Pocket tools proliferate for networking, reference and managing trucking life and business
As a smartphone user, you’re probably already aware of many of the tools for networking, weather, navigation and more.
Facebook, Twitter, Google Maps and the Weather Channel, among others, offer one-touch access to their networking, microblogging, and route- and emergency-planning functions. Games — from Scrabble-like Words With Friends to the popular Angry Birds — fill in dead time. But trucking suppliers and service providers — as well as enterprising drivers — have been developing apps with specific functions to help you efficiently navigate on the road. From logbook and tracking apps to document services and single-function surcharge- and scale-math cheaters, there’s likely an app for it.
Owner-operator Miguel Dunkelberger, leased to LR & Sons of Grand Rapids, Mich., frequently uses Pilot Travel Centers’ store locator app (iPhone), which uses the GPS functionality of the iPhone to locate the nearest Pilot or Flying J location, then offers turn-by-turn directions to the stop. TravelCenters of America’s new TruckSmart app (iPhone, Android) has the same functionality for TA and Petro locations, as well as stops’ real-time parking availability, fuel price and other data.
In May, concurrent with release of the app for Android phones, TA-Petro integrated its UltraOne loyalty reward program in the app, allowing drivers to check credits, purchase histories and points balances, among other functions. A shower interface enables searching within a 15-mile radius for shower availability (including approximate wait times), shower reservations and push notifications of availability.
Truckers News publisher Randall-Reilly Business Media and Information, in collaboration with Pro-
Miles and Salebug.com, developed the Truck Stop Coupons app, now expanded and called Trucker Tools (Android, iPhone, Blackberry). The app features access to specials at truck stops. It includes a complete directory of truck stops as well as other retail locations that sell diesel, with current fuel prices and mapping included. The multifunction app offers access to loads nationwide, cargo insurance deals, real-time traffic, current weather conditions, a driver-to-driver message board and more. Search “Trucker Tools” on the apps markets and, the company says, keep an eye out for significant updates to arrive soon.
The Truckster app (iPhone, Android), too, includes more than just chain truck stops in its directory. Developed by former driver Leigh Gagnon and launched for the iPhone in 2009, it also offers location functionality for other parking resources like rest areas, Wal-Mart locations, weigh stations and hotels. Drivers using the app can assist the developer in updating the information and adding additional stops.
Parts, service and more
Tire and truck dealers have their own apps. Daimler Trucks North America’s TruckerNet app (iPhone, Android, Blackberry) enables one-touch access to the Freightliner, Western Star and Detroit Diesel manufacturer’s U.S.-Canada parts and service network as well as TA and Petro locations. Built into the app is access to DTNA’s Excelerator “On Call” 24/7 support line for roadside assistance, tow/extraction and monitoring of repairs.
Similarly, the Mack Dealer Locator (iPhone) lists and helps connect users to Mack dealers using phone GPS functionality in a map for real-time location tracking, including a listing of services offered at each location.
Tire makers Michelin and Continental likewise have service-locator apps for the iPhone; Michelin’s is also available for Android and Blackberry. Both offer users one-touch calling to emergency road service networks OnCall (Michelin) and ContiFleet (Continental).
New apps extend to truck insurers. Progressive Commercial this summer released the Insure My Truck app (iPhone), offering customized estimates useful when considering the cost of a new truck or shopping among insurance carriers.
Logs, inspection reports and more
The Xata Turnpike RouteTracker app (Android, most smartphones on Verizon, Sprint, AT&T) recently introduced the RouteTracker 2, modifying its original offering capable of providing logging functionality on a smartphone to satisfy federal requirements of electronic onboard recorders for hours-of-service compliance. Combined with Web-based storage and tools at a cost of $35 a month, the Route-Tracker offers real-time tracking capability and automated IFTA data collection and reporting, in addition to the logging capability.
The remainder of the smartphone-functional logging apps are computer-assisted logs, allowed for in the hours regulations but with the condition that the programs are able to be retrieved and printed or emailed/faxed for view on request of law enforcement. Operators using the applications are still under the record-keeping requirements of the paper log regulations.
For ease of record-keeping, though, owner-operator Dunkelberger says Mobile Warrior’s iDDL app (iPhone), also functional for inspection reports, has replaced his paper logs. The program affords him, for the $9.95 a month he spends for online storage of his log and inspection-report history, not only the simplicity of push-button logging but also a significant boost in record-keeping ease. When his carrier was audited by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration late last year, he says, “safety told me we’d need to provide logs going three months back.” Getting to the data was simply logging into his account and sending an email.
