A new contender in the battle of the smartphone apps

By John Bendel, editor-at-large

Everybody wants a piece of your smartphone. For example, uFollowit, Transflo Mobile+, and MacroPoint among others offer smartphone apps that are absolutely free to download and install. On your phone those apps will let brokers and carriers know where you are and enable quick transmission of PODs and other documents.

But if the apps are free, who’s paying uFollowit, Transflo Mobile+, and MacroPoint?

That would be the brokers, carriers and shippers on the receiving end of the information your phone sends. Talk about opportunity. The gizmo in your pocket will tell them where you are and get them their PODs faster without having to pay for hardware or cell phone air time. The apps may be free, but you pay for the phone and the airtime. And some companies charge you back for using the service.

Pretty good deal for carriers and brokers.

OK, so there are advantages for you. With your GPS keeping them updated, you may get to skip check calls. And if brokers and carriers are getting their paperwork sooner, billing faster, and speeding cash flow, you might get paid a little quicker. Maybe. Those apps also connect you in a subtle way with the brokers and carriers that use them, which can be good or bad depending.

The point is that these apps are not built for you. They’re built for brokers and carriers, the people you work for – again neither a good nor bad thing.

But do they address the needs you have as a driver, or particularly as an owner operator? The best answer: “not quite.”

Now there’s a new entry in the digital documents derby. It’s called TruckerDox.

Time for a journalistic caveat. TruckerDox was developed by former trucker Joe Russo, now owner of a Florida-based carrier, in cooperation with OOIDA. You can tell from the line under the TruckerDox logo on its home page truckerdox.com) that reads “presented by OOIDA.” In fact, TruckerDox is offered at a discount to OOIDA members. We’ll come back to that.

TruckerDox does some of the things the other apps do. For example, TruckerDox helps you deal with trucking documents like PODs and bills. It may do it a bit better because, unlike those apps, TruckerDox integrates with your email client. So it’s a snap to send and receive. You can see incoming documents, can sign them, print them out, return them, or save them. You don’t have to go looking for them outside of the app.

And that includes broker confirmation documents, not just PODs. TruckerDox lets you sign them on your touch screen and send them back the way they came, by email. No printing out, signing, scanning, etc. And no special signature software. It’s your actual signature on the confirmation.

But TruckerDox does not do everything those other apps do. It does not include a GPS element, so it does not reveal your location, and it doesn’t check in with the Mother Ship without your permission. It’s on your phone, and that’s where the information stays until you send it somewhere.

And here’s where it does what the other apps do not. A second ago I said TruckerDox enables you to save documents. It’s better than that. In fact, TruckerDox automatically saves your documents to your own space in the cloud – actually a TruckerDox server, of course. There, only you have access to it unless you specifically provide access to someone else, a home office, for example.

Documents don’t disappear when you turn in the paper copies or when they fall off the software provider’s website. You have the digital versions for as long as you want to keep them.

OK, let me anticipate your next question: A particular broker, carrier, or shipper requires you to use one of those other apps. You have no choice.

No problem. TruckerDox coexists on your phone with those other guys. You use whichever app a particular shipment requires. But you can move the critical documents into your own cloud files. Whenever you’re emailing a document from another app, simply email yourself a copy as well. The next time you open TruckerDox – which integrates with your email, remember? – the doc will be there.

Of course, the other apps allow you access to sent documents, at least for a while. Transflo Mobile, for example, keeps them available to you for two weeks. But with TruckerDox, those docs are there, always available, any time of the day or night, anywhere you can connect with the Internet.

TruckerDox offers another interesting feature. The app will walk you through creating a Carrier Packet, a collection of information and documents that new carriers and brokers always ask for. All you need to do is fill out the standard questionnaire in TruckerDox and save it. It contains your company name, address, references, insurance contact, etc.

Then you scan (or photograph with your phone camera) hard documents new customers always want to see, your insurance certificate, your operating authority, your IRS W-9, and your SCAC (Standard Carrier Alpha Code). You email those scans to yourself, then save them to your TruckerDox Carrier Packet. Now when a new broker asks for your information, you don’t have to fill out forms by hand or go looking for a fax machine. You simply email them the packet. It’s all there.

Of course, since TruckerDox is designed for the driver (though fleets can use it too), you’re going to pay for the service. It’s $15 a month; OOIDA members get $3 off and pay $12 monthly.

The TruckerDox app itself? It’s free to download from Google Play or Apple’s iTunes App Store. LL