Bluewire, a first-of-its-kind AI software-as-a-service (SaaS) company, aims to arm motor carriers and their insurers with data to help counter false narratives that lead to damaged reputations — and potentially massive punitive damages in lawsuits.
The newly launched company believes that those narratives and the negative public image they create contribute heavily to nuclear verdicts — those commonly exceeding $10 million — against trucking companies.
Recently, such verdicts have been on the rise. In a study, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) found that from 2006 to 2019, verdicts of over $10 million almost doubled. In addition, verdicts of over $1 million grew from 26 in 2006-2010 to 265 in 2015-2019.
Bluewire’s goal is to help carriers and insurers leverage a data-driven methodology to protect themselves from reptile theory practices, a strategy used by plaintiffs that focuses on the instinctive favor of safety and survival of the community but is based on inaccurate portrayals of carrier behavior.
In an interview with FreightWaves, Chairman and CEO Steven Bryan explained his passion for protecting drivers’ reputations and how his team plans to use its decades of industry experience to fight for carriers.
This interview was edited for clarity and length.
FREIGHTWAVES: What inspired the idea for Bluewire and creating this data-driven methodology?
BRYAN: “I started wondering, ‘What’s the biggest problem in the industry?’ and it’s hard to ignore this nuclear verdict problem. … In the early days of CSA [compliance, safety and accountability], everybody said they were a CSA solution. Everybody had these solutions, like tire inflators so you don’t get the tread violations, or use speed limiters so you don’t get caught speeding. They’re all right, everybody’s correct. But they’re not looking at the big picture of CSA.
“What’s lacking is this unifying theory about how to bring it all together with data. … So I started talking to friends, trusted advisers, mentors and people I’ve met over the years and bouncing this idea off of them. [At first] It was very vague but then it really evolved.
“I went back to Peter [Rowe], my technology partner, and I started bouncing ideas off him about what we might do with data. He got me really excited about the state of AI, machine learning and text mining. He said, ‘We can probably get data that you wouldn’t imagine,’ like social media posts, posts on driver job boards, chatter that exists between the dispatcher and the driver through their telematics device, video analysis of facial expression and emotion.
“With this aggregated data approach, we can begin to move the needle on the whole industry’s reputation, one motor carrier at a time. … That would be a huge gratification to me and the rest of the team.”
FREIGHTWAVES: How will all of this data enable you to help carriers protect their reputations?
BRYAN: “That’s where the unifying theory comes from in our approach at Bluewire. … We want to be able to say [to carriers], we’ve identified a vulnerability in your shield against plaintiffs. We call them attack vectors, the arrows [of bad behavior] that shoot and penetrate that motor carrier and allow plaintiffs to come in and say, ‘We have evidence that you’re a bad actor and you don’t care and we’re going to punish you.’
“We will identify those attack vectors and where particular motor carriers are vulnerable. For example, you don’t have a camera in place, you’re not using electronic DQ [driver qualification] files, you’re not doing regular ongoing driver training. We will identify those and point carriers to the best solutions that will help you address those issues.”
FREIGHTWAVES: Your board and executive team is full of transportation veterans, including Robert Boyich, Doug Marcello, Peter Rowe, Don Osterberg, Annette Sandberg, Michael Precia, Scott Mugno, Ellen Voie and Mike Card. How did you go about creating this team?
BRYAN: “One at a time I said, ‘I’m just going to ask and see what happens.’ I thought, if I can get one or two of them to say yes that would be awesome. Nobody told me no.
“I am really humbled and pleased with that group, and I can’t wait to work with them to go tackle this huge challenge.”
FREIGHTWAVES: What does Bluewire’s future look like? What products are you looking to release to empower these carriers?
BRYAN: “The first thing we’re going to put out is a reputational assessment. It will be a self-assessment of service that we will make available to the entire industry at no cost. What we want to figure out is how they perceive their own reputation.
“Next we will offer a similar self-assessment but a deeper dive into departments including finance, safety, compliance and recruiting.
“Then around the end of the year, we will release a software platform, where we will begin to monitor and validate the responses that carriers have given us. … That will be offered as a paid subscription to motor carriers.”