March 9, 2014
I have been following a soon-to-be Owner/Operator on Twitter for the past couple of months. They (a husband and wife team) have been tweeting all of the aspects of their progress, from getting licenses to buying their rig. It would seem that all of the paperwork required would scare most drivers into just driving for a company. When they finally found the right truck, you could just “hear” the excitement in their posts. The pictures they posted of that shiny new rig made you feel like doing a fist pump and shouting, “score!”
Their journey has certainly opened my eyes to all of the paperwork required before you can haul that first load. Yet with all of the hoops they had to jump through and hurdles to bound over, they were missing one critical piece in their quest in becoming a successful O/O: software.
“Software? I don’t need no stinking software to drive a truck!”
There is no doubt that we now live in the digital age. It’s all around you: smart phones, PCs, tablets, GPS devices, etc. You may certainly use a printed map to help navigate. You may certainly use a printed log book to keep track of hours. And, you may certainly use pencil and paper to track your mileage in each state (or province), the roads you traveled, where you got fuel, and any maintenance performed on your rig. However, with all due respect to the “graybeards” still out there driving, this isn’t 1975.
Software has become the accepted standard for replacing pad and paper. Besides needing software to track your driving hours, you need software to track your business. That’s right; as an Owner/Operator you are now a company. You have bills to pay, truck(s) to track, IFTA and DOT maintenance reports to file, loads to find, and money to collect from customers.
So, just how do you find the right software to help your new business? First, ask your fellow truckers. Yup – word of mouth is a great way to find out what works for someone else. Second, ask truck organizations you trust (such as OOIDA) what they recommend. Third, use your favorite search engine to look for software reviews. And finally, call the software company and ask to speak with the developer of the software.
“What?! Talk to the geek that writes the software? That’s unheard of!”
Hear me out. I hate talking to sales people, as they will simply tell you everything you want to hear. I find that if I am “allowed” to speak to the developer, that I can get specific answers to questions, rather than the politically correct, scripted answers. The developer knows what the program can, and more important, cannot do. If you cannot speak with the developer, then don’t buy the software.
The best software doesn’t necessarily have most expensive price.
That’s right. Regardless of what your country’s leadership reports about the economy, we are still in the middle of an economic “down” period. I have noticed that a lot of software companies have actually raised their prices to compensate for fewer sales. The software company that actually cares about YOU, the O/O, will reflect that in their pricing. So, look for a good “bang for your buck.”
Another key factor when looking for the right software is the “nickel and dime” aspect. Every software product has its initial licensing fee. That’s what I call, “the first shoe to drop.” The “second shoe” is, “What are the ongoing costs?” Here are five items that are important to know:
Are there any costs in upgrading to newer versions as they are released?
Are there any monthly costs just to use the software?
Are there any costs to get training for how to use the software?
Are there any costs to get technical support?
Are there any costs in getting help when you need to move the software to another PC?
I always expect to pay an up-front fee to use software. However, I detest monthly fees and fees to get any kind of support. You need to factor these items into consideration before buying the product. And if they won’t help you move the software in the future, then that should raise a huge red flag.
I recently spoke with a trucker who was using an older version of his trucking software when his hard drive crashed. Luckily, he had a backup of his data. When he called the software company to help him get going with his new hard drive, they would not help him because he was on an older version. WOW. Talk about the fastest way to lose a customer.
So, doing a little homework will get you going with the right software. Just don’t forget this critical piece when beginning your O/O journey.
Richard Stephens, owner of ALMSys, Inc., is the author of the “Rig Expense Tracker” trucking software. For more information on Richard and his software, visit his website