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LinkeDrive markets dash-top app that motivates truckers to save fuel

Posted by Scott Kirsner  October 21, 2013 08:30 AM

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A Boston startup showing its stuff at a trucking industry trade show?

It happens about as often as you see an 18-wheeler wending its way through Beacon Hill... but LinkeDrive is publicly promoting its first product down in Orlando this week, at the annual American Trucking Association Conference & Exhibition. The company makes an app called PedalCoach that tried to encourage lead-footed drivers to save fuel.

"Drivers typically get paid by the mile, and so naturally they want to do as many miles as they can, as fast as they can," says founder and CEO Jeff Baer. "But driving fast isn't the most efficient way to move a truck. And the cost of fuel is 30 to 40 percent of operating expenses for most trucking companies." The PedalCoach app, pictured below, displays a red, yellow, and green light to give drivers feedback on the way they're driving, reinforcing fuel-saving techniques like going slow up hills, and dinging them when they do things like race toward a red light, then brake. There's also a leaderboard for each fleet of trucks, showing which drivers are hustling down the highway most efficiently.

Galaxy_Guage.pngBaer, a former sales exec at the battery-maker A123 Systems and powertrain engineer at Ford, asserts that the app can save trucking fleets an average of five cents a mile. He says that some of that money typically gets paid to drivers who meet the company's fuel efficiency objectives. PedalCoach runs on an Android phone on the dash, and communicates with a small Bluetooth device plugged into the truck's diagnostic port, which supplies information about fuel usage and vehicle speed. "Mathematically, our app knows the most efficient way to move a truck, and it adapts to different kinds of trucks hauling different kinds of loads," Baer says. "Every mile that you drive with the green light on the app, you hear a 'cha-ching' sound to let you know you're earning money."

LinkeDrive's first customer is Arrow Paper of Wilmington, which operates a fleet of 10 trucks that deliver supplies to restaurants, hotels, and other businesses. But Baer says that there are 11 other fleets using the technology in more than 100 vehicles. The company has 10 employees, and has already raised some angel funding, Baer says.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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