BUSINESS FEATURE: Invention brings success for Grand Forks business

Mona Mattei
By Mona Mattei
March 18th, 2010

When Mark Deverson made the decision to step away from his full-time employment and go it alone in a small business, he had no way of knowing that the economy would take a downturn at the same time. Now, two years later, he’s sure he made the right choice as contracts for his invention are coming in.

About 10 years ago Deverson and a group of his friends came up with an idea to create a system that would prevent dump truck spills and collisions that happen when truck boxes are unknowingly elevated or their end gates open. At the time, interest in the idea fell and, explained Deverson, the technology just wasn’t available to create their invention. Deverson had the foresight to buy out his partners and sit on the idea. A certified engineering technologist by profession, he kept working on the project over time under his new company Precision Endgate Safety Inc.

“I worked on it occasionally and got the patents finished,” said Deverson, “and then, finally, the technology where it could be used in snow, mud, sticks with no moving parts caught up to the idea. Now, there are no moving parts, and you can use it in all conditions, it’s really foolproof.”

Precision Endgate makes two products small enough that Deverson is able to produce them right in his home. One is the endgate locking system that prevents the tailgate on a dump truck from opening while in transport. “Right now a guy can reach for his coffee, flip the switch and dump his payload,” said Deverson. “There’s really no guaranteed way to keep the tailgate locked unless you’re using this system.”

The second product he’s developed is the elevation indication system. “You’ve heard of dump trucks with their boxes raised hitting overpasses, or power lines. This system warns the driver when it is up,” he explained. The endgate system comes with the elevation system as well. Together they eliminate accidental spills by securing dump truck loads and provide a visual and audible warning to drivers unaware the bed of their truck has risen to a potentially deadly position.

The Deverson family came from Vancouver Island five years ago. They chose Grand Forks out of all the options they had because of the small town atmosphere and the heat! They have family in Castlegar and are happy to be close. The business is co-owned between Mark and his wife Amanda who takes care of the financial side of things.

Deverson said the recession, just as he started on his new company in earnest, was hard on his new business since trucking firms liked his idea, but no one had the money to move it forward. Now, people are starting to get on board as the economy is improving. Insurance companies have indirectly helped him along since they are starting to pressure companies around safety issues.

“Luckily (for his company) drivers are still making a lot of mistakes out there. It is a safety product so mines seem to catching on first and municipalities are a close second. We need to work into the private sector a little bit more.” And the cost savings for companies can be huge, said Deverson.

For example, Smook Contractors in Manitoba contacted Precision after an accident at Vale Inco’s Manitoba Operations, where a dump truck with a raised box slammed into a trestle carrying the mine’s tailings including both gas and water. Damage was substantial and closed the mine’s surface operations for five days. “That’s millions and millions of dollars lost for a $750 item,” said Deverson.

Truckshop Supervisor, Dave Naylor, said the driver was unaware the box was going up slowly as he drove. Precision Endgate Safety was awarded the contract to supply Smook Contractors with its elevation indicator system, the alarm system that warns drivers when their truck box has risen unexpectedly. He said Precision’s alarm system will prevent similar incidents from taking place in the future.

“We showed it to Inco the other day and they were quite happy with the alarm system, very happy actually. We are putting it on all of the trucks that we own,” Naylor said. Deverson said the incident that occurred at Inco is far from unique.

Deverson has now established a complete distribution across the United States. In Canada, Deverson covers the sales along with his sales manager based in Vancouver.

“I don’t want to move,” he said. “That’s part of why I’m running my own business – so I can choose where to live.” If production gets really busy, Mark is committed to growing the business and hiring locally. He said that customers don’t seem to mind the extra couple of days it takes to ship from Grand Forks with most orders coming in online through his website.

The greatest challenge Deverson faced over the past two years has been the tough sell. “Sure it increases safety, but at the same time by (the small operators) putting the product on their trucks it almost seems like they’re admitting they have a problem. That was really hard to get through.” He’s happy that he is able to have skilled sales representatives to take that on now.

Highlights for Deverson include winning the Business Innovation award from Community Futures Boundary in 2009 and now, the big sale to Smook Contractors. “To push through and persevere has been tough. Especially with the economy – I quit a month before the recession started. The timing couldn’t have been worse.” The recent large sale, said Deverson, makes all the work worthwhile.

For a small business located in a forestry-based resource town, Precision Endgate Safety Inc. shows that success can come by looking outside the box.



Precision Endgate Safety Inc.

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