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How smartphone apps are making life easier for van operators

29 August 2018 #CV Sector #Features & Interviews #Logistics #TNB News #Truck #Van

While mobile applications (apps) are widely embraced across many consumer-facing industries, they are lesser known for their advantages in the corporate world.

It may be a surprise to many vehicle operators that a number of well-known and respected names in the LCV industry have produced a suite of helpful apps, ranging from the operational to the money saving. Some are free and open to all, while others incur a cost but are designed specifically for existing customers of leasing and fleet management specialists.

Arguably the biggest movement in van-themed apps relates to vehicle checks and compliance. The immediate, connected nature of smartphones, an absence of physical paperwork and ability to upload photos makes them ideal tools for all types of reporting.

Initially unveiled at the 2017 Commercial Vehicle Show, an updated version of fleet software firm Jaama’s MyVehicle app was launched earlier in 2018. It is specifically designed for commercial vehicle fleets using the firm’s Key2 management system, helping operators to monitor the condition of their vehicles, cut downtime and ensure they comply with the necessary regulations relating to roadworthiness.

New features in the updated version include an archive for vehicle defects flagged up by drivers, which keeps a record of the fault and personnel involved in reporting it or deeming the vehicle fit to be back on the road following a repair. For severe incidents, drivers can name vehicles ‘off road’ via the app by uploading photos of damage.

Conversely, they can label minor damage ‘non-urgent’, logging the issue in the management system, which in turn arranges for the repair to take place when the vehicle is scheduled for regular maintenance. Drivers can also declare ‘nil vehicle defects’ for a clean van and again, the details are logged, creating a digital paper trail, proving inspections have taken place.

Also revealed at the 2017 Commercial Vehicle Show, albeit in beta mode, was Leaseplan’s My Vehicle Check app, which is now available in fully-fledged form and replicates the daily inspection process legally required of HGV drivers. Users are prompted to perform an inspection of their van before they set off for a day’s work and asked a series of questions relating to core safety elements such as tyre tread. It’s also possible to upload photos to illustrate damage or wear and each report is automatically sent to the fleet manager.

Management specialist Chevin launched its Fleetwave Forms app in February. It’s a customisable data collection app that enables users of the company’s Fleetwave management system to allow it to make their own form for anything a CV fleet is likely to encounter including vehicle checks, expenses, sales transactions or delivery confirmations. The forms can then be put to work on mobile devices and the app is linked to feed back to the company’s management system. You don’t need a full-time internet connection either, as the app will update whenever the device next connects to wifi. 

Any fleet, or indeed drivers, operating in urban areas will be familiar with the headache that is parking. is effectively a search engine for places to leave your vehicle and includes details of conventional multi-storey car parks as well as domestic spaces unused by their owners, with a claimed total of more than 250,000 spots on offer countrywide. In addition to its website, the firm also has an app that performs largely the same role. It was updated in June 2017 to include a function that allows the user to adjust the amount of time a vehicle can remain in certain short-term spaces, negating the need to return to insert more cash into a meter. The company has said it intends to introduce a feature where users can separate business and personal transactions via the app.

In a similar vein, Appyparking launched a service specifically for van drivers operating in London as part of its existing app in July 2017. Known as One Click Parking, the function is designed to reduce the number of fines that van drivers receive in Westminster borough, and allows users to pay for parking after they have left the space. Those using the app don’t have to guess how long the vehicle will remain in the space and are charged solely on the amount of time it was there. Vehicles are fitted with a dongle that is linked to the app and monitors the amount of time they spend in a particular space. Pimlico Plumbers trialled the system in 2016 and it has since been adopted by numerous other commercial vehicle operators, including Handy Squad and Polytech. The company is said to be looking into the prospect of other London boroughs and coverage outside the capital for the service.

Another potentially money-saving app is from leasing firm Activa Contracts. The self-titled app allows businesses to submit vehicle condition reports, including photos, several weeks before its contract is up. The idea is that both parties are can be made aware of any chargeable damage before the vehicle returns to the company and the leaser understands what they’ll have to pay, and why, before the bill arrives – or can arrange repairs. Businesses can also use the app to send time-stamped photos to Activa when they’re signing for rental vehicles to highlight any damage in advance.

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