The iLogMiles app (iPhone), similarly, will “generate a PDF template for your daily logbook” which you can print and sign to store.
The maker of the uDrove app (Android, Blackberry, iPhone) for logs, inspection reports and other record-keeping functions is building the uDrove Gateway system to be a full-function EOBR. The device will provide wireless communication between a “black box” connected to the ECM and the operator’s smartphone. As with the Xata Turnpike EOBR, uDrove’s will be managed directly from the operator’s smartphone. In addition to logs, critical equipment information will be accessible in real time to identify cost-reduction opportunities, track performance, and more. The EOBR will be available later this year or early next, the company says. For now, the app is free, but a web storage account for $25 monthly completes the package.
Other tools for business, safety
Business tools range from reference guides to trucking-specific calculators and document-management systems. Among the first was the HazRef 2008 app (iPhone), a guide to more than 3,000 hazardous materials as identified by the United States Code of Federal Regulations. An Acme Truck Lines hauler called this app the “hazmat bible for truckers. It has everything the [hazardous material regulations] book carries, plus more.”
Similarly, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s Winter Chain Laws app (Android, Blackberry; download via the apps page on http://www.ooida.com) is a comprehensive reference for chain permissions/prohibitions by state.
OOIDA also offers Android and Blackberry users its Fuel Surcharge Calculator app, which like the PocketFuelCal app ($1.99, iPhone, download via http://www.truckingadvantage.com/fuel-surcharges) developed by SWW freight broker Zach Womack, can calculate fuel surcharges in lump or per mile. Both are useful whether you’re trying to determine what you should charge a shipper or double-check your carrier’s surcharge payment.
For leased or company drivers, the TripPak Mobile app (Android, iPhone) updates trip status, confirms pick-up and delivery with signature capture and captures trip documents for submission via smartphone. Preview at http://trippak.com/mobile.asp.
Similarly, the Drive Axle app (Android, iPhone) and service from Eleos Technologies utilizes the camera functions of smartphones to scan, store and send trip documents to anyone with an email address. It’s aimed directly at independent owner-operators, however. Participation in a fleet’s program is not a prerequisite to use. A cloud-based storage account at $29 monthly completes the package. As of Oct. 1, Drive Axle is offering a 30-day free trial.
For independents looking for value-added services to brokers, shippers and consignees, the See It Ship app (Android, iPhone) makes increased load visibility free, using the GPS functionality of the smartphone. Check out the app’s website at www.seeitship.com, which receivers/shippers can use for tracking your arrival simply by entering the tracking number you provide from within the app.
On the safety side, apps to manage incoming texts have proliferated with nationwide attention to texting distraction. Many are aimed at parents concerned about their young drivers’ behavior, but some could be of use to truck drivers to manage the annoyance of a buzzing or beeping phone.
The DriveReply app ($4.95, Android, Blackberry, iPhone, Windows Mobile), available in both English and Spanish versions, triggers your phone to send auto replies to texts and/or phone calls when your speed is greater than 10-15 mph. Replies can be personalized and/or disabled if a direct reply is necessary. The app also includes emergency features enabling certain users to get through to the driver anytime, and its passenger-selection option lets a passenger access the phone while in motion.
The Otter app ($3.99, Android, Blackberry, Nokia) has similar functionality. Two versions of the Otter app also allow the user to post auto replies for specified durations and enable one-touch text auto reply, equally customizable.
Among the functions of the TruckSmart app from TA-Petro are quick-push calls to RoadSquad mobile services: The RoadSquad national call center captures precise coordinates (latitude and longitude) of the downed trucker, providing RoadSquad precise dispatch capability. The TruckSmart app updates parking availability at all TA-Petro locations every two hours. Company rep Tom Liutkis notes the certainty this adds to finding space in the crowded evening hours. If a driver sees 30 spots available 30 miles out, he “can feel pretty certain he’ll have a place to park for the night.” TruckSmart developers are working on a Web-enabling interface for users of other smartphone platforms.
“The database of truckstops powering this app is the most complete in the country and is updated daily,” makers of the Trucker Tools app say. Services, such as TransFlo and TripPak, available at each stop are also listed and can be searched.
