Touch and go: The best mobile apps for fleets
23 December 2021
Author: Jack Carfrae
Jack Carfrae rounds up ten of the best apps for fleet managers and company car drivers.
You would struggle to find a fleet operator or a company car driver without a smartphone. If you happen to be one, then please do get in touch and let us know how you do it, because we love an old-school story. But for everyone else, mobile devices and their associated applications have mushroomed across the world and they are just as ubiquitous in the fleet sector.
Many have replaced administrative tasks previously confined to spreadsheets or physical pieces of paper - a boon in the pandemic age - rendering them a speedier and often more reliable and compliant way of tackling the likes of vehicle checks and mileage capture, or just paying for everyday sundries such as parking.
Here, we examine ten of the most valuable and versatile mobile applications available to business car operators and drivers today. The criteria of the apps we picked is that they must be either free or cheap, available to anyone (such as those that are the preserve of a particular company's customers did not make the cut) and provide a genuinely useful service to the modern fleet industry.
A handy little app for walking distressed drivers through the post-collision process. Accident Buddy's 'report incident' function includes a form that tells the user precisely what information they need to gather about themselves, their vehicle and third parties in the wake of a shunt. It includes functions to illustrate whether the vehicle is still driveable, where the damage is, perceived fault, weather conditions and a function to flag up injuries, while video and photo facilities help to make the report more accurate and cut down on the unpleasant 'he said, she said' business of insurance claims.
The developer also offers white-label services to the fleet and insurance industry so, if you already have such an app via something like an insurer or a leasing company, you might well be using it already.
If your drivers go anywhere near a part of the road network with extra charges, then it may be worth them downloading Caura, which facilitates payments for the likes of tolls, congestion or clean air zone charges and parking via a single app, while grey fleet drivers could also benefit from the ability to cough up for MOTs, road tax and insurance - along with notifications about when each one is due. Drivers enter their vehicles' registration number and the app displays a series of details including renewal dates and options to remotely settle up for the aforementioned charges via online payment services.
Price: Free; in-app purchases £2.99-99.99
Driving through a major city is not usually much fun and, unless your fleet comprises only vehicles that avoid clean air zone charges, it can also be expensive. Parking at the edge of town and picking up public transport is often a good way around it - for cost, time and environmental reasons - and Citymapper helps users navigate exactly that. It steers them to the most appropriate type of transport (train, tube, bus etcetera) and provides what it claims are highly accurate routes and timings. A total of 50 million international users and a suite of Google Play awards suggest the developers are on to something, and it also offers the subscription-based Citymapper Pass travelcard, which allows users to pay for different types of public and private transport, although, according to its website, the card is currently limited to London.
Price: £2 per vehicle per month
Vehicle inspection apps are all the rage, but you often have to be an existing customer of something like a software or fleet management company to access them. Yes, it is a paid-for service, but Fleetcheck's Driver app is available to any fleet of any size and has a customisable DVSA-approved checking facility to ensure drivers give their vehicles the necessary once-over before they hit the road and catch any issues beforehand.
It surpassed ten million checks this year, which the company's managing director Peter Golding chalks up to an increasing desire for paperless inspections both for convenience and from a biosecurity perspective amid the pandemic.
"Covid has made people realise that, if they were reliant on a paper-based method of communicating with an office or wherever, nowadays, that really needs to be phased out. We're seeing a far higher adoption of the app than ever, and a lot of that growth has happened over the last 18 months."
It is certainly not the flashiest app of our selection, but HMRC's offering is useful for employees who need to get hold of fundamental tax information, such as codes and national insurance numbers, and also allows them to calculate their take-home pay after income tax and NI deductions. Other functions include details about income and potential benefits, along with facilities to track forms and letters, change personal details and, for those who have overpaid, claim refunds. Unfortunately, it does not extend as far as company car tax and, as far as we can tell, there are no dedicated application to fulfil such a function, at least on the Google Play store (but there are websites that do it). HMRC's offering is nonetheless handy for tax basics, though.
Price: Personal account free; £1.99 a month per user for businesses
Ringgo bills itself as the UK's number one parking app, which is probably fair enough given that it has been downloaded more than a million times on Google Play alone. It allows users to search for different types of nearby parking spaces and book and pay for them remotely - handy for company car types on the move and in search of a spot. It is also possible to pay for extra time in a car park via the app without physically having to run back and hastily shove coins into the meter. An individual plan for up to five vehicles is free, while business accounts for more vehicles and users cost £1.99 per user per month.
Smart Dash Cam
Price: Free; in-app purchases £1.79-8.99
It is not the only dashcam app out there, but Smart Dash Cam is among the most popular. It does what it says on the tin; stick your phone on the dashboard post-download (a sturdy phone holder is a good idea) and you have instantly converted it into a makeshift recording device.
If you are an Android user, then Droid Dashcam is also worth a look. It has fewer downloads than the aforementioned offering, but users rate it higher than they do Smart Dash Cam - 4.4 versus 3.7 stars on the Play Store.
We are not knocking non-phone-based systems because they will likely be more comprehensive, especially when paired with a dedicated telematics set-up. However, if your fleet lacks the funds for such facilities - and, crucially, assuming it suits your vehicles and drivers - a ready-made dashcam on an app is a significantly cheaper and easier way of recording hard evidence in the event of an incident, and extremely useful for insurance claims.
Vehicle Trip Logbook Tracker
Price: Free; in-app purchases £1.79-3.09
If the stellar Play Store reviews are anything to go by, this is the best of an extensive collection of mileage capture apps. At its core, it is a fairly simple GPS recording job, but reports are generated for business drivers with tax returns in mind. Users can track multiple vehicles, save frequent destinations and, if it is set up correctly, it is said to be able to distinguish between train and car travel, which means you can avoid false journey entries. Well worth the nominal cost of downloading reports if you plan to use it regularly.
If you have just taken delivery of a top-end executive saloon with a business navigation pack (and it is running the latest version), then look away now. For anyone else, Waze is one of the go-to navigation apps. Although smartphone makers would probably claim otherwise, Waze usually trumps standard-issue smartphone mapping facilities because its users submit real-time traffic updates. In the absence of an extensive, independent real-world road test of the big routing apps, it is believed to be the most accurate and reliable of the bunch, especially when it comes to giving drivers an early heads up about impending jams.
Price: Free; in-app purchases £4.99-47.99
An obvious choice but, in the age of 1% BIK for electric cars and a massive push for them more generally, one that is becoming ever more relevant for fleets. Zap Map's app (excuse the rhyme) throws up a comprehensive display of the UK's charging network and offers a filtering facility to whittle down chargers via a series of variables, including connection types (CSS, CHAdeMO, Type 2 etc), networks and payment methods, among others, which is especially handy, given the convoluted nature of public charging. It also includes information about each charge point, including how many connections it has, availability and when it was last used. The route planner lets users sketch out journeys with convenient charging point stops built in and the Zap Pay function provides a means of paying for the charges themselves.