were looking at their accident incident and observations, and 1-800 “How’s my’s?”, and they certainly had camera administrative controls. 

They knew they had a problem, but the question was, “Can we actually measure how bad the problem is?” So, we took two groups in 90 days, 200 in what we call a baseline group, highly unionized. We knew the company policy was zero use. We took a second group, and we protected them against the distraction.

Both groups had software on their devices so that we could measure on the left, and we could actually do the engineering control on the right. [We compared] two branch locations that drove the same types of vehicles in the same area, half a million miles roughly each. 

Unprotected Group

[11:33] On the left, when they weren’t supposed to be using the phone, they knew it, it was a policy: 7,500 phone calls came through, 260 hours of talk time, 12,000 inbound texts. Nothing I can do or they can do about that. (Somebody texts them, what are they going to do? I mean, if a text is coming in, they’re hearing, it’s ringing.)

Zero texts were deferred or auto-replied to. On the application side, while they were allowed to use navigation, 37,000 were applications used for almost 3,000 hours of drive-time in 90 days with 200 people – applications other than navigation.

That’s the baseline. They know the policy, they know they’re not supposed to be touching, using phones while driving. Despite education awareness campaigns, posters in the break room, everything.

Protected Group

[12:24] Then we took the second group and we said, “Okay, we’re going to give you hands-free calls, but we’re only going to give you hands-free calls to and from the phone numbers that you need for work purposes. We’re going to suppress all text messages, but we’re going to auto-reply it for you. And we’re going to give you navigation.”

Really, the two things that were legal – and one was from a productivity/operations standpoint, the need to make and receive some calls were required for business purposes. So let’s give them that. Let’s make sure operations is enabled to do the work.

Basically, they had the same number of miles driven. In this case, only 620 calls. We deferred 5,000 calls that did not need to be answered. It just went automatically to voicemail. Talk time went down to 17 hours. All inbound texts were auto-replied to; only navigation was used. 10,000 instances of use of navigation, and TRUCE deferred 19,000 other apps that tried to spawn and get the attention of the employee.

In summary, we went from one device distraction every six miles to one every 36. It’d be great to go to zero distractions, but again, from an operation standpoint, they needed those calls.

Impacts on Driver Coaching

[13:50] We also measured through telematics. 34% fewer moderate and severe braking events. Makes sense, right? And we would coach on following distance: “You’re following too close, you’re following too close, I’m seeing braking. Following distance…” 

Take the phone out, and suddenly all that skills-based training around following distance came into play. Eliminate the phone, 34% fewer aggressive braking events, and no administrative events; not catching anybody doing anything inappropriate with the device because the situation is engineered out. 

Now we don’t have a contentious relationship between a supervisor and the employee over this particular problem.

Scaling Up Fleet Distracted Driving Solutions

[14:37] What does this look like at scale? You take that measurement, you extrapolate it over the size of the organization, greater than 10,000. Millions of distractions. (Great, we protected 200 people for 90 days, but at scale, what does this look like?) 

Wind the clock forward several years, it was a 37% reduction in accident rate. Employees that were protected using an engineering control were three times less likely to be in a crash, and four times less likely to be in what’s categorized as a preventable crash. 

They were three times less likely to run into somebody or sideswipe somebody, or first party, third party property damage claims. You’re not looking at the device, you’re not going to run into the person in front of you – three times less likely.

Another nice positive outcome, back to administrative controls: half the number of 1-800 “How’s my Driving?” calls. That’s a great outcome for the employee as well. Nobody wants to hear about somebody calling in. 

And a quote from the C-suite: they’re a hundred percent sure they save lives. You have 10,000 people driving over a period of X number of years. Statistically, we’ve eliminated, by engineering out this problem, distracted driving crashes. 

Digital Distractions & Employee Wellbeing

[15:59] Bethany, I have to work you in here. This is actually Bethany in a phone suit, jumping around and disrupting one of my coworkers, Brian, while driving.

This is what we’re asking people to do. If we don’t engineer out the problem, we’re asking them to self-police against the policy. Once every six miles, if you drive 20,000 miles a year, that works out to be, say, 2,000 distractions per year. 

You got to get it right 2,000 times. The calls are coming in, I don’t answer, the person texts me. We don’t need to introduce that to people and continue to ask them to be in a hostile work environment where this device is causing that much damage to their potential personal wellbeing.

I appreciate the time. Hopefully, I didn’t take everybody over too far. If you would like to chat later, this is my contact information, or Bethany can provide it. We’ll also provide a copy of the presentation for those that want it, and all the referenceable sources in terms of the data that I presented. Thank you. And with that, I will turn it back to Bethany.

Bethany Brownholtz: Thanks everybody for your time and attention and be safe.


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