Geotab addresses Canadian challenges

From the basement of an aspiring technology guru to the halls of the San Diego Convention Center, Geotab is a growing telematics company that, despite its success, has not forgotten its Canadian roots.

“Canada is very important to all of us,” Geotab CEO Neil Cawse recently told Today’s Trucking. “I think we are lucky to sit on the doorsteps to a big country like the United States, and we can gain the benefit of having access to big markets. We’ve never felt disadvantaged of being Canadian.”

Canada is the second largest market for Geotab, with around 150,000 of its two million total connected vehicles being in Canada.

Colin Sutherland, executive vice-president of sales and marketing for Geotab, said Canada is a significant market for the company, but they do find it to be somewhat regional, with Eastern Canada, Quebec, Ontario, and Western Canada all facing their own unique challenges.

In Alberta, for example, many of the roads being used by carriers servicing the oil and gas sector are private, built by the oilpatch, and come with strict usage guidelines, particularly when it comes to speed.

“The biggest problem is you have as a driver, and if you’re breaking the rules – the rules are enforced on the private road by the people who laying the patch – if you speed on that road, your entire fleet can be taken off the road,” said Sutherland.

Geotab’s GoTalk is a useful tool in this environment, as it speaks to the driver if they are approaching the maximum allowable speed and advises them to slow down.

“You don’t want to necessary affect the actually speed of the vehicle itself by reprogramming the computer and setting the speed, because that can be reset easily,” Sutherland explained. “We’re mostly about driver coaching and making sure we’ve identified certain areas that are rough terrain and that there are rules.”

From a national standpoint, both Sutherland and Scott Sutarik, vice-president of commercial vehicle solutions, agree the next big thing to impact the industry in Canada is the impending ELD mandate.

Sutherland said Geotab is aware of some of the issues Canadian carriers going cross-border have faced with the U.S. mandate.

Sutarik added, “(Canada is) taking a very methodical approach and making sure they do it right. Down here, they have an example of how one country did it, so they are taking lessons learned from what happened here.”

Privacy is another issue not to be ignored in Canada, and how telematics is used and shared is an important matter for Geotab.

Sherry Calkins, vice-president of strategic partners, works with the provinces to ensure drivers and carriers are adhering to federal privacy laws in Canada.

“We’re always making sure privacy is first and foremost, and everything we do the client owns the data,” said Calkins. “It doesn’t matter what territory we’re in, the customer always owns that data and they get to say who has access to it and how they share that data. And more importantly, how they inform their drivers, how they get consent, and how they opt in and opt out.”

Geotab recognizes the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance standard – a regulation recently introduced in Europe to address data protection. Because of the high standard GDPR sets, Calkins said Geotab is always in compliance when it comes to data protection regardless of country or region.

As for data ownership, Calkins said her company is part of a coalition in Canada, the U.S., and Europe to implement a standard.

She said Geotab also works with the Global Alliance for Vehicle Data Access “to ensure we’re educating government on what fleets need. It’s so different from fleets in commercial versus consumer. But we all are concerned about privacy, so these coalitions are helping to formulate advocacy and are doing some lobbying.”

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A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media and trucking industries as a writer, editor, and now as western bureau chief of Today's Trucking and I have several years of management experience in journalism, as well as hospitality, but am first and foremost a writer, both professionally and in my personal life, having completed two fiction novels.

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