Logistics App Development Guide: How to Create an Application for Your Transportation Business
Logistics app development may seem like a tricky task. Moreover, why would you need to create such an application from scratch if there are ready-made solutions? After all, what is the right strategy to build such a complex system?
In this logistics app development guide, we will focus on how to develop a transportation management system (TMS) for your business, revealing all the why’s and how’s of this process. Your own TMS will provide you with better control, modern accountability tools, and AI-based automation and optimization solutions.
Thus, the guide will be the most useful for Transport / Cargo Shipping Companies. If you want to build your own TMS to either replace a 3rd party service you use now or digitize processes within your company from the ground up — we have all the answers for you, so keep reading!
According to Global Market Insights, the industry will keep rising:
Let’s start by quickly reminding ourselves of the top benefits of creating a logistics mobile app. If you’re familiar with all the advantages of having your own digital logistics system, you can jump right to the part about key features of your future TMS. Enjoy!
👍 Top Benefits of Building a Logistics Mobile App
A mobile-based TMS improves and simplifies a number of activities for both your drivers and managers.
For example, it deals with the hassle, paperwork, delays, and other fragmented & time-consuming processes that are now a part of the industry. Modern technologies create brand new possibilities to reduce expenses, increase revenue, and make the business more transparent and controllable. Let’s take a closer look!
📍 Save Time on Vehicle Location Tracking
With a driver mobile app, you can effortlessly track and get the exact location of your vehicles. What’s even cooler — your drivers don’t have to do anything, since the data is automatically updated in real-time.
It helps in a few ways:
- The whole transportation process becomes more transparent. You can check the location of the vehicle at any time. For example, to see how far the driver is from a drop-off location or update customers with the real-time location of their parcels.
- No more wasted resources on communication. Since data is updated automatically, you or your managers don’t have to text or call drivers, distracting them from driving, to get updated on their location. They can also spend the saved time on other, more important tasks.
- Quick help in case of an emergency. Having an exact location of the vehicle, you’ll be able to immediately send any needed help in case of an emergency.
🚛 More Efficient Fleet Management
Data-driven decisions are the right decisions. By creating an own transportation management system you’ll be able to keep track of all fleet-related data in one place.
It helps to maintain all the trucks on time in terms of their technical condition, mandatory vehicle inspections and never miss issues with the brakes, engine, etc.
The application will also keep the data of all the drivers, their trucks and current routes, type of cargo, location, free/occupied vehicle’s payload capacity and other KPIs that will make your business more controllable.
📃 Kill the Paperwork Formalities
As we have already mentioned, logistics tracking app development leads to business automation which dramatically reduces the volume of paperwork. You can now go paperless with everything from cargo tracking and sending e-bills to accounting and receiving online payments.
Thus, you waste less money, and your employees save time for things that really matter.
🏢 Improve Warehouse Management
However, transport and logistics mobile app development is not only about your drivers and trucks. It’s also about managing your warehouses.
A TMS helps to improve the way you manage your inventory and dispatch cargo. Moreover, with AI-based technologies, you’ll be able to optimize existing routs and warehouse space usage so your trucks don’t go half-empty.
🚚 Trucking and Logistics App Development: Driver App
The creation of your own Transportation Management System can be divided into 2 big parts: customized logistics app development for drivers and building an ERP-system (Enterprise Resource Planning) for your managers and administrators.
We’ve already mentioned that one of the top reasons to create a TMS for your transportation business is because it will be perfectly tailored to your needs.
Below are some key features that companies usually want to see in their TMS, however, we can add any feature that is not mentioned here but will be useful exactly in your case.
Sign Up 🔐
This is a necessary step required to identify your drivers within the system. All the provided information will be available to your managers via an Admin Panel. Also, it may be available to Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning algorithms. It will allow them to analyze it and prepare for you the best vehicle and order allocation suggestions.
After identifying the driver within the system, your admins will be able to link specific information to each driver — for example, to assign shipping requests, change vehicles and so on.
From the tech perspective, we recommend sticking to the standard “phone number + password” login option. Since you will likely need phone numbers of your drivers later, this option will let you collect them and make them reusable right from the start.
Driver’s Profile 👤
However, a phone number isn’t all you need from a driver. That’s why you should implement a separate Personal Profile Screen during the logistics tracking app development for driving staff.
Usually, they have to fill in the following data:
- Date of birth / Age.
- Driver’s license number, type and date of its expiry.
This info will be available to your administrators and the system for management purposes.
Shipment Details 📦
The Screen with essential info on the current transportation orders. This is one of the key screens for your drivers as here they will be able to review newly allocated orders and check all the details they need for shipping.
