Nifty Apps for Truckers

smart phone apps

Depending on your device and driving style, there’s a smart phone application out there that will make the miles roll by a little easier.

Here’s a list of apps that score well – reviews average four stars or better – on Google’s Android app store.

Avoid Traffic Delays

Waze Social GPS, Maps and Traffic is free and consistently scores top reviews on AppCrawler and the Android app store. Fellow Waze users drive with the app running, which contributes real-time traffic and road info. Helps find the cheapest gas station along your route with community-shared fuel prices. Allows Facebook users to meet up and coordinate on the road. Includes voice-guided navigation, automatic re-routing as conditions on the road change, and ETA notifications for those you designate.

Track Sleep Cycles and Wake at the Optimal Time

There are a variety of apps that monitor bedtimes, wake times, and sleep-time noise and movement to determine your cycle. Sleep Cycle seems to be the most widely used and most positively reviewed. The app relies on findings in sleep science to estimate what cycle stage you’re in and wake you when you’re least likely to be in deep sleep. Syncs with mysleepbot.com so you can get more detailed analysis of your sleep and help diagnose sleep apnea and other sleep problems. You can download it from the Android app store for $1.

Learn Something About the Country You’re Traveling Through

For history buffs and fans of local color My GeoReader combines GPS location technology on your phone to alert you to “talking points.” There over 130,000 of these preloaded data points covering historical markers, interesting bridges, UFO sightings, and more. The app is free.

Digitize all Those Receipts

CamScanner is also free and lets you use your phone’s camera to scan a document, crop, correct the contrast and send as fax or email. Send in your monthly receipts without having to find a fax machine. Archives all your scans so you’re ready when tax season rolls around with all your receipts stored in one place.

Keep Yourself Safe from Night Tornadoes

Red Cross Tornado App – When you can’t see the clouds in the dark, this app from the Red Cross will let you know if you’re near a tornado. Be sure to cross reference with an app that enables radar on your phone to avoid over-reacting and stressing out to false alarms.

Get Weather Predictions and Radar

MyRadar is a fast, easy-to-use, no-frills application that handily beats the Weather Channel’s app (which is $3.99), based on AppCrawler and Android store reviews. Displays animated weather radar around your current location, allowing you to see what weather is coming your way. Can zoom in and pan around the map to and see what the weather is like anywhere in the contiguous 48 states.

Find the Best Place to Stop Tonight

Trucker Path is free and lets you look ahead to truck stops on your route. See which have showers, overnight parking, RV dumps, restaurants. Includes up-to date information about weigh stations and truck stops, including reviews and directions. Find info on rest areas, CAT scales, truck washes, low clearances, motels, current weather, map views, and notifications for the opening and closings of truck stops.

A crowd-sourced feature also alerts drivers to openings and closings of weigh stations. Reviews are mixed on how accurate it is.

Find locations of: Flying Js, Love’s, TA Travel Centers, Pilots, Petro Stopping Centers, AM Best, Pacific Pride Commercial, Petro-Canada, Sapp Brothers, Roadys and other smaller brands, and thousands of independents.

One reviewer says while it omits quite a few places that are in his hardcover book, it’s so much easier to use – tap the screen and see all the options on your route. If what you want doesn’t appear, you can always cross reference with another info source.

Trucker Tools, also free, includes a truck stop locator with the same establishments covered as Trucker Path and a crowd-sourced portal for weigh station opening/closing info. It also offers trucker-specific restaurant, truck stop and service promotions information and real-time traffic updates. You can find latest and lowest diesel prices, live traffic, turn-by-turn directions and a truck routing and fuel optimizer.

The app has a chat feature, a way to find cargo insurance instantaneously, help with IFTA and DOT compliance, a jobs and messages board – and is voice-activated, so it’s more comprehensive than Trucker Path, but may be a bit more glitchy as well. Reviews on Android’s app store average a bit lower for Trucker Tools and the app scores more negative reviews on average than Trucker Path.

AllStays Truck and Travel is $10, but doesn’t require wireless service to function and is ad-free. Data is a bit more reliable and comprehensive as well. Includes truck stops, rest areas, weigh stations, WalMarts, Lowe’s, UPS and FedEx outlets.

Want to Find More?

Try App Crawler to find more apps for truckers. It categorizes user reviews by “positive,” “minor pains,” and “issues” to make it relatively easy to compare options. App Crawler’s engine will also suggest alternatives.

Marketing for Owner-Operators

marketing compass

You’ve just left your carrier and gone to a new one – that uses agents. First step? Make up a brochure. That’s what TeamRunSmart Pro Linda Caffee’s friends did. The brochure showed a picture of the drivers and their truck, and listed all their qualifications. “In no time, they were busy with agents that needed what they had,” Caffee says. That’s job one in marketing any business – make your customers aware of what you’ve got and keep them thinking of you.

Make Sure Your Price is Right

But before you start spreading the word that you’re available, you have to be crystal clear about exactly what you offer – and what you can afford to offer. In this article, Kevin Rutherford recommends a thorough evaluation of all your expenses, what it costs you to run shorter- and longer-mileage hauls, particular lanes and cities. Based on those numbers, create a pricing structure with levels for each type of haul, lane and city. Over time, track your costs and continue to fine-tune.

Now you know what it costs for you to operate, you’re ready to hit the load boards, right? Probably not. Rutherford reminds us that “just because you set a price doesn’t mean anyone will pay it. Your competitors might outbid you.”

So before you get the word out, you need to get your ideas down on paper:

  • Where do you want to haul?
  • What areas or lanes do you specialize in?
  • What types of freight do you like to haul?
  • What makes you different from competitors?
  • What things do you do well?
  • What’s your special equipment or technology?
  • What’s your on-time record?

Your goal is to show that you offer something that’s of special benefit to your customers. “Ask yourself,” Rutherford says, “’if I were the customer, why would I choose me to ship the product? Would I be willing to pay extra?’”

That’s differentiation, and that’s what allows you to charge enough to make a reasonable living as a driver.

Get the Word Out

With your pricing and differentiation foundation laid, you’re ready to start getting people’s attention about what you have to offer.

Start simple, by calling or emailing everyone you know in trucking. As you discuss what you’re offering, you’ll learn more about what the market wants. Revise your message accordingly.

But all the contacts you have now probably won’t be enough to sustain your business over the long-term. You’ll need a promotions plan to broadcast your presence to a wider audience. The more people who are aware you’re available – and remember that when they have a need – the better your odds of surviving.

One way to make sure they’ll remember is to give them something with your company’s name on it. Henry Albert, another TeamRunSmart Pro, is proud of the fact that his company is the source of one of his customers’ favorite coffee mugs. Albert Transport invested in the mugs and printed them with the company’s name and contact info. He gives them to dispatchers and other contacts at the carriers he works with. Every time someone pours their joe in one his mugs, they’re reminded of Albert’s company. And they’ll remember that they appreciated getting something free, which everyone loves.

One dispatcher would get very upset if anyone removed his Albert Transport mug from his desk. “He drank his coffee right before making calls to schedule shipments for the following day,” Albert says. “So we were the first carrier he thought of every morning!”

Another owner operator uses his homemade barbecue sauce to make an impression, but you could also apply your company’s name to hats, jackets, key chains, calendars – things that are durable and are unlikely to be thrown out.

The thing is less important than the business relationship it allows you to begin to build – and continue to build by being a high quality carrier. Once you have that relationship, you can begin to anticipate customers’ requirements, which allows you to communicate exactly how you satisfy their wants and needs, and why they should use your company.