October 4, 2010 2:00 PM, EDT

Xata Turnpike Geared to Trucks With Communications Units

By Dan Leone, Staff Reporter

This story appears in the Oct. 4 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

GRAPEVINE, Texas — An executive of Xata Corp. said the company’s plans for its phone-based tracking and logging system — Xata Turnpike — include pushing the unit into trucks that already have mobile communications hardware installed.

“It will be more common to see a Turnpike unit beside a Qualcomm unit or a PeopleNet unit, or even [another] Xata unit,” Christian Schenk, vice president of product marketing for Xata, Eden Prairie, Minn., told Transport Topics.

Turnpike is a truck-tracking and hours-of-service recording system that Xata acquired when it bought Turnpike Global Technologies last year.

Turnpike uses a cell phone as its monitor and communications link and separate computer hardware provided by Xata to link software on the phone with a truck’s engine control module.

The system, with a few software tweaks, would qualify as a legal electronic onboard recorder under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s latest rule about the devices, Xata said.

Part of Xata’s push to get the Turnpike system further into the North American trucking industry involves partnering with telecommunications companies, handset makers and resellers with portfolios that include both of these systems.

For example, the company announced during TMW’s 2010 TransForum user group here during late September that it struck a deal with Glentel, a Canadian reseller of communications hardware and wireless network services.

Xata is betting that, by partnering with such companies as Glentel and with telecommunications providers directly, they can tap into segments of the trucking industry too small to be reached with a traditional sales force.

Xata maintains that truckers of this size are more likely to have a relationship with the company that sold them their mobile phone than with a traditional mobile communications provider.

Xata CEO Jay Coughlan has pushed this strategy since the Turnpike acquisition in December.

According to the Xata blueprint for Turnpike sales, an owner-operator who already has a cell phone would order Turnpike from a company such as Glentel, install the extra hardware himself and begin using Turnpike immediately. The cost of the monthly Turnpike subscription would show up on the subscriber’s phone bill.

“Xata wants to be a line on the phone bill,” said David Wangler, chief executive officer of TMW Systems Inc., Beachwood, Ohio. Wangler cited Xata’s marketing efforts as an example of the drive in the trucking-technology niche to find “new ways to get [the] products to market.”