The CAT Scale Locator application for iPhone is also available for Android users. The app allows drivers to locate the nearest CAT Scale through GPS on their phone. Drivers can also search for CAT Scales in other areas and get directions.
Unless otherwise noted, the apps discussed here are free and available in the iTunes app store for iPhone or in application markets for other devices. Most iPhone and Android apps are also functional on tablets, such as the iPad, powered by the operating systems, though special tablet versions of the apps may be available with added functionality.
For special apps for finding freight, managing money, navigation and the brand-new Trucker Buddy app, check out our special features via http://truckersnews.com/category/Nov-Apps.
TruckerNet in August released a video promoting its one-touch emergency road service. Scan the QR code to watch the drama unfold as a downed trucker schools an at-first irascible small-town sheriff on the app’s features.
If she looks familiar, you’ve probably seen her in the television spots for Progressive’s consumer and commercial insurance offerings. This iPhone app is in development for Android.
Radio and music
No surprise: Some of the most popular apps among drivers are music and radio-related. Just as satellite radio opened up broadcast continuity for interstate travelers, smartphone apps are not only enabling access to more and more music sources but also capturing local broadcasts nationally. All of these apps require a large amount of cellular data when accessed while moving, so keep that in mind before you limit your phone’s data plan.
Satellite radio is available via your smartphone. The SiriusXM Internet Radio app (most platforms) enables access to more than 120 channels to subscribers for $12.95 a month, Road Dog Trucking Radio included. For free the iHeartRadio app (most platforms) has aggregated Internet radio streams from 750-plus stations around the nation, as has the TuneIn app (most platforms) for thousands of stations around the world.
Pandora Radio’s app (most platforms) allows users to create custom radio stations based on individual preferences — a great way to discover new music. And Last.fm’s various apps for multiple platforms function somewhat similarly, with an optional sharing network included.
Relatively new to the United States, the Spotify service and associated apps (most platforms) enable on-demand access to music as well as custom playlist-creation and sharing with friends, for free. Sound too good to be true? The service operates as radio, and has negotiated licensing contracts with major record companies — artists will be paid by ad revenue and premium account user fees.
Platform scale axle weights
John Christner Trucking driver Jerry Wilks is the programmer/developer of an application for the iPhone when using platform scales. Launched in 2010, the Scale It app allows you to input weight readings you get as you roll onto the scale, then do the math to determine axle weights. “It’s not hard math, of course,” says Wilks, but if it’s two o’clock in the morning, and/or there are five other trucks lined up behind you waiting, he notes, “it’s easy to make mistakes.” Download the software for your iPhone or iPad for 99 cents in the iTunes App Store.
Similarly, in the apps market for Android devices you’ll find the Axle Weight Calculator app available for $1.99 and the Trucker’s Axle Weight Calc app for free.
Scan this QR to watch the video for the “Won’t Start Texting” comedic jingle by Canadian viral-vid maven and high school science teacher Marsh Carroll for the ZoomSafer anti-texting fleet application (functional with many phones). Carroll’s students provided the drawings. In the video they describe a trucker’s cross-country journey resisting the forbidden “temptation” to text behind the wheel. Visit zoomsafer.com for more about the company.
Health and wellness applications
Guidelines governing trucker health may encourage drivers to find any means necessary to get fit. The number of health applications for smartphones is growing, but here are a few you can count on to get started:
• Daniel Miller’s Daily Workout apps guide you through exercises for your arms, legs, abs and buttocks; as well as cardio and yoga workouts. Each app allows you to choose your workout time — 5 minutes, 7.5 minutes or 10 minutes — perfect for a driver. There are at least two set routines for each app, but you can also choose the individual 30-second sets at random. Available free of charge through Apple, Android, Nook Color and Kindle Fire markets. Yoga is currently only for Apple.
• Calorie Counter by Fat Secret is a multifaceted tool for tracking caloric intake. First, the application asks for age, current weight and desired weight. Considering your average fitness level, it calculates a healthy number of calories you should meet — not exceed — each day to lose, maintain or gain weight. Calorie Counter allows you to input the foods (and drinks) you consume into breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack categories. You can either find nutritional values through the search function, or you can scan the item’s barcode. The search function even includes foods from fast-food restaurants, such as McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Burger King. In addition to tracking your intake, you can track calories burned when walking, running, swimming — even cleaning and doing automotive repair. Available free of charge through Apple, Android and Blackberry markets.