There are plenty of benefits to being your own boss, but being an owner-operator also comes with plenty of challenges; namely having to do a little bit of everything. On the bright side, there are a growing number of apps to help you balance the administrative side of trucking with driving and/or managing other drivers.
Each year more and more truckers report using their phones for business. More than a third of owner-operators use apps to book jobs or submit bids for jobs. Laptops are being left at home in favor of powerful smartphones that can connect to the internet almost anywhere.
With this wide and growing embrace of technology in the trucking industry, more and more apps focusing on owner-operator and driver needs are being built. The advent of apps has also helped level the playing field for smaller trucking companies.
Cargomatic matches up local trucks with available loads for shipment. Along with providing job leads, Cargomatic helps with other areas of Young’s business.
"They go out there, do the marketing, get the companies [to participate]. You just have to turn on your app and make sure you're ready to rock and roll," he said.
Using a popular app can show you the way to jobs you may not have found on your own and help expose your business to a wider audience.
Although there are plenty of navigation and GPS apps out there, apps like Trucker Path provide more information about truck stops, service stations, and other amenities drivers may need. Crowdsourced information from drivers helps ensure the app provides up-to-date information.
Not Just for Trucking
Don’t limit yourself to considering apps only designed for the trucking industry. There has also been a boom in small-business apps that can be used by owner operators to handle the administrative side of their business. Whether you’re looking for bookkeeping solutions, time trackers, or apps that will keep you in touch with loved ones at home and your drivers on the road a quick search will turn up plenty of options.
Picking an App
Before deciding on an app to use for your business, there are a few things to consider:
- Longevity: There’s a lot of turnover among mobile apps, and having to find a new app every few months and reenter information won’t help you save time or money. Apps with a wide user base and apps made by established companies have a better chance of sticking around longer. Before you jump on a new trending app, do a little research to see if the switch will be worth it in the long run.
- Cost: There are a lot of great free apps out there, but sometimes it’s worth it to buy an app. Paid apps often offer more features than free ones, while others measure their return on investment through time and resources saved. Drivewyze, an app that sends vehicle information ahead to weigh stations and can help avoid drivers having to stop, costs $15 a month. But, with an estimated savings of $9 in gas saved for each weigh station skipped, it’s likely to pay for itself.
- Safety: Distracted driving is dangerous. Drivers should avoid app interaction while driving so their eyes can stay on the road. "The problem isn't if an app on a cell phone is touch free. It's about eyeballs, where the driver's eyes are," said Ted Scott, American Trucking Associations' director of engineering.