SambaSafety: Leveraging Technology to Solve Driver Behavior-Related Problems

Give us a little background on SambaSafety.

 SambaSafety started in 1998, as a small company in New Mexico, initially collecting motor vehicle and titling data from the State of New Mexico. Our original offering was an application around registering vehicles, both new vehicles and re-registrations. We also built an application that gathered motor vehicle records and we began to monitor drivers for the purpose of identifying risky behavior. That was really the genesis of where we are today.

In the early 2000s, California was very proactive with a program they call EPN or Employee Pull Notice that we got involved in very early. Consequently, we are the largest EPN agent in California and over the last several years we have taken this concept of driver risk management — collecting, correlating and analyzing motor vehicle records (MVRs) and other data sources to identify driver risk — to a national level.

Let’s talk a little bit about the evolution of the monitoring; where you were to where you are now.

As we all know, for commercial drivers there is a federal requirement to pull MVRs once a year and look for valid and invalid driver’s licenses. It is a standard minimum requirement that has been done for a number of years. As time has moved on, C-level executives, fleet managers, and risk managers realized that they really need to know is what was going on with their drivers on a more frequent basis. Pulling an MVR once a year left a big gap. Many violations can happen within a year or even a quarter of a year. So what was needed was a true continuous monitoring solution.

Unfortunately, the term “monitoring” is now used to refer to a number of different methodologies and data sources. Some companies use monitoring when buying MVRs 1-2 times a year, while others think that a license status check or looking for violation data is monitoring. While these are all good sources of data that play a role in monitoring, by themselves they are not monitoring. True continuous monitoring is a concept that starts with a baseline MVR and expands to a continuously monitoring event looking for violations, updating the baseline MVR and building a driver risk profile. But always updating the MVR, which is still the source of truth for a driver’s record. We also believe that continuous monitoring should include proactive strategies to improve driver behavior, therefore mitigating the risk associated with poor drivers.

What sorts of results are you seeing, and do you have a success story that you can share?

 We are seeing very positive results. Certainly the concept of more complete information on a timely basis makes a lot of sense to our customers. In terms of real impacts, we have seen very favorable results in terms of reducing accidents, lowering risk, and decreasing insurance premiums—especially for those customers who have developed a very active program of managing their drivers by leveraging our data and software.

If you think about the overall universe of drivers, there are very few that are high risk. You want to eliminate those individuals from your driver pool and put them in another job. The second group is a pretty good size group of drivers who are pretty good but you might have to coach them, train them, support them; do things to make sure that their behavior continues to improve. The third group of drivers is really good and you don’t have to do anything with them. You can reward them for outstanding performance. Our solution takes this driver data, puts it into an application and then serves it up to organization, allowing them to be proactive in managing their driver pool.

A case study that we like to talk about is the county of Santa Fe. They have been working with us for seven or eight years to very actively manage their drivers to reduce accidents. Because of their success in reducing accidents and subsequent improved risk profile, they were actually able to work with their insurance provider to obtain a seven figure savings on their insurance premium. That’s a very significant savings event. Now we don’t take all of the credit for that but we know from numerous customer experiences that our solution along with an active driver management program really helps to drive that type of a savings. One of the inherent benefits of driver monitoring is that people tend to become more aware of their situation and behaviors on the road.

Something else that we’ve found is common across all fleets — public sector, private sector, small, medium, and large — is the tremendous amount of time savings not having to review tens, hundreds or even thousands of MVRs. So whether it is a return on investment related to lower administrative costs, or the very high ROI from the county of Santa Fe, our solution pays for itself in a short period of time. The one thing that we know for certain is that the more active our customers are in managing their drivers, the better the drivers perform, leading to lower risk and lower cost.

How would you say SambaSafety differentiates itself?

 SambaSafety is a little bit different than most out there. There are three primary things that we think we have leadership position on. One, we have a true fifty state network—connected to every DMV in the United States, District of Columbia, all Canadian Provinces and all U.S. territories . Two, we have access to court records. Three, we have a very robust, comprehensive application that leverages all this data to provide the information our customers need, when they need it. The combination of data, software and actionable strategies that help our customers impact their drivers’ behaviors is what really sets us apart.

Additionally, we have partnered with a number of other companies who provide parts of that, either as sources of data, or as pieces of the application. Think of us as a for driver risk management. Sambasafety is a platform where our customers can plug in different modules—telematics data, traffic violation data, even employer only data — and we can bring all of that data together in a comprehensive single platform and then present that back up to our customers as actionable insight — giving them the ability to take corrective actions before it becomes an issue.

Where do you see all of this technology going in the next year or so?

I think using that word ‘technology’ is an important word. We consider ourselves more of a software and technology company than a specific fleet management company. We are leveraging technology to solve driver behavior-related problems for any company or public sector institution. We’ve expanded the concept of driver risk management from a market where there was three to five million commercial drivers to the grey fleet [allowance or reimbursable drivers] of probably 50 to 75 million drivers that drive for some reason for their employer. We think that all employers are going to want to have better visibility into their drivers’ behaviors and the associated risk profiles. This will be a ubiquitous type solution that all companies will have to employ. They are going to want to manage the data and then take proactive strategies to make sure that they are managing their risk and building a safety culture—ultimately safer drivers mean safer communities.

Let’s talk about some legal risks fleets face, specifically negligent entrustment and vicarious liability.

One of the stats we have seen recently is that in the United States we pay more per person for torts or legal claims than any other country. We are a highly litigious society. There is a [legal] concept called negligent entrustment which is: if I own a vehicle as an employer, I entrust it to you, my employee, to drive around and do the work, I take on liability for what you do. This is most common while you are working, but we have seen cases even when you are not working. So this concept of risk is carried forward constantly by the employer because I have entrusted you with a vehicle.

There is another concept called vicarious liability which is you are driving your own vehicle but on behalf of me, the employer. Again, the employer still carries the responsibility for the driver’s actions and the associated liability. All organizations should be concerned about the potential negative or legal ramifications of the legal concepts — not to mention the potential negative public relations storm. Today, the average negligent entrustment awards are somewhere north of four million dollars. However, there have been judgments as high as 30 to 35million dollars for these types of lawsuits. Clearly they don’t happen often, but it is a constant concern of most of our customers.

At SambaSafety we tend to look at it more from a positive sense — we want to help our clients reduce accidents and lower risks to build a proper safety culture and be good citizens in the community in which they live and work.


Rich Crawford, CEO, Samba Safety

Rich Crawford brings more than 30 years of experience leading high-performance high-technology businesses. He has served in numerous senior executive roles across a wide range of high technology firms. Throughout his tenure, Crawford has directed strategic development of product, sales and marketing initiatives and directly contributed to company growth in both market share and revenue. As CEO of SambaSafety, Crawford has directed the company’s growth of its cloud-based Driver Risk Management platform to more than 10,000 customers nationwide.

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