Mobile driver apps are quickly becoming table stakes with fleets. But choosing and deploying one is a huge project—and a huge investment.
As such, it’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole. With so much to think about, sometimes you can overlook deal-breaking problems—or miss key points in an app’s favor.
In this article, we’re going to give you three questions to ask that will help keep the first things first. They are not the only questions—but each is critical for choosing the right app for your fleet.
1. How well can the app integrate with your TMS and telematics?
Regardless of how great an app is, if it won’t work with your existing Transport Management System or telematics solution, there is probably little point in considering it. Some large carriers have multiple TMSs, making this question even more significant.
Because your TMS is such a major system, an app that won’t integrate with it is simply not going to deliver the utility you require. And because the TMS is such a major system, it is very unlikely you will want to consider changing it—even if it means being able to work with the app you prefer.
The same goes, to a large extent, for telematics. An app that won’t integrate with your telematics will not be able to do basic, critical things like showing a driver his HOS countdown clock while he is driving. It also won’t be able to do more advanced but very useful things like predicting where his hours of service will expire while he is planning his trip.
Unlike with TMSs, switching telematics may be worth considering. Newer telematics solutions bring a wealth of information to the table for fleets. Switching is still costly, but not in the same price league as a TMS. Moreover, telematics, typically, is not going to be as deeply embedded across the business as a TMS. These factors mean that there can be a strong case for switching telematics as part of a new mobile app rollout. You simply have to make sure the ROI makes sense.
2. Could the app replace functionality that you’re currently relying on another provider for?
This question is oriented toward discovering ways to simplify, streamline, and consolidate your technology stack. All other things being equal, an app that will (competently) duplicate functionality that you’re currently paying for should be preferred over one that doesn’t because it means one less system to maintain and finance.
For instance, many fleets pay for document management software, not because they need an entire document management suite, but because one particular feature is critical to their operations. A good example is how many fleets rely on scanning functionality. By picking a workflow app that has native document scanning, they can eliminate the larger dependency on the document management suite. This saves money and makes drivers’ lives easier by unifying the document functionality with their workflow. Another example is navigation. If the app you are considering offers truck-safe turn-by-turn navigation built-in, you can eliminate a separate, and often more expensive solution.
3. How is the app affected by downtime & connectivity outages?
A critical question for any fleet is reliability. The more trucks you’re running, the more important this question becomes. The app, and its server, must be able to handle the load without noticeably slowing down…let alone crashing. Then, if a truck moves into a mobile dead spot, the app also needs to keep working and intelligently sync with backend systems when connectivity is restored.
Reliability is a major issue for many carriers today, who are plagued by outages so severe that they have to figure out 80s-era workarounds to keep their fleets running. Often this is the reason they are looking for a better mobile trucking app. It is therefore important to find out how reliability and uptime factor into the app vendor’s thinking and development process. Is this a question that they approached after the fact? Or was it a critical metric for developing their system in the first place, and for measuring its success?
Performance and reliability must be a first-class citizen in the solution provider’s overall development ecosystem because the app is going to be mission-critical for you. If it goes down, it will not be a mere inconvenience, like if your printer stops working for the afternoon. Every minute that your mobile app isn’t running, your entire fleet isn’t running—and your business can grind to a halt.
Also, find out how the app itself handles outages. If the server becomes unavailable, does everything immediately freeze or stop functioning? Outages can happen if the server goes down, but more often are a result of a truck moving through a mobile dead zone. When this happens, a good driver app will intelligently limit its functionality without becoming nonfunctional. Certain features may stop working, but overall, it will continue to provide the usual functionality using cached resources and keep a record of any updates the driver makes, so these can be synchronized back to the server when connectivity is restored.
Given how critical this can be in the field, it is wise to not just take the vendor’s word on how the app works when disconnected. Ask to see a demo of it happening, or talk to another customer who already uses it.
Are you looking for a mobile driver app?
This article is adapted from our full ebook guide, 10 Questions To Ask Before Investing in a Mobile Driver App.
This guide is available at no cost to all fleets.