The Shipping Details Screen is usually organized as a list of current and scheduled orders with pick-up and drop-off locations, and ETA/EDA (estimated time/day of arrival).
For more details, drivers have to tap the specific order and this will either move them to a new, request-specific screen or just open up as a hidden list. Except for the ETA/EDA, starting location and endpoint of the route drivers should be able to access:
- Total distance.
- Description of the cargo. For example, its total weight, type, the number of pallets/barrels/etc. transported and so on.
- Number of extra stops.
- Description of extra stops. This includes their location and the number of goods that should be delivered or picked up at each stop.
- Recipient’s info. Customer’s name and phone number with a button for a fast call.
- Payment info. Whether the driver has to pick up some money from the customer or everything was paid in advance.
- Notes. Left by the customer to provide details on the order itself or pick-up location.
- Map button. Allows switching to a Map Screen with a single tap. In this mode, the shipping order will be displayed as a route on your in-app map.
Map Screen & Route Navigation 🗺
This feature is a must-have for your drivers as you create a logistic management app. It looks like a standard map where drivers can enter pick-up/drop-off locations and the app will build the best route between them.
At the same time, this info will be available to your managers in real-time. Thus, they will always know how far from the next point of destination your drivers are.
However, it’s also possible to implement advanced navigation functionality. Here are a few examples of what it may be:
|🤖 Smart Routing
Advanced routing technology will not only suggest the shortest way from point A to point B but also include a number of extra parameters: for example, to exclude toll roads and specific countries.
|↔️ Multi-Drop Shipments
With this feature, it’s possible to set intermediate stops along the way. The system can also estimate the time needed to load and unload track, and include these extra stops in the ETA calculation.
|🚾 Truck Stops
The feature will be the most useful if your drivers often have long trips. Then you can mark on the map the location of truck stops with services they provide (like electronic charging station, shower, food court, etc.).
|📑 Legal Regulations
You may also add extra info regarding specific legal agreements for trucks. For example, The European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR).
|🛣 Road Limitations
By pre-saving such parameters as length, height and weight your drivers can exclude roads that don’t meet the limitation.
|🚥 Traffic Info
By locating traffic jams, speed limitations and car accidents ahead your drivers will be able to change the route and save time.
The feature is usually implemented by Google Maps integration. This dramatically shortens the learning curve for your drivers as they are well familiar with this technology.
Electronic Proof of Delivery ✅
One of the top advantages of logistics app development is the possibility to implement a convenient electronic Proof of Delivery feature — sometimes simply ePOD.
From the tech perspective, it’s possible to implement the feature in the following forms:
- Photo capture.
- Signature capture.
- Barcode scanning.
Moreover, this info will be immediately available to your managers.
How building a logistics mobile app with the ePOD feature can help your business?
First, it leads to reduced delivery disputes and better visibility of transportations. The ePOD feature also reduces the volume of paperwork and printing, saving you money and time.
Finally, it’ll be much easier to deal with claims for damaged and missing items. Your drivers will have photo evidence of goods’ conditions before departure and will be able to track the last location of missing items using a barcode.
Except for that, you can implement checklists and a dashboard to ensure that good travel under required conditions. For example, it may be temperature monitoring or micro-level testing details for FMCG products.
Communication Tools 💬
A set of built-in tools enables much easier and faster communication between your drivers and managers/admins. That’s why it’s also on our list of top features for trucking and logistics app development.
Having an in-app chat, they will no longer need to switch between different messengers and look for work conversation. Now everything they need will be in one place, including sent photos and documents. Moreover, your TMS will be able to extract this data and automatically link it to existing shipping orders.
The same is true for calls. By tapping a button they will be able to call your office. It will let them quickly get in touch with any free manager (or the one assigned to this specific shipping order).
Push Notifications 🔔
Finally, don’t forget about Push Notifications during your trucking and logistics app development. After all, this is one of the key advantages of mobile applications over websites.
There are plenty of ways you can use Push Notifications to inform drivers about:
- newly assigned shipping orders;
- changes in the current or scheduled orders (for example, change of drop-off or pick-up locations);
- new in-app messages from managers or customers.
Push Notifications will keep your drivers updated even if the app is turned off. That’s why they’ll never miss anything important.
What’s also great is that Push Notifications work automatically. Your office staff won’t spend time on setting and sending them to keep the drivers informed on the latest changes.
It’s also possible to set up your own custom Push Notifications via an Admin Panel. What is the Admin Panel? Let’s get a closer look!
🖥 Admin Panel Features for your TMS
Logistics management app creation for drivers goes hand in hand with the development of a special ERP for your administrative and management staff. Usually, it is a Web Application with a set of features for controlling, accounting, managing, and analyzing the performance of your drivers.
Let’s take a closer look.
