Teen Geotab Prodigy: Harnessing Telematics for Gerhardt’s Trucking Success
Published on December 21, 2023
Fifteen-year-old Martin Gerhardt has been installing Geotab GO devices since he was 13 years old. He’s installed over 150 devices across countless vehicle types and has no plans of stopping. When he isn’t busy playing hockey, soccer and keeping up with his schoolwork, Martin enjoys diving deeper into the software’s capabilities. He’s a huge advocate of telematics and recognizes the benefits technology brings to his family’s business.
The Gerhardt family has several businesses in and around the Lunenburg, Nova Scotia area including fleet services, transport and supplying heavy-duty equipment. As family businesses go, everyone needs to be a jack of all trades and Martin is no exception. He describes his role as “a little bit of everything” and helps with as many things as he can. When he was just 13 years old, Martin installed the fleet’s first batch of Geotab GO devices. It didn’t take long for the Gerhardt family to see a return on their telematics investment. “When a truck breaks down, the first thing my parents do is check the map to find the closest auto shop,” says Martin. “We even talk about fleet tracking at the dinner table on Saturday nights.”
Gerhardt Fleet Tech Service is one of the businesses the Gerhardt family operates. (Photo taken by Northern BI)
Keeping an eye on things with asset trackers
The ability to see vehicle locations on the map has come in handy on more than one occasion. With many vehicles at different locations on and off-site, it can be tricky to keep them organized. “Some of our trucks travel to the U.S. and back on a regular basis making deliveries, so we keep some of the trailers down there. We use asset trackers to keep an eye on them, so we know they’re where they’re supposed to be,” says Martin. Northern BI offers a variety of asset trackers to give fleets peace of mind and organization. Asset trackers aren’t just for trailers either – they can be used on lawnmowers, containers, machinery, and even Zambonis.
An expert at GO device installations
Martin’s experience installing the devices has been very positive. In two years, Martin has installed nearly 150 devices in many types of heavy and light-duty vehicles. “The devices have been very easy to install for the most part,” Martin comments. “It’s harder in the bigger vehicles because you need to go into the motors, but for a pickup truck, it takes a maximum of five minutes”. The tractor-trailers and dump trucks were quick to install as well. While the intention was to equip only the larger vehicles with Geotab devices, Martin advocated to have them added to others too. “We planned to have them in the vehicles that are on the move every day – but what about a pickup truck that only travels a couple times a week? It can be stolen too. It makes so much sense to have the devices in everything,” says Martin.
Martin Gerhardt holding a Geotab GO device. (Photo taken by Northern BI)
Maintaining compliance with Geotab’s ELD solution
Gerhardt’s initial need for telematics was due to the Canadian ELD mandate. As some vehicles travel into the U.S., they’re required to have certified e-logs. Keeping tabs on their drivers’ hours of service helps with dispatching and ensuring compliance. As with many long-term drivers, there was initially some hesitation towards adopting ELD. With time and training, the drivers came to understand the benefits of the e-log system. “There was a difference between the older and younger drivers,” explains Martin. The younger ones were more open to making the switch to e-logs. It’s so much faster though, and a lot more accurate. They don’t want to go back to the paper logs now”.
Different reasons to travel outside of the 160km zone can come up quickly, so it’s important to be trained and understand the system. “We transport a lot of different things down to Maine, so the Geotab devices have helped a lot”. The security of knowing the locations of their vehicles has been an added bonus. “We like knowing when the trucks left, but now it’s a big security help too,” says Martin.
Some of the Gerhardt trucks. (Photo provided by Martin Gerhardt)
Money and time saved with Geotab
For Gerhardt’s, using telematics has helped cut down on fuel costs and time wasted as well. Being able to determine the most efficient route when making deliveries has been critical when dealing with high fuel costs. “With fuel costing almost $2.00 a litre, things get expensive quickly,” comments Martin. “Something else we do is deliver parcels throughout the province and community. With Geotab, we’ve been able to determine better routes for efficiency and fuel costs”. In the event someone claims a delivery never arrived, the Gerhardt’s can easily check their database to see if a truck stopped at specific addresses.
Using maintenance reminders to keep track of oil changes and more
It can sometimes be hard to tell when it’s time for a vehicle to have maintenance done when being used by different operators. Using Geotab’s built-in maintenance reminders has helped improve the lifecycle of their heavy-duty equipment. Geotab’s GO device automatically calculates a vehicle’s engine hours which helps determine when it’s time for an oil change or tire rotation. “We love this feature,” says Martin.
Initially, Gerhardt didn’t anticipate the weekly reports from Geotab to be this beneficial. They like the ability to see which vehicles are idling the most and how they’re being used. “We know the drivers are likely idling due to the weather outside – but at the end of the day, fuel costs are high right now,” says Martin.
Idling rulesets can be set up inside MyGeotab to keep tabs on drivers who keep their vehicles running needlessly. Many Northern BI customers use this feature as it saves a huge amount of money and reduces their environmental footprint. When fuel costs are high, every little bit helps.
Using Geotab zones and trip history to track driver activity
Martin frequently relies on the zoning function in MyGeotab. He can create zones to keep track of where vehicles are and if they’ve travelled somewhere they shouldn’t be. For example, creating a zone for a fleet yard can alert administrators about suspicious activity. “If we see that a vehicle has left its zone at 2 a.m., that’s probably not a good sign and we need to look into it,” says Martin Additionally, other fleets employ zones to discourage driver congregation, generating reports that detail involved drivers, vehicle whereabouts, arrival times, and the duration of their gathering.
Geotab’s trip history feature helps monitor jobs completed. Seeing the breadcrumb trail of a vehicle helps fleet managers better understand driver activities. “Unfortunately, we’ve had incidents where someone says they’ve completed a task, but we’ve been able to see they haven’t. Geotab helps with accountability,” says Martin. With Geotab’s trip history reporting, fleets can better assess productivity and find areas for improvement.
Martin standing with a Gerhardt truck. (Photo provided by Martin Gerhardt)
Discovering beneficial surprises with Geotab
Martin’s uncertain about what lies ahead, but his passion for hands-on work drives him. At just fifteen, he’s deeply familiar with the nuances of running a thriving trucking business. Eagerly anticipating his sixteenth birthday, he can’t wait to take the helm of a heavy-duty truck. In the meantime, he champions telematics and proudly holds the title of Geotab’s youngest power user and installer.
“The Geotab devices have helped a lot. We like the security of knowing where the vehicles are”.