Mobile apps are making their way up the list of a trucker’s most useful tools, and are now helping professionals throughout the industry manage aspects such as customer and broker communication, route planning (including planning ahead for parking and food stops), document processing (including payments), and finding and booking loads.
“It makes finding loads and servicing the customers [and] our brokers a lot easier,” said Greenmiles Inc. president, Shain Ferriss. Greenmiles carries refrigerated goods and operates 26 refrigerated trailers and 23 power units. To do so more efficiently, it uses trucking apps like Trucker Tools.
Apps like these can be utilized on everything from GPS systems and electronic logging devices to a driver’s own smartphone. They are also helping fleet managers, shippers, and drivers have better insight into freight movements, allowing them to communicate with one another much more easily and manage their loads as efficiently as possible.
Apps that allow freight brokers, specifically, to see tracking and shipment updates in real time “takes a lot of weight off the drivers’ and carrier’s shoulders,” explained Ferriss. “When the broker or their customer can actually see geographical tracking through an app, they feel a lot more comfortable, and they’re happier with the carrier that’s using it.”
Additionally, some drivers can become easily overwhelmed when using multiple apps for different purposes, so multipurpose apps can come in handy.
“[Carriers] don’t want their drivers using five to 12 apps to do one job,” said vice president of sales and strategic partnerships for Eleos Technologies, Wes Pollock. Eleos provides an application for trucking companies to customize their own platforms. Some added services on newer apps also include the ability to factor and purchase insurance.
The Trucker Path app was initially launched in 2013 to help drivers better communicate with one another to stay up-to-date on current parking availability, and now the app functions primarily as a navigation guide, according to the company’s vice president of business development, Steven Lopez. Last year, the app launched its own load board.
Professional driver Deon Melvin has been using Trucker Path to gain insight into peak parking times and availability while on the road.
“Now you can use [the app] for truck routes,” Melvin said. “If my GPS loses the signal, I can pull it up on my phone and use [the app] to get me where I need to be.”
Trucker Tools is continuing to work on updating its truck stop guide, and recently released a page on its app dedicated specifically to COVID-19-related updates. The pandemic has brought about many new protocols, safety measures, and hours of operation changes, which has made apps like these frequently update their capabilities and services. Now, truckers are playing an important part in keeping these updates current by submitting their experiences during their rest stops.
Many truck stops and rest areas began shutting down in the midst of the pandemic, “and even at warehouses and facilities, suddenly amenities were closed to drivers who were delivering or picking up,” explained Trimble Maps’ director of operations and strategy, Rishi Mehra. During unprecedented and difficult times like these, “aggregation of information becomes much more important,” he added.
Trimble Maps has been using Twitter and RSS feeds to keep its geographic information system data up to date by collaborating with state agencies and truck stop workers that operate rest areas. Then, that data is implemented into the app’s MileOn trip planning extension.
Later, the app offered an additional service with color-coded map amenities showing a driver whether a rest area was partially open, fully open, or closed, according to Mehra.
Some of Trimble’s partners ended up utilizing the app within their own transportation management systems.
“The information can only be as accurate as the sync cycle,” Mehra explained, nothing that the system’s information must always be kept up to date to be at all helpful.
Some trucking companies have also been able to boost recruitment and retention numbers by providing tools, such as these kinds of apps, to help drivers directly. If an app allows drivers to easily route to travel centers with rewards programs and preferred fuel rates, it may be particularly beneficial.
“Food choices, shopping, and parking [are] already at a premium for us,” said JM Bozerman Enterprises driver and recruiter, Christopher Smith. “We can’t just fire her up and head into town. Knowing where to go and getting there quickly and safely” is most important.