Some might view them as a gimmick, but smartphone apps are becoming greater in number and increasingly tailored to van operators. Jack Carfrae reports.
It’s easy to dismiss apps as a ruse, particularly in a commercial environment.
If your business is managing vehicles then it’s hard to imagine how something commonly used for playing games on a smartphone is going to help with that.
Cynical operators would be surprised, though, as well-known and respected names in the LCV
game have produced apps that are genuinely worthwhile, ranging from the operational to the money-saving. Some are free and open to all; others incur a cost but are designed specifically for existing customers of leasing and fleet management specialists. We’ve picked the offerings that are the most up-to-date and relevant for today’s van operators.
Arguably the biggest movement in van-themed apps relates to vehicle checks and compliance. The immediate, connected nature of smartphones, lack of physical paperwork and ability to take and upload photos makes them ideal tools for on-the-ground reporting, and a suite of leasing companies and fleet specialists have cottoned on.
Initially unveiled at the 2017 Commercial Vehicle Show, an updated version of fleet software firm Jaama’s MyVehicle app was launched earlier in 2018. The app is specifically designed for commercial vehicle fleets using the firm’s Key2 management system, and helps operators to keep tabs on the condition of their vehicles, cut downtime and ensure compliance.
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/deeming the vehicle fit to be back on the road following a repair. For severe incidents, drivers can label vehicles ‘off road’ via the app, by uploading photos of damage and labelling it ‘critical’.
Conversely, they can tag 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 even if a driver has missed something crucial.
Since the original version’s inception, Jaama claims that operators “with a combined total of more than 100,000 drivers” have put the app to use.
Also revealed at the 2017 Commercial Vehicle Show, albeit in beta mode, was leasing giant 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; drivers are asked a series of questions about the vehicle 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, highlighting any problems.
The app is said to meet the requirements of the Freight Transport Association’s (FTA) Van Excellence Scheme and the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS), and can also be used in conjunction with Leaseplan’s Uptime fleet management system, which, similarly to Jaama’s offering, aims to reduce vehicle downtime by grouping minor repairs in with scheduled maintenance and telling garages what parts they’ll need before the van arrives.
Although you have to be a customer to use it, the app can also be applied to non-Leaseplan vehicles, and costs £4, per vehicle, per month. Discounts are available for FORS members, but the company did not say how much they would be.