Increased regulation. Demanding customers. Driver shortages. These are just a few reasons why the trucking industry is embracing mobile technology and the affordable fleet management solutions that run on cell phones, smartphones, tablet computers and other handheld devices.

In a recent survey by uShip, more than 6,000 owner-operators reported how they use their cell phones and mobile apps on the road:

  • 57% use their phones more for daily business this year than they did last year.
  • 37% use their phones to book loads, and 35% use them to bid on loads.
  • *33% use mobile apps to monitor the weather, gas prices and traffic conditions.
  • 20% no longer travel with a laptop.
  • Nearly 20% use social networks such as Facebook and Twitter on their phones to keep up with family, friends and colleagues.

Clearly, mobile phones and tablet computers have already become a crucial part of life on the road for truckers. In fact, cell phones are so important to truckers that when asked what they’d be willing to give up to keep their phones, 20% said they would give up their CB radios, 16% said they’d give up their spouses and 8% said they’d give up their pets. Now, that’s dedication to a mobile device.

The use of handheld devices is exploding in the trucking industry, as is a proliferation of industry-specific mobile apps that help improve safety and compliance, reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction.

Many apps also help improve drivers’ quality of life by giving them anytime, anywhere access to information, professional tools and streaming video and audio. And with a driver shortage on the horizon, these apps-particularly those that connect drivers with their family and friends-can go a long way to making the profession more attractive.

Here are some top mobile apps for truckers:

Co-Pilot Live Truck
This first-of-its kind app uses voice-guided GPS-navigation to give drivers customized, safe and reliable truck-legal routes calculated based on vehicle size, weight and load type. Maps are downloaded and stored on the phone, providing drivers instant access-even when offline. Drivers can avoid low-clearance and weight-restricted roads, create custom route profiles for easy switching between vehicles, view and plan efficient routing options, and help avoid out-of-route miles.

FatSecret Calorie Counter
Eating right is a challenge behind the wheel: Time is tight, hours are long and access to restaurants is limited by parking constraints or highway exits. With this app, drivers can look up nutrition information for foods found at most restaurants, scan barcodes for instant nutrition information on packaged foods, and track total daily calories, fat and carbs.

FleetSafer Mobile
While reading or writing a text, a driver looks away from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. During that time, at 55 miles per hour, his or her vehicle will travel the length of an entire football field. FleetSafer eliminates the temptation to text, email or browse the web while driving. With this app, drivers can block texts and emails while driving, and automatically respond to incoming emails and texts with an “I’m driving” message.

When burning hundreds or even thousands of gallons of diesel each week, even the smallest savings can add up. The free GasBuddy app relies on a community of users working together to give drivers up-to-date diesel prices for thousands of stations across the U.S. and Canada. With this app, drivers can find the cheapest fuel, locate nearby fueling stations and sort them by fuel prices, view gas stations, and see gas station features.

With free calls to any user worldwide, Skype is an easy way for drivers to stay connected. They can even videoconference with dispatchers, fellow drivers and family, and make calls to landlines and cell phones for less than most pre-paid calling cards. With this app, drivers can obtain an online telephone number so they never have to miss another call, receive voicemail messages and get voicemail notifications by e-mail, and send files and text messages.

tpMobile for Xata Turnpike
Xata Turnpike is an advanced electric onboard recorder solution that runs on drivers’ cell phones, smartphones and tablet computers. The app provides functions such as electronic hours-of-service logs, speed management and CSA risk scorecards, as well as fuel savings and driver productivity data. This app helps fleet managers and drivers comply with today’s complex regulatory issues, run their fleets more efficiently while reducing operating costs and keep their customers happy through better visibility on arrival times and other delivery tools.

uShip Mobile
Especially popular with owner-operators, this app makes it easy to bid on loads that people and businesses need shipped. Drivers can find nearby loads, place bids, get automatic notices that let them know when a bid is accepted or declined, view booking details and use optional GPS tracking to alert shippers and consignees to ETAs.

Trucker Tools
With this free trucker’s app, originally a coupon app similar to Groupon, drivers can source coupons from more than 5,000 truck stops across America, find the lowest diesel prices in any given area, search for truck stops, and get turn-by-turn directions to each stop.