Sign Up 🔐
Your managers and admins should sign up first. Just like drivers. The standard “mobile number + password” sign up option can be used for this purpose.
However, to prevent someone unwanted to enter the whole courier management system application, we also recommend implement extra security layers.
The dashboard is a Home Screen of your TMS’s Panel. From here you can access all the essential info and features.
The exact look of the Dashboard depends on your own needs and peculiar properties of your business. For example, it may include:
- Current shipment status details: pending, in transit, delivered or others.
- Fleet status: how many available trucks and drivers you have right now, how many are on maintenance, etc.
- Revenue and Costs over a week/month/90 days/year.
- Average loading and delivery time.
- Recent orders/operations.
- Pending complaints.
- Quick status of current deliveries: order number, its load, how far the truck is from the drop-off location, etc.
Note: These are just some features and blocks that can be added to the Dashboard. We’ll shape this part of the Admin Panel according to the needs of your company.
The information on this screen is usually updated in real-time. It helps your management branch make timely decisions.
Orders Management 📋
Despite this logistics app development guide is focused on driver management, the Admin Panel capabilities go far beyond it. The Order Management Feature has two main goals:
- To provide you with a better understanding of your business activity. This part can also be called analytical.
- To simplify and improve the way you allocate and dispatch orders between drivers — or a management part.
Thus, on the one hand, you’re always updated on such data as average revenue per order, a number of current shipments and their real-time statuses, new pending orders, customer contact details, descriptions of shipments, etc.
Ongoing shipping orders can also be updated with images, status and payment updates, notes, etc.
On the other hand, your admins should be able to allocate new orders to the drivers from this screen.
While in many TMS dispatching is done manually, it’s also possible to implement smart auto allocation — or at least suggestion — that is based on Artificial Intelligence. Then the system will automatically assign new shipping orders to your drivers based on pre-set rules like — assign to the nearest driver to the collection point; assign to a driver that has been free for the longest time, etc.
AI-powered technologies can also help you optimize your shipping order allocation and truck loading. Since all the pending transportation requests will be available to the system, it can automatically suggest loading sheets for different orders that should go in the same direction.
Such a system can consider even the most complex scenarios that include LTL, pool distribution, cross-docking, multi-stop and trailer swaps.
Finally, from here you can also access a History Screen. Here you can check information on the already completed shipping orders.
Driver & Freight Tracking 👨💻
We’ve already mentioned that GPS tracking is quite an important feature as you create a logistic management app for truck drivers. And if drivers can track their and cargo location, then your managers should be able to access this information.
The feature can be implemented in the form of a list of current shippings. The list will be automatically updated with info on how far the driver is from the drop-off location and show the route completion in %.
However, you can go further in logistics management app creation and implement full-screen interactive maps. There you’ll see the whole fleet or chosen vehicles in real-time.
Managers will be also able to access POD images and attachments with the possibility to print or email them with a simple click.
Fleet Management 🚚
As you build a logistics app, it’s important not only to keep track of incoming and current orders but also to stay updated on your trucks.
For example, here you can check:
- All your vehicles.
- Their current status — are they just waiting, on the road, or on maintenance.
- Assigned drivers.
- Their tech capabilities like load capacity, average fuel consumption, tire management and others.
Also, this screen allows your managers can quickly react to any technical issues and schedule maintenance.
Driver Management 👨🦰
This piece of functionality is somewhat similar to Fleet Management but it is focused instead on your driving staff.
The Driver Management Screen can be organized as a list of your drivers with key info:
- phone number;
- license number;
- assigned truck;
- current status, etc.
Except for that, you can also manage your drivers from this screen. For example, reassign vehicles or change their wages. If you have implemented the in-app chat feature when building a logistics mobile app for drivers, your managers will be able to quickly contact the needed driver from this screen as well.
Revenue & Expense Management 💸
Another reason to create a logistic management app with the Admin Panel is that it makes your billing process more transparent and manageable. It allows your admins to access, approve, and analyze all the bills with ease.
Except for that, from here you can easily reach expense details like toll and repair charges, fuel and wayside expenses and so on. All the driver’s expenses during the delivery have to be approved by the admin.
Moreover, it’s also possible to implement an AI-driven profitability analysis system. It will provide you with insights on what your revenue will be based on the cost of vehicle operations, distance, average fuel consumption and other parameters.
The same system can be applied to calculate the profitability of every contract and vehicle, your average bill and other financial information that will help you to improve your overall business strategy.
Another reason why this screen needs your precise attention during logistics app development is that it’s used to configure your rates. For instance, you can:
- set up mandatory and optional extra charges for shrink wrapping, waiting time, and so on;
- support specific mark-up pricing that considers different parameters;
- exempt specific accessorial charges from mark-up;
- set different rates based on the size and type of goods in the order.
