Border can represent a technical divide

Sanchia Duran of Omnitracs and Marc Greco of Challenger discuss unique Canadian challenges faced by system developers.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Marc Greco, manager of corporate solutions with Challenger Motor Freight, was direct when he summed up a comparison of Canadian and U.S. trucking operations. “We do things slightly differently,” he told a crowd at Omnitracs’ Outlook user conference in Nashville, Tenn.

Those slight differences can create challenges when it comes to sourcing industry software and systems.

“You’re always coming across technology that’s really developed for the U.S. market,” Greco explained, using the example of systems that display distances in miles instead of kilometers. “There’s often a need for us to look at it, and understand it, and almost redevelop it.”

The technical barriers come in many forms. Operations in Quebec certainly want information in French, and regulatory demands can shift based on translations alone, said Sanchia Duran, an account manager for Omnitracs in Canada. But regional differences involve more than language alone.

Many developers in the U.S. can overlook variations that even exist between one province and the next. Greco referred to the patchwork of long combination vehicle rules as an example. Duran cited driver vehicle inspection reports, which differ in Quebec and Alberta.

For those who cross the border, there’s also the need to search for solutions which reflect both regulatory worlds, and seamlessly switch between things like different hours of service regulations.

“You do have to be an expert in both jurisdictions,” Greco said. “Sometimes products coming to market don’t necessarily reflect that.”

Canada’s larger landscape presents technical challenges of its own.

Earlier in the user conference, Greco had attended a security expert stressed the need to ensure cell phone coverage never drops below LTE. That may be fine in southern reaches of the country, but such coverage disappears when driving northward. Not surprisingly, Canadians also buy more satellite systems than their counterparts in the U.S.

Products developed for the U.S. might raise flags when equipment is two miles out of route, but in Canada a truck can drive that distance and still not get anywhere, he added.

Despite the differences that exist, Challenger continues to embrace new technology. The company’s strategic planning is based on a five-year “roadmap”, which continually evolves to reflect new tools like electronic logging devices (ELDs) that were adopted well ahead of the recent U.S. mandate.

“We want to be front and center, seeing how this is going to impact our business – and it really didn’t impact our business all that much,” he said.

Duran sees the early ELD adoption as an important example to follow: “If you have over 100 trucks, it’s going to take you a year to get this done properly,” she said.

John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking,, TruckTech, Transport Routier, Inside Logistics, Solid Waste & Recycling, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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