Eliminating Cell Phone Distractions with Technology

Eliminating Cell Phone Distractions with Technology

As of New Year’s Day, 48 states and the District of Columbia have a ban on texting and driving. With more state lawmakers proposing hands-free legislation, employers are looking to technology solutions to assist with executing their mobile device policies to ensure their workers (and other passenger vehicles) on the road are protected.

Besides property damage, commercial vehicle crashes result in lost productivity, lost revenue, and potential third-party liability claims from an at-fault crash. While there are many solutions available that can assist employers with knowing whether or not an employee was using their device behind the wheel, the majority of them do not address the action of the driver until after an incident.

It's all too easy for employees to become distracted by mobile devices. And while many of us might be more conscious while we’re behind the wheel, the distractions don’t stop once employees arrive at a jobsite but continue while they are at the jobsite.

That leaves companies with a tough choice: Seeking solutions that grant them the best that wireless mobility has to offer without jeopardizing employee safety or diminishing productivity. 

As a result, employers are taking action to minimize these daily distractions by utilizing what’s called “contextual AI solutions” to enhance their smart phone policies. With contextual AI, employers can grant access to applications only when necessary, while restricting access in time or safety sensitive situations – based on movement, location and time.

TRUCE Software, a tech company based in Lisle, Illinois, provides software that acts like an automatic safety switch on an employee’s phone, temporarily blocking access to distracting apps and features when the employee is in an unsafe area or doing work that requires more focus, such as driving. Once outside of the “boundaries” established by the employer, such as “no longer driving,” or “in a warehouse,” the employee’s phone automatically returns to normal operation and the apps become accessible again.

The result is the proactive elimination of workplace incidents and liabilities without compromising employee productivity and privacy or blocking wireless network access, which is often the case.

According to the company, customers that use TRUCE for 12 months or longer experience a 40-60 percent reduction in incidents (accidents, claims, losses). TRUCE empowers businesses to enforce their mobile device usage policies on the job, without affecting employee mobile use outside of designated zones or on their personal time. A recent TRUCE-commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting concluded that interviewed companies utilizing TRUCE's technology achieved a payback in less than three months and a 360 percent return on investment over three years.

PHC News talked with Joe Boyle, CEO of TRUCE, to discuss strategies for eliminating workplace distractions. 

PHC News: Tell us how TRUCE came to be?

Joe Boyle: TRUCE Software got its start 10 years ago, with a simple observation of an event that has played out countless times since: a person so engaged by their phone that they walked full speed into a door. Even in those early days of mobile device distraction, it was obvious that there had to be a better way to manage the device so that the features and apps didn’t distract the user in the wrong situations.

Over the next 10 years and across the development of more than a dozen patents, TRUCE has become the leader in contextual mobile device management, helping companies and employees make the most out of their mobile technology while minimizing the downside safety and productivity risks.

PHC News: What are the main problems TRUCE wants to solve for home service and new building contractors?

Joe Boyle: Let’s face it – the jobsite has plenty of risks. Take an already high-risk environment and add workers constantly looking at their smart phones and you create a real recipe for disaster. Most  contractors recognize the problem, and many of the industry leaders have policies about smart phone use, but those policies are pretty hard to enforce.  TRUCE makes the jobsite safer and more productive by giving contractors the ability to truly manage device usage on the job – an especially important safeguard in high-risk industries and work environments. 

PHC News: And how exactly does TRUCE work to solve problems while traveling to the next service call or at the jobsite?

Joe Boyle: Forty percent of commercial driving accidents are because of distracted driving.  We all know that the problem exists, but companies have felt powerless to truly address the problem. TRUCE ends the acceptance of a risky and costly status quo.  You can do something to stop the accidents – you can address the cause at its source. 

With TRUCE, you as the employer set the policy for how workers can use their mobile devices in your work environments.  On the jobsite, maybe acceptable use includes access to a first aid app, or a worksite app for blueprints.  In the vehicle, maybe acceptable use includes access to navigation apps or hands-free calls.  The point is that you, as the employer, say what is OK to use at work and what is not, and TRUCE enforces your policies.  

The TRUCE platform is powered by contextual mobile device management technology (CMDM), which automatically adjusts to allow access to mobile apps and features based a company’s policy. If an app or a feature is not allowed by that policy, the employee will not be able to access it on a device protected by TRUCE.

Best of all, the platform works only when needed and does not affect a worker’s mobile device outside of designated zones or on their personal time.

For example, let’s say an employee traveling to a jobsite in a company vehicle could have access to necessary applications such as navigation and select music applications, but nothing else.

