Back in 1988, a company called Qualcomm began marketing a communications device to motor carriers that revolutionized the trucking industry. With the device, dispatchers could send load and other information directly to drivers, who could also make entries about the progress of the loads.
Some drivers loved the new technology that saved them the time and trouble of communicating by pay phone. Others reviled the devices, which not only allowed the dispatcher to contact them at any time but actually tracked and reported their truck’s movement.
Fast-forward three-plus decades, and it’s a different world. Almost every driver now carries a smartphone capable of performing many more functions than those old satellite units. Verbal, written and even video communication methods are now available to every driver, and with the addition of available apps, those devices have even more capability.
A search of the Apple store or Google Play turns up dozens, possibly hundreds, of apps designed to make life easier for those on the road. There are far too many to list in this article, but every driver should have an idea of the different types of apps that are available — most of them at no cost.
GPS apps that help drivers to plan and complete trips have been around for a while, but truckers know many of them can’t account for the size, weight and dimensions of a tractor-trailer. Some drivers purchase separate GPS units specifically made for trucks, while others rely on phone apps. It’s a plus when the GPS app adds other functions, such as route planning, identifying fuel or rest stops, and more.
The information provided here is intended to inform drivers of the types of apps that are available, but not to endorse or recommend any particular app. Drivers are encouraged to carefully review the information provided at download, keeping in mind that many apps perform multiple functions that could duplicate another app.
Another thing to consider is battery usage. In order to track location, some apps run constantly and can drain smartphone batteries quickly. Others connect at intervals, minimizing battery usage.
Trucker Path claims to be the top truck-navigation app and has been installed by millions of drivers. It offers a free GPS component that the maker claims is faster and better than traditional GPS systems. It also offers routing and parking information, and more. The app has been reviewed more than 50,000 times with an average score of 3.7 (out of 5).
Trucker Tools claims to offer 17 separate tools for drivers, including a truck-stop guide, a routing optimizer and the ability to book loads, plus the ability to track those loads if the broker requires it. It has been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times and reviewed by more than 2,600 people with an average rating of 4.1.
Road Hunter offers routing, a truck-stop guide, weather information and a load board. More than 100,000 have downloaded the app, which has a 4.4 rating after 2,000 reviews.
Quite a few states participate in “511” apps that provide traffic and construction information from that state’s DOT. Some provide video from traffic cameras throughout the state and even video from cameras mounted on snow plows for a look at severe weather road conditions.
Some apps concentrate on parking, with some allowing drivers to report on the number of available spaces once they arrive.
TruckPark helps you find and reserve parking at numerous locations. Parking is said to be secure and safe, which often means there’s a fee to park. Still, the ability to enter a destination, day and time and receive information on available parking is a benefit. You can reserve and pay for your parking spots before you get there. TruckPark has recently partnered with FuelMe, a fuel-delivery company, to offer fueling services when parked at TruckPark locations. This allows you to bypass the fuel island and go directly to your reserved parking space, having your truck filled while you relax.
Trimble offers a COVID-19 Safe Haven app, although what the app has to do with the pandemic is questionable. It provides information on truck stops, rest areas and other parking areas and allows input on whether these sites are open or closed, or if parking spaces are available.
Electronic logging devices, or ELDs, are big business, and they can be expensive. Fortunately, several apps offer ELD capability at little to no cost.
EZLogz is an all-in-one ELD logbook app that includes the ability to scan and email documents. It offers the user a choice of languages including Spanish, Russian and French in addition to English. It also tracks mileage for the International Fuel Tax Association (IFTA) and other purposes.
Keep Truckin provides a free ELD and inspection report (DVIR) on your phone. The distributor claims full compliance with FMCSA and DOT requirements. It is compatible with Android phones only.
Paperwork is an important part of the driver’s job, and there are apps that can help.
The TRANSFLO Mobile+ app allows you to scan and send documents from the cab of your truck but adds other benefits as well. You can review loads, create a route, bypass weigh stations, send and receive messages from dispatch, and more.
Do you need service for your truck? Truck and engine manufactures may offer apps that provide the locations of repair facilities, help diagnose problems and even schedule repairs.
Find Truck Services helps you locate the nearest mobile and road service, repair shops and heavy-duty parts, towing companies and truck dealerships, and more. It has a 4.5 rating with just under 900 reviews.
If you weren’t issued a transponder by your carrier that allows you to bypass scales or pay tolls, there are apps that can do both.
E-ZPass offers an app that lets you pay tolls electronically, check your account balance and monitor toll activity. It’s free, and it’s accepted in more states than perhaps any other tolling app.
Individual states or tollway authorities often offer their own apps. It never hurts to search.
Drivewyze offers a PreClear Trucker app for Android that works with state DOTs to provide bypass service for scales, ag stations and mobile inspection sites in nearly 44 states and provinces. Drivewyze offers a 30-day free trial, after which there is a subscription fee for the service. Another feature is a visual and audio warning when you are within 2 miles of a weigh station or inspection site. You’ll need to enter some information about your truck and carrier.
Weighing your truck can be a hassle. CAT Scale’s Weigh My Truck app allows you to weigh, pay for the transaction and get axle weights displayed on your phone without leaving the truck. It can email a weight ticket, saving you the time of finding a parking space and waiting in line at the fuel counter (although you can still pick up a printed copy inside if you need one).
Trucker’s Slide Calculator allows you to enter your axle weights and then alerts you to which axle(s) are over. Another click provides suggested remedies, including how many “holes” to slide tandems and in which direction. It can also suggest movements to balance weight equally among axles to smooth out the ride. The app rates an average of 4.3 out of more than 650 reviews.
There are training apps, dating apps, job search apps and so many more. You owe it to yourself to research trucking apps and find those that make your job and your life easier.
Cliff Abbott is an experienced commercial vehicle driver and owner-operator who still holds a CDL in his home state of Alabama. In nearly 40 years in trucking, he’s been an instructor and trainer and has managed safety and recruiting operations for several carriers. Having never lost his love of the road, Cliff has written a book and hundreds of songs and has been writing for The Trucker for more than a decade.