Born in California, Raised in Motor City
Before developing the first live streaming fleet camera system in North America, Jeff Stoker worked as an automotive engineer at a Tier 1 supplier to Ford Motor Company in the Detroit area.
Through a casual discussion with a friend from work, Jeff learned of a California-based company called Safety Track. According to his co-worker, the guys at Safety Track had just designed a new, high-tech system that could be used by police to disable speeding vehicles via lasers.
In California, high-speed chases were rampant at the time and Safety Track’s system poised to solve the problem. With the possibility of establishing high-profile contracts with major automotive manufacturers and law enforcement, there was a great potential for growth. Intrigued by the idea, Jeff decided to invest.
Despite the incredible technology, none of the Big 3 (Ford, GM, and Chrysler) took interest in Safety Track’s system and the company fell on hard times. And during the downturn of the automotive industry of the early 2000s, Safety Track eventually went out of business for good.
That is until Stoker brought Safety Track to Michigan and started his own franchise in his basement.
Safety Track 2.0
With Safety Track of California out of the game, it was up to Jeff to find his own suppliers, methods of distribution, and customer base. Starting out as a one-man team, Jeff drove around the area and spoke with fleet managers to sell his GPS systems to local businesses.
Jeff also put graphics on his Ford Explorer to advertise whenever he went out to meet with potential customers.
His first customers were friends in the transportation industry that he had made prior. Through referrals and word of mouth, Safety Track grew in size, hiring more employees and eventually moving out of Stoker’s basement and into a 6,000 sq. ft. office space.
And even though his daily commute didn’t require him to leave the house, Jeff still made a habit of dressing for success every day.
“It would have been easy to sit home and do whatever, but every morning I got up and got showered and changed and dressed in business attire—I was going to work even though I would walk downstairs most of the time. I made myself—just like I had done prior to that—get ready for work.”
Safety Track “Goes Live”
As manager, he worked to develop GPS systems that could help fleet managers track vehicle whereabouts. Toward the end of the late 2000s, Safety Track began to produce dash cams.
After relative success with their new dash cams, Jeff kept getting the same question from customers: “when can we see it live?” At this time, Safety Track cameras were completely passive—they only recorded video. Even with high-quality recordings on their side, commercial fleets continued to get involved in accidents and frivolous lawsuits. A view inside the cab in real time could potentially allow fleet managers to prevent these accidents before they happened.
In 2014, Jeff and his team did just that. Despite fierce competition in the fleet safety industry, Safety Track was one of the first to market with their new live streaming technology. To establish a connection while on the road, Safety Track systems were equipped with 4G connectivity and were made compatible with all 3 major carriers: AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile.
Through word-of-mouth and referrals from happy customers, the company continued to grow, attracting attention from all over the world.
“One of my most memorable moments at Safety Track,” recalls Jeff, “was when we sent cameras to Africa and watched as they were installed. We looked at each other and said, ‘these are in Africa,’ as we watched live.”
Since then, Safety Track hasn’t slowed down one bit. Their clients include some of the biggest names in the automotive industry, such as Keystone Automotive. And they’re just getting started.
The Next Chapter
According to Stoker, his goal is to be better than the day before. And when he looks back and remembers his office in his Michigan basement and sees the employees the company has now, he can’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment.
“So what’s on the road ahead for you and Safety Track?” I asked Jeff in our interview over the phone.
After taking a short pause, Jeff responds with a humble reply, “I think we haven’t hit our stride yet—we have a market that still hasn’t yet been tapped. We feel blessed to be where we are but know we have only started.”