By Michelle Ferguson
It’s company meeting day at Drivewyze, provider of the world’s largest connected-truck safety network. Employees gather around the cab of a red semi — scooping salsa and sour cream onto their plates and chatting with their colleagues from south of the border.
But this is no field trip; we aren’t at a truck stop or fleet office. We’re inside the tech venture’s Edmonton headquarters, where a salvaged truck cab was recently retrofitted into a series of meetings rooms.
The space acts as a reminder of Drivewyze’s customers (product managers can get a sense for how commercial truck operators interface with the app), but also as a testament to the scaling company’s penchant for innovation — providing quiet workstations in a rather unconventional way.
“You can get these telephone booths, but we thought instead of just getting an off-the-shelf pod, maybe we can have a little bit of fun,” CEO and co-founder Brian Heath explains.
Once the owner of an oil & gas service company, Brian fell in love with the trucking industry after he and co-founder Fred Ko acquired a technology used to inspect brakes on the fly. Over the past 15 years, their mission to improve highway safety has resulted in two companies and a host of innovative technologies.
Their first venture, Intelligent Imaging Systems, delivers a suite of smart commercial truck screening services — from thermal brake inspections to hazmat placard readers — to law enforcement agencies across North America. In 2013, they spun off Drivewyze, a wholly-owned subsidiary that offers weigh station bypass services to truck drivers and fleets.
A software as a service (SaaS) business, Drivewyze uses location-based technology to communicate with participating weigh stations and inspection sites, asking if a truck can bypass. The chances of getting a bypass are determined by the carrier’s safety score.
“We want zero crashes and zero fatalities from large trucks and a way to do that is to positively incentivize the industry to improve their safety practices,” Brian says.
Drivewyze can be downloaded as an app or comes preinstalled in certain Electronic Logging Devices (ELD). The software uses algorithms to determine a carrier’s sliding bypass rate and geofencing to activate bypass requests.
From a carrier perspective, Drivewyze saves time and money (around five minutes and $8.78 USD for every bypass), while for enforcement agencies it helps triage carriers, so they can focus on the trucks that need more scrutiny.
“When a weigh station gets busy, the trucks can start to back up onto the highway, which is a safety hazard,” VP of marketing Doug Johnson explains. “So when scales get busy they will often turn the ‘pull in’ sign off… and all these trucks go down the highway [uninspected.]”
When the software was first launched, only 12 states were participating. Drivewyze has since grown into the largest connected-truck safety network in the world — serving 45 states and provinces. More states and provinces are being added every year.
The Edmonton-based company has partnerships with a number of telematics providers to install software directly on to ELDs and is in talks with many more It has completely disrupted earlier bypass technology — transponders that use short wave radio frequencies — but Brian isn’t satisfied yet. He wants Drivewyze to become ubiquitous.
“The trucking industry is a $700 billion per annum industry,” he says. “Weigh station bypass was a $1-billion opportunity. We're going to leverage our platform to solve problems in that $700 billion industry that other folks just haven't figured out yet.”
Scaling a company presents some unique challenges. With the focus no longer on product-market fit but on improving internal processes, Drivewyze is busy hiring software developers, data scientists, QA automation engineers, and technical partner engineers to ensure the company can sustain its growth at scale.
“When we launched the service five years ago, we were servicing hundreds of trucks,” Doug says. “Now we’re doing millions [of transactions per day.] The data needs are huge.”
Not only are the data needs huge, but there’s an increasing need for better security, better partner integration and the use of automation for optimization and efficiency.
“Those are different challenges than the startup phase,” Brian says, “but they’re just as fun.”
Want to meet the next Drivewyze? Come to Launch Party!
Drivewyze was a featured company at Launch Party 4 in 2013; this year you can join us for the tenth annual edition of Launch Party Edmonton, the city's flagship startup event that celebrates and showcases the hottest startups in town.
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