ORLANDO -- LinkeDrive, a new company, says its first product, PedalCoach, helps drivers achieve better fuel economy through a smartphone or tablet app that converts complex data from the engine and other areas into a simple graphic gauge interface that coaches drivers to stay in the "green zone."

The product, which is currently in commercial use in more than 100 trucks in five fleets, saves an average of a nickel per mile, said LinkeDrive founder and CEO, Jeff Baer, in a product introduction Saturday before the start of the American Trucking Associations' annual MC&E convention.

Baer pointed out that it's generally acknowledged that 30% of fuel econmy depends on the driver. " Tools, driver scorecards, fuel bonuses, all somewhat make an impact, but no one's really nailed it yet," he said.

"Our algorithm, the basic high school math we apply to the data, allow us to generate the right target, regardless of the driver, the road, the truck or the load -- we define this green zone," Baer explained. "A guy that goes out with a full load of rock salt and comes back deadhead will see a different target out and back. We believe it's the most important gauge in the cab of the truck and enables fair pay for performance for drivers."

Baer would not offer a great deal of detail about how the product worked, citing proprietary information, he said the smartphone plugs into a dock in the cab that gets information wirelessly from the engine's electronic control unit, such as engine load, vehicle speed and engine speed, as well as data from the cloud.

<p>Jeff Baer, founder and CEO of LinkeDrive, got the idea for his product when working for a battery company providing batteries for electric trucks, when he realized driver performance could make a difference in battery range -- or fuel economy. <em>(Photo by Evan Lockridge)</em></p>

It translates the target mpg into a gauge graphic on the smartphone, as well as a red-yellow-green light system like a traffic signal. For each mile driven in the green zone, the driver gets a point, which tick up like an odometer. Each time there's a point, the driver can get a cash register sound or one of several other sounds available as positive feedback.

As a bonus, Baer said, the fleets that have been using it are seeing fewer preventable crashes and less maintenance.

Regan Stephens, president of Transport Distribution Company, one of the fleets that has been a pilot customer, said his fleet has deployed PedalCoach on older and newer trucks, and with drivers across the spectrum from poor to good mpg performance. "Poor performers have improved and are hitting their incentive targets for the first time in years," he says in a press release. "And good drivers are becoming great."

Installation takes less than 20 minutes per truck, Baer said. In addition to the in-cab coaching, fleets can securely access driver and truck analytics to track trends, compare drivers, assess differences in truck models, and evaluate regional and seasonal variances in performance.

In addition, LinkeDrive offers a pay-for-performance program with PedalCoach, which is especially attractive to smaller carriers that don't have the resources to create their own.