Staff Writer Tyson Fisher took an 800-mile road trip to put Pilot Flying J’s travel app to the ultimate test.
Because truckers live on the road, their top method of communication in the 21st century is the smartphone. Not only can they talk to family, friends and customers, but truckers can also do most of their business straight from their mobile device. If it’s related to trucking, there’s probably an app for that.
You can bet that every truck stop chain has one. Pilot Flying J invited me to give a real-world test of the latest version of its app. Although I tested it from the passenger vehicle point of view, many of the same features apply to truckers.
It’s also worth noting that Pilot Flying J is the only Big Three truck stop chain that has a fuel price deal on the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s Truckers Advantage fuel card.
For this test run, I drove from Raymore, Mo., to Three Rivers, Texas. At a distance of more than 800 miles each way, I had a decent enough “database” to work with.
Leg 1: Raymore, Mo., to … Raymore, Mo.
I departed Raymore at approximately 1 a.m. on a Thursday. It takes about 13 hours to get to Three Rivers, and I wanted to arrive in the early afternoon. My first stop should have been near Oklahoma City.
Not long after leaving the house, however, I realized I forgot my coffee. Not even five minutes into the trip, and I’m already looking for the nearest Pilot Flying J.
Turns out, there was a PFJ at the very next exit on Interstate 49. Was this coincidence or does PFJ have so many locations conveniently positioned? Guess we’ll find out.
Leg 2: Raymore, Mo., to Oklahoma City
If you have ever driven from Kansas City to central Texas, then you probably know it’s essentially a straight shot on Interstate 35. With I-35 being a major freight route, finding a PFJ isn’t difficult.
With the app, you can map out ahead of time which location works best logistically. For passenger vehicles, this isn’t an issue. For truckers, it can be, especially when it comes to parking.
Unfortunately, real-time parking availability is not an option. It’s not an option on virtually any app. That’s because that would require a sensor at every single parking space, which would be expensive.
However, the app will tell truckers the current price of fuel, how many parking spaces are at the location, number of fuel lanes, amenities and other useful information. If you do not feel like rolling the dice with a parking space, availability of reserved spaces is available, and you can reserve a spot on the app.
When it comes to cost efficiency, here’s how the app is useful. There are three PFJ locations around Oklahoma City. As of this writing, diesel at the Edmond location (362 miles away from me) was $2.699. Diesel at the Choctaw location (384 miles away) was $2.859 and diesel at the Oklahoma City location (also 384 miles away) was $2.799. Nearly the same distance, but very different prices. I saved money with the first stop.
Leg 3: Oklahoma City to Jarrell, Texas
There are several reasons why truckers should never rely on their GPS. Not only can it take you somewhere you are not allowed to be (low bridges, truck restrictions, etc.), but you can also miss a nearby truck stop.
That’s what I found out when looking for my next stop. I wanted to see why I should use PFJ’s app to find a location rather than my built-in GPS. After all, that would be one less device to look at while not using any data on my phone.
When looking for a Pilot Flying J on the GPS, I was told the closest location was more than 200 miles away – in the wrong direction. However, Pilot Flying J’s app alerted me to a location much closer and on the same route.
There are several reasons why this could happen. To start, if it’s a brand new location, your GPS may not have updated accordingly. Second, some GPS devices like to split hairs when it comes to what you type in. Although they are pretty much the same, there are “Flying J Travel Centers” and then there are “Pilot Travel Centers.” If you don’t type in exactly the correct name, the closest location may not pop up.
Pilot Flying J’s app: Good or bad?
Overall, PFJ’s app is worth having if you have a loyalty card, are otherwise obligated to fuel up at a Pilot Flying J location, or you just prefer PFJ over other truck stops. You will have an easy time planning your trip stopping only at PFJ locations while finding the best diesel prices and the most parking spaces.
The latest version of OOIDA’s fuel card increases the discount to 10 cents per gallon off the cash pump price.
If you are not particular about which truck stop brand you go to, you may want to try one of the several truck parking apps on the mobile market. I plan on reviewing those in the future, so stay tuned.
For a more detailed analysis of my trip, visit Land Line’s YouTube page and check out the video diary I made. LL