As more and more truckers dive into the computer age, their reliance on technology to enable them to operate smarter has increased dramatically. Regardless of whether you’re a fleet driver hoping to keep tabs on your miles, reimbursements, and logs, or an independent owner/operator that needs an all-in-one solution, there’s a software application for nearly everyone.
Until now, software applications came in one form — programs — that installed on your computer’s hard drive and were updated with manual data inputs. Recently, however, a new phenomenon has begun to show up in the computer world — cloud computing. Instead of installing on your computer’s hard drive, the user of a cloud application will access their account via the Internet by logging into their account and entering relevant information online.
Access to these cloud networks is restricted to those users with an Internet connection, but with a wireless connection as close as the nearest truck stop, rest area, or cellular telephone hookup, truckers can access their online accounts more easily than ever before. In addition, cloud applications also enable truckers to reach information about their business anywhere they have access to the web — from any computer.
Depending upon which software solution you decide upon, there are a variety of features available in the different trucking software offerings on the market. Some of the more common features include:
Income and expenses by trip – Because managing your cashflow is dependent upon keeping tabs on your income and expenses, the overwhelming majority of the trucking software applications utilize a per trip recording interface — which makes the most sense because that’s how you generate income and incur expenses.
Electronic Log Books (e-logs) — While you may still prefer keeping paper logs, many of the software programs have features that allow you to input you log data for electronic logbook record-keeping and compliance purposes. Some will make note of e-log errors and will automatically generate “gotcha” letters, which gives you the opportunity to correct any errors before an enforcement officer does it for you during a roadside inspection or during a D.O.T. compliance review.
Settlement Reconciliation — Reconciling settlement sheets can be a time-consuming process when done manually, but by entering information from settlement sheets, your computer can cross-reference information previously entered in other sections of the software to ensure that all expenses have properly been reimbursed by your carrier.
Customer Records — One of the biggest challenges owner/operators face is keeping track of their customer information. Most trucking software applications offer you the ability to maintain customer records, either through a basic software feature or through an upgraded version of the software.
Driver Records — While many owner/operators are one-man (or woman) operations, some owner/operators need to maintain driver records for a hired co-driver or other drivers that they employ.
Fuel Reports — You may be hundreds or thousands of miles from home, but you’re still responsible for maintaining accurate records of your trips so that you can file fuel reports. This feature gives you the ability to compile the necessary information to compile your fuel reports, while minimizing your expenses.
IFTA Reports — Any driver that has ever spent hours reconstructing trips in order to comply with IFTA mileage reporting requirements knows that this can be a real pain in the neck. However, IFTA reports are easier to generate because some of these trucking software applications take information from your trip sheets and automatically export it to the IFTA reporting feature of the software — freeing you to drive.
Truck and Trailer Maintenance Records — Not only are good maintenance records critical to your ability to properly maintain your equipment, it is also important for D.O.T. compliance purposes. Another reason that this is important is because your equipment will eventually be traded-in for newer equipment — and accurate record can help to ensure that your trade-in allowance is as high as possible.
Dispatch software – It’s no secret that the larger your fleet, the greater your need for software with greater performance capabilities. Having the ability to handle all aspects off truck and load dispatching is critical to your success – and dispatch software provides many of the features that can enable you to manage all of the moving parts of your business so that your business can operate much more efficiently.
If you’re the owner of a larger fleet — whether three trucks or 90 — there’s a good chance that you’ll need a much more robust fleet management software application that can do much more. While some of the above options might work well for you, you will most likely prefer a software application that can also:
- track trucks by unit number
- give the location of trucks in close proximity to available loads
- view all available loads
- Driver records
- Integrate with Qualcomm and other satellite communication systems
- Maintenance Records
- Customer Billing
- Audit driver logs
- Integrate with Quickbooks and other financial software
Here is a listing of some of the more robust software applications that might be more appropriate for small to medium-sized operations:
Not all trucking software will handle all of these features. Depending upon how much you want to spend, some software will do just a few things, while other software has much more robust features and capabilities.
If you’re a company driver and you’re simply looking for a software application that can help you to keep track of miles driven and expenses incurred, a bare-bones application is available for as little as $50.
Depending upon what features you’re looking for in a software application, the cost can vary considerably — from about $100 for a minimalist, accounting-based software application to several thousand dollars for an application that will do everything but shine your wheels.
If the thought of forking over that much cash all at once makes you feel dizzy, you might opt for a cloud-based application. Instead of purchasing the software and owning it, you are essentially renting it on a month-to-month basis. You’ll pay a monthly subscription fee in order to access your information, but you’ll have the security of knowing that you won’t be susceptible to lost data in the event that your computer crashes or is stolen. In addition, you can log into your account from anywhere with an Internet connection, so if you, a spouse, or even your bookkeeper needs to access your records, it can be done without needing access to the one machine housing your business records.
Software applications — Machine-based and cloud-based
A quick Internet search for “trucking software” yielded quite a few hits. Here are some handy links to their respective web pages so you can explore the pros and cons of each:
http://www.truckershelper.com/ (Also has an application for fleet drivers)
If you’re aware of any other owner-operator software applications, please let me know and I’ll add links to their sites as well.
Still not sure? Trial by Fire
Trucking software applications are very much like any other commercially available software products on the market today. There are probably several that will meet your needs, but rarely will you find a software application that is perfect in all ways. Short of spending thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars on a custom-built software application, your best bet is to find one that meets as many of your needs as you can locate.
The manufacturers of the various trucking software applications are well-aware that your specific needs and wants may vary considerably, depending upon your type of operation. As a result, most offer free trials, online demos, or other opportunities to “try before you buy”. Take one or more of them up on their offers to ensure that what you ultimately purchase will do everything you want it to and will help you to keep moving — profitably — down the road towards your destination.
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