Trucking 101: Don't get in your truck without these apps on your smartphone

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Editor's Note: Not every driver enjoyed the benefit of having a parent or grandparent who was a trucker and gladly shared the wisdom of the road they amassed over the years and the miles. And, honestly,. not every driver -- new or behind the wheel for even several years -- has been told many of the ins and outs of driving and life on the road. Our new feature, Trucking 101, means to provide some of that information and answer some questions that may be on the minds of some truckers. This first installment ought to provide some guidance for building a suitable trucking reference library of apps on your smartphone. 

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There’s an excellent reason why there are 1.91 million apps available on the Apple Store and 2.87 million for download from Google Play: people rely on them daily. A lot!

Research shows most smartphone users access 10 different apps every day, and at least 30 different ones during the course of a month. That means 69% of the time we spend on digital media is spent on an app of some sort.

And, we’re willing to bet those numbers are even higher for the typical North American professional driver. Considerably higher, and for good reason.

For many truckers, a smartphone is their lifeline to the rest of the world including their employer, the folks they pick up from and deliver to, friends and family, and emergency services if they’re needed.

There are dozens of trucking-related apps on the market. Some are better than others. Many are free but are either loaded with ads or require you to pay for some of the premium (a.k.a. best) features. So, before you install any app

  • Read the fine print to see if there are in-app purchases (be aware these can add up and may recur monthly)
  • Read the user reviews on Google Play or the Apple Store
  • More importantly, take time to find and read the app’s terms and conditions and especially its privacy policy. We hate being a nag but you need to know how your data may be used and/or sold. (Yes, we know it's a pain in the butt!)

Now, here are 17 apps you ought to have on your smartphone no matter if you are driving locally, regionally, or over the road.

Google Maps or Waze

If you don’t have a robust, trucker-centric navigation device in your truck (and you should have!) you should have Google Maps on your phone. Its street and satellite views can help you identify an exact location and where you should enter a facility.

But, and this is a big but, as good as it may be Google Maps -- and for that matter just about any other ordinary maps app -- does not always supply all the important details truckers need to know. This is especially true of streets and parkways where trucks are prohibited, and low clearance bridges and overpasses.

All that being said, be sure to have a good trucker's atlas in your cab too.

Gas Buddy

If you happen to be a company driver, more than likely you don’t have to worry about where to fuel and the price of diesel. That's up to the company to worry about.  But, if you do need to keep one eye on the fuel gauge and the other on your wallet, Gas Buddy is a good option. It has prices for over 150,000 locations. Another app for finding and checking the price of diesel is Fuelbook.

Trucker Path

One of the main features of this popular app is a freight board to make matches between carriers and brokers. It’s also a place to buy and sell trucks. But, it's loaded with detailed information essential to truckers’ lives on the road: truck stops (chain and independent) parking information, open/closed weigh stations, rest areas, restaurants, hotels, repair shops, etc. A premium version includes detailed trip planning to help avoid hours of service problems. Another Swiss Army-style app that does many things is Trucker Tools.   

AccuWeather, The Weather Channel, et al

Shutterstock 1176912649There is no shortage of weather apps. It makes sense to spend a little time with each and find the one that suits you best. However, you ought to have a couple, one of the major ones and one that can provide a bit more specialized information. Drive Weather shows you the weather you can expect to encounter along your specific route so you know what’s ahead. Storm Shield delivers alerts for severe weather and provides a radar view so you can see the details. Also, you may want to look for the app of the local TV station's weather if you're driving the same lanes regularly.

Park My Truck

Truck parking is a major pain. Any help you can get finding a place to park, take it! Some of the multi-function apps including parking information. NATSO's Park My Truck allows any parking provider -- commercial or public, paid or free -- to list the truck parking it has.

Rolling Strong

No preaching, we promise. However, you can't drive if you're not well. Today more than ever. Rolling Strong is a trucker-specific health and wellness app that gives you access to health screenings; nutrition, fitness, Sleep, and hydration tracking and support; access to CDL wellness coaches; wellness social page; nearby health and fitness facilities; and medical CDL recertification reminders and readiness support. Some features require payment. Also, they do a lot of work with entire carriers so you may wish to check with your driver manager to see if it's already available to you.

Dock 411

This is a pretty specific and pretty neat app. In short, it helps drivers locate and maneuver to and through loading docks and various facilities around the country. It lists not just locations, but amenities available, facility policies and procedures, and has photos of facilities so you can see what you're getting into. One of the best features are the reviews from other truckers who can offer advice of getting in and properly docked.

Trucker Notes

This is a must-have because it was created by a trucker who saw a need --- out of personal experience -- and filled it. Trucker Notes was created by Debbie Desiderato and amounts to a virtual notepad. Trucker Notes lets you create a personalized network of preferred and trusted locations for truck parking, repair shops, fuel stops restaurants, and other locations on your own exclusive map. And, it lets you add notes and save important details directly on the location of the shipper/receiver. All you have to do is place a marker on the map and click on the marker to add notes into the pop-up dialogue box.

Truck Stops

If you’re a company driver, the carrier you work for most likely will have a preference as to where you refuel. They may even issue you a card to use when filling up. However, you still ought to have the apps for at least the three major truck stop chains and -- if they have them -- ones for major independents where you run. A growing number of truck stop services are accessed with the apps, reward points accrued, and even free food or merchandise made available.

So at least download apps for: