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Feature: In-cab Edisons

CORNWALL, Ont. - Many of the gadgets and contraptions that have crept into the daily lives of truckers everywhere, once began as a fleeting notion on a long stretch of highway.Thanks to the copious am...


CORNWALL, Ont. – Many of the gadgets and contraptions that have crept into the daily lives of truckers everywhere, once began as a fleeting notion on a long stretch of highway.

Thanks to the copious amounts of industry knowledge truckers enjoy and an established captive audience, who better to design and build the things that make the lives of truckers easier than the truckers themselves?

“I personally akin truckers to farmers, they are very creative, very inventive and very well suited at finding a solution with stuff at hand,” says Kathleen Barsoum, operations manager at the Canadian Innovation Centre.

The potential for innovation displayed by some of the truckers’ creative ideas may well deserve an opportunity to break into the industry. To take an invention to the next level, however, sometimes requires the work of an investment angel with faith in the idea. They may need to provide funds to assist in manufacturing and marketing the invention. A strong demand within a niche market is often the key criteria these investors consider. And to determine these aspects, Saul Straussman, communications manager of the Invention Submission Corp., suggests research is the key to getting an idea off the ground.

“The best way of determining if your idea is ready to go someplace is to do some of the legwork yourself,” says Straussman. “Research the industry and the manufacturing process that would be used to create your idea. There are a lot of facets involved in bringing an idea to market.”

Barsoum insists too few inventors bother to do their marketing homework before investing in development and manufacturing expenses and therefore do not understand the prevailing industry conditions affecting their product, nor do they have a proper understanding of the consumer’s wishes.

“Having a great product is only great if there is a proven consumer need for it,” she says.

Personal need is often the driving force behind each new creation, and for one Cornwall truck driver the motivation for Rhino Lawks, his creative high security lock system. The design came directly from his experience as a longhaul trucker.

“My trailer was broken into twice. The first time I didn’t think much of it, but the second time I said, ‘That’s it, they’re not going to do it again.’ We all have stuff stolen, not just me. I vowed to stop them and I did,” says Steve Kelly, of S&A Kelly Trucking out of Cornwall, Ont.

Kelly developed an interchangeable security system he uses in his trailers and now has peace of mind when at a truck stop, or anywhere on the road for that matter.

“I like to say the highway built this lock, because wherever I happened to stop along the way I would look for useful information,” says Kelly. “If I went into a plastics place or to see a locksmith I would go in the front door and start asking questions and pick up any brochures or catalogues they may have. I would then go home on weekends and start putting it together with the new information that I found throughout the week. So over the last two or three years I’ve accumulated quite a library for my garage at home.”

Vic Ruszczyk, a truck driver for TNT Logistics in Oshawa, Ontario, developed a computer software program enabling truckers to keep track of all necessary book work – such as fuel mileage, road tax, GST reports or cost per mile analysis. He claims it keeps truckers organized and saves money, as well.

“I wanted to simplify this aspect of my life and I couldn’t find a program out there that would do this, so I created my own,” he says. “I had bought a personal computer for the kids to use and it wasn’t getting as much use as I had hoped, so I thought after spending that much money, somebody had better use it.”

Straussman likens getting an invention idea to Henry Ford, where it took him four attempts at building an automotive company before he reached success with the model T. He says if an idea isn’t successful, it doesn’t mean that it is a bad idea success largely depends on timing.

“You should always know with whom you are doing business, so if it’s a trucking idea, you should have an understanding of more than just your small part of it,” Straussman says. “You should understand not only who the product is for and why it would be important to them, but also the engineering or mechanics of it so you can personally take your idea even further through the industry. I guess it comes back to researching and understanding what you’re about to embark on. It can be very exciting and rewarding but it is also a very difficult road to hoe.”

Both Kelly and Ruszczyk are confident in their initiatives and their careers have given them the inspiration to do the necessary research and to launch the development process of their products.

“It looks really good, and I can’t wait for someone to pick this thing up. It’s going to happen, I know it’s going to happen,” Kelly concludes.

If you would like to talk to Kelly about his Rhino Lawks, give him a call at 613-937-3974, or email him at sa.kelly@sympatico.ca. You can reach Vic Ruszczyk about his O/O-friendly software at 519-369-2519 or ruszczyk@sympatico.ca.


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