After the drive, the employee’s mobile device returns to normal functionality. Later, when that same employee enters a jobsite, the employee may only have access to work order applications.

Our platform is very flexible so, you can even establish free-use zones where the worker has the ability to access all applications on their device when on break. At the end of their shift and once they have exited all zones that have a policy implemented, the worker’s device returns to normal use. 

PHC News: Can you give us some real-life examples of how TRUCE has helped its users improve safety and productivity?

Joe Boyle: Walsh Construction Group operates two divisions, Walsh Construction Company and Archer Western. The mega-contractor performs all aspects of large-scale commercial construction, and owns and operates one of the largest concentrations of heavy construction equipment in North America. The team at Walsh realized the business and safety impacts of mobile device distraction on the job. With roughly 3,500 full-time employees to manage, Walsh Construction began its three-phase implementation of TRUCE Software in January of 2019, pushing the app out to 1,000 employees’ phones to begin with. 

In its late 2019 evaluation, the company confirmed the system blocked an average of one text every four miles of driving time. Blocking a text or social media notification at least every four miles with 1,000 drivers on the road is unquestionably significant for the company, its employees and the driving public. 

Walsh Construction is pleased with its results from CMDM technology and intends to roll out additional phases over time.

Estes Services, an Atlanta, Georgia-based provider of heating, cooling, indoor air quality and automation control services for residential and commercial business owners, was dealing with an increase in collisions caused by their drivers. Worse still, they started to hear a ‘murmur’ of negative feedback from other drivers on the road about the driving behavior of some of their workers.  Being a well-known HVAC company with heavily branded vehicles prominently displaying their phone numbers, their reputation was also on the line.

The company deployed TRUCE across its field workforce and developed customized mobile device policies.  With TRUCE, Estes was able to enforce their safety policies while allowing their employees to stay productive and connected while in a hands-free environment but not distracted by texts or alerts or by accessing unnecessary apps.  In less than a year after deploying TRUCE, the company’s at-fault auto policy claims dropped by 94 percent.

PHC News: We imagine there are competitors marketing similar ideas as TRUCE. What differentiates TRUCE for your competitors?

Joe Boyle: TRUCE is the one solution that truly addresses the root cause of device distraction. A lot of solutions used by companies to enforce their mobile device policies are reactive, not proactive.

In-car cameras and telematics can monitor and record behavior, including unsafe driving and use of a mobile device.  But these options only identify the problem once an incident has already occurred and lack the ability to address the root of the issue proactively.

The use of “Do Not Disturb” apps available through most carriers and device manufacturers do provide a complete lock down of the device, but require the user to proactively enable the app in order to work. These can be easily opted out of by the employee and provide no oversight capability to ensure policy compliance.

Additionally, mobile device policies can sometimes be difficult to enforce. If a policy is too overbearing, renders an employee’s device useless on the job, or is perceived to infringe on their privacy, employees can push back, ignore it or find workarounds. This hinders workplace morale and doesn’t remedy the distraction.

What differentiates us from other solutions is that TRUCE is the first platform that leverages contextual mobile device management technology to address workplace distractions associated with employees’ devices.

For example, there are a lot of activities that can be done with limited device management, but some require more oversight. TRUCE allows companies to set policies that reflect the reality of their workplace.

Also, not every employee or work group has the same responsibilities, so blanket policies rarely make sense. TRUCE allows companies to set policies on who can do what while at work for heightened efficiency no matter their personal responsibilities.

PHC News: What about privacy concerns with monitoring the use of employees’ mobile phones?

Joe Boyle: TRUCE only manages applications and device functionality and never accesses, records or reports personal information. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, the platform works only when needed and does not affect an employee’s mobile device outside of designated zones or on their personal time. 

According to our August 2019 study conducted by Forrester Consulting, the majority of employees are OK with this kind of mobile device management. Roughly two-thirds agree that businesses should be able to manage their mobile devices for the sake of safety, focus and productivity.

PHC News: If I were an owner of a contracting company debating investing in TRUCE, how would I determine the ROI on your product?

Joe Boyle: Quicker job completion rates and heightened efficiency, for one. Jobs go faster when teams are more engaged and focused, allowing companies to deliver more on time, or even before a deadline. This helps companies build customer loyalty and provides better worksite stats to show prospective clients. 

Of course, reducing injury and liability risks is huge. When an employee has an accident, everyone loses. Accidents harm the employee, the company, and potentially the community that you serve. Not only do they lose valuable work time, but repeated violations may attract more attention and generate more fines. Additionally, if an employee is injured on a site, a driver gets into an accident, or someone using a company vehicle has an accident while distracted by their device, the employer may be liable. 

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