Thus, you get direct access to multiple rate options. It makes your revenue planning more controlled and predictable.
Push notification 🔔
We’ve already mentioned Push Notifications as one of the key advantages of logistics tracking app development for mobile platforms.
Through the Admin Panel, your managers can set up specific rules to send mobile notifications to your drivers. Push notifications can also be sent to your customers if they’re using your branded application to order transportation, for example.
What logistics app development technologies make it possible to build such an app? Here are a few examples.
⚙️ What Technologies Power Logistics App Development?
Transport and logistics mobile app development may seem like a challenge since it involves many features on different levels. However, modern technologies make it not only possible but also quite fast and easy to implement since you don’t have to build it from scratch.
Location Tracking 📍
Location tracking is one of the key logistics app development technologies. It helps in several cases:
- Users can see the location of your trucks and estimated time of arrival.
- You can send help or guide the driver to the nearest police station, service center or hospital in case of emergency.
How does it work from the tech perspective?
Location tracking usually relies on 2 types of signals: satellite and cellular.
Cellular tracking works best in cities, where cellular network coverage is better. It makes this option not very suitable for logistics companies with long rides. Thus, the data may be temporarily unavailable and transmitted later, when the network is restored.
That’s why satellite tracking is much more often can be found on lists of logistics app development technologies. Such data can be collected and sent either by a GPS tracker or even a driver’s modern smartphone.
Except for the location, other info can be collected and transmitted via the satellite connection: fuel level, tire pressure, battery status, etc.
Map & Route Navigation 🗺
When describing features, we mentioned that drivers should be able to access some traffic info as traffic jams, car accidents and so on. This info should be updated in real-time on the in-app map. What makes it possible?
The most popular way to implement the in-app map and live traffic data is by using Google Maps services.
To provide an even better experience to their users, Google has been consistently buying startups and companies with noticeable achievements in this field:
- In 2004 it bought Zipdash. That’s how the Google Traffic service - red, yellow and green lines on roads to mark its traffic conditions - appeared.
- In 2013 another company, Waze, was acquired. It significantly improved the way Google collects data on car accidents, roadworks, constructions and road closures.
By integrating Google Maps services into your transport and logistics mobile app development you’ll be able to access this information for free.
Electronic Proof of Delivery 📸
One of the reasons to build a logistics app is because you can track your cargo automatically. It means no more wasted time to manually feel papers and no more forgetting or losing it along the way.
The main technology used for this purpose is QR codes. Every code is unique and identifies each individual asset. By scanning this code via the mobile app, drivers can get info on the asset, mark its location and change its status - accepted, delivered, etc.
However, QR codes aren’t the only way to manage inventory and cargo. Which technologies also power logistics app development? Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags and near-field communication (NFC) tags.
RFID tags consist of an antenna and a memory chip. To access the data you’ll need a special reader.
That's how RFID tags work in the logistics industry:
The RFID tags may also contain their own power source. In this case, they’re called active and can broadcast with a range of up to 100 meters. Otherwise, if they don’t have own power sources, they can cover the range of 25 meters.
NFC tags are quite different. You’ve probably already used it - this is the technology behind Google Pay and Apple Pay.
So the bad news is that it works only at very close range - about 10 centimeters. However, while RFID works only one way (it sends the info from tag to the reader), NFC technology can work both ways. It means you can not only read the info from the tag but also update the tag with new or changed information.
Another advantage of NFC tags is that they work instantly. Unlike with QR codes, you don’t have to open a camera or a specific app - just put your smartphone near the tag and it will automatically read the command like open the app or change delivery status.
💸 How Much Does it Cost to Create a Logistic Management App?
Logistics app development may seem like a complex process that requires help of professional developers. We asked our Dev Team to make a rough estimate of costs needed to build a logistics app — the driver’s application and the Admin Panel. Here’s what they’ve came up with:
Approximate costs to create the Admin Panel for your app are as follows:
Yet, these are rough estimates that may not exactly match your project. It greatly depends on many factors as the set of features, required technologies, hourly rate of your developers, etc.
In this article, we used an average hourly rate for developers from Eastern Europe. That’s $40/hour. Yet, if you plan to look for a technical partner among agencies from Western Europe or North America, they are likely to charge up to $200/hour for the same work.
As you could see, logistics app development can significantly improve the efficiency of your business. Mobile applications can simplify the work, make it more transparent, automated and, thus, less expensive.
The whole development process consists of 3 steps:
Any question left on logistics app development? Or you want to get an accurate estimate of possible costs? Get in touch and we’ll help you plan, estimate, and build your logistics software!