Curtis Timmer has been making sure things keep running smoothly for over two decades, starting back in 1999 an IT expert with IBM Canada testing computers and servers for Y2K compliance. Over the next 12 years, he focused on transportation and logistics, serving as director of IT and QA for RSB Logistic and as director of IT and customer service for Grimshaw Trucking within the Mullen Group of Companies. His innovative approach to thinking outside the black box/white box mindset to find solutions to some of the greatest challenges saw him recognized with the 2015 and 2016 PeopleNet Innovator of the Year Award–Canadian Fleets, as the first back-to-back recipient of this prestigious honor, as well as the 2016 TMW Innovator of the Year Award—LTL, Intermodal and Specialized Fleets.
It was precisely this “gray box” way of thinking that led Curtis to co-found Gray Box Solutions Inc., a transportation technology firm specializing in implementation, custom development, and integrations, in 2018. With nearly 100 years of experience in transportation and technology, and a team consisting of a former TMW senior developer, an award-winning integration and implementation specialist, and a highly influential transportation technology professional, respected throughout the industry leading the way, the company’s 100% virtual staff is delivering solutions that bridge the gap between the seen and unseen—the white box and the black box—to help their clients across Canada and the U.S. thrive.
Given the parabolic trajectory of Gray Box, it would seem the transportation industry has been waiting for this. And Curtis is delivering. With growth doubling year over year since 2020 and a quintupling of customers, Gray Box serves municipalities and trucking companies—among them some former employers, many other transportation and logistics companies and electrical utility companies, serving over 6,000 trucks.
While Curtis leads the rapidly growing firm, he remains ever the “solutionist,” leveraging his talents in reverse engineering and R&D to design creative, efficient solutions for even the most complex customer requirements and myriad challenges they face.
We spoke with Curtis about his inspiration for Gray Box and how they’re changing the face of transportation.
What compelled you to start the company, and how is it different from other transportation technology firms?
I’d always done consulting on the side while having a primary job, to lend a helping hand to companies that didn’t have someone with my expertise on staff. I’ve also always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and I wanted to make my own mark on this industry. As more and more companies began reaching out for my help, the timing felt right, so my partners and I took a leap of faith and formally established Gray Box. Today, many of my past employers are now our customers.
Where did the idea for Gray Box come from? Were you seeing issues throughout your career with companies forced to use either a white or black box?
Absolutely. A black box is a proprietary system that produces results, but doesn’t reveal what’s happening inside. A white box is completely transparent in every way, but is often too specific and hands-on. We’ve always struggled with having to play within certain system confines. I want to look under the hood, reverse engineer, and make things better for clients. One size doesn’t fit all. We focus on offering technology solutions that bridge the gap between the seen and unseen so clients can focus on their businesses. A gray box really allowed us to illustrate the way we approach solutions.
How do the particularly unique services you offer—system integrations and automation, vehicle telematics, and mobile workforce applications—benefit your clients?
Systems integration eliminates the friction that happens when different systems can’t talk to each other. Automation shifts busy work like data entry away from skillful employees so they can focus on what they do best: decision making. Vehicle telematics allows us to record vehicle data for fleet management. This allows us to practice preventative maintenance, which reduces costs on overall maintenance and improves safety and efficiency. Finally, mobile workforce apps allow drivers to navigate and keep them in touch with the head office and dispatcher to stay up on all the information they need, all in one application. One in four drivers are between 55 and 64 years old, but they expect to see technology and are adopting it, and it makes their jobs easier. And an easier job leads to longer driver retention and attracts new drivers.
Did your experience as a leader for other trucking companies help inform the solutions Gray Box provides?
It absolutely did. Without being in those positions and having to solve the problems those companies had, I never would have identified solutions to fix them. I’ve been in our clients’ shoes. I saw all the problems in the industry, so it’s personally rewarding to use all my experience and skills to make their work, and their lives, easier and more enjoyable.
Co-Founder & CEO — Gray Box Solutions Inc.