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October 23, 2020 2:30 PM, EDT

Startup Harnesses Data, Telematics in New Insurance Model for Fleets

Chuck Wallace and Reid SpitzChuck Wallace (left) and Reid Spitz formed High Definition Vehicle Insurance in 2018. (Andrew Collings Photography)

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Chuck Wallace, a co-founder of Esurance, saw commercial truck insurance as a struggling market, hidebound by past practice and ripe for innovation.

The insurance tech revolution he had helped kick off some 20 years ago with ­Esurance for home and auto owners had left trucking by the side of the road.

That led to a meeting with Reid Spitz, a principal at venture capital firm 8VC.

Seeing an opportunity to reinvent the trucking insurance market, they partnered with 8VC and other investors to form High Definition Vehicle Insurance. Launched in 2018, HDVI focuses on small and midsize trucking fleets.

“We wrap all we do around data and telematics, third-party next-generation hardware, our own software and services, combined with an integrated insurance product that rewards fleets for becoming safer,” explained Wallace, who is HDVI’s CEO.

The program provides “a set of initiatives for the fleet to help them improve more aspects of their operation,” such as safety, hiring and training practices and procedures, data management and control, and regulatory compliance, among other areas.

“As [fleets] prove themselves responsive to coaching and implementing recommendations to become safer, they can earn a better rate through the course of the policy,” Wallace said, adding, “you can’t just put a camera in a truck and see safety improvements. You need monitoring and analyzing [the data] combined with [proactive, ongoing] coaching as well.”

Spitz, HDVI’s head of operations, said commercial truck liability insurance has been a “hardening market” for many years, influenced by factors such as a labor shortage that has forced fleets to hire younger, less experienced drivers. Other challenges include high driver turnover, distracted driving (by both civilian motorists and truckers), traffic congestion, more stringent regulations on hiring practices and an increasingly aggressive plaintiffs bar. All have placed pressure on fleet safety performance, risk exposure, policy coverage limits, premiums and claims costs.

The innovation in the HDVI model, Wallace said, comes from “our holistic approach integrating technology and data with insurance.”

“We have much better insight into what fleets are doing day in and day out,” he said. “We help them become safer and more efficient. It’s a completely integrated approach that creates advantage over traditional insurance companies.”

Fleets need better tools and insurance practices focused not on reacting, but preventing incidents from occurring in the first place, said Jake Medwell, a founding partner at 8VC.

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