March 22, 2011

Looking for a twenty on some go juice? THERE'S AN 'APP' FOR THAT

BY MECHELE COOPER Staff Writer

BY MECHELE COOPER

Staff Writer

Leigh Gagnon sat at his mother's kitchen table and scrolled through the different features on the "app" he's created for truck drivers.

The 42-year-old entrepreneur developed the mobile software in 2009, after losing his job as a truck driver.

An app -- the hip abbreviation for "application" -- is a piece of software designed to run on handheld devices such as cell phones.

At the time he created Truckster, smartphones had only been on the market for about eight months, he said.

Gagnon, who lives in Augusta, has been "messing around" with computers since he was 12 years old.

His skill with computers and trucking experience morphed into a one-man cottage industry that attempts to make life easier for truckers but also earns him $7,000 a month.

"It took me a couple of months to get started, but I've been adding features to the app each year," Gagnon said as he swiped his finger from side to side as he flipped through application pages on the screen of his smartphone.

"Originally, the app was just a truck stop locator. Then I started adding maps and hotels, rest stops, weigh stations and local diesel fuel prices. Scrolling through this, you can find the cheapest place to buy fuel and save 4 cents a gallon. When you have to fill up with 150 gallons a day, just by using this app a truck driver can save over $1,200 in fuel a year."

To date, Gagnon said he has sold over 50,000 copies of Truckster, which was recently selected as the best app by Wiley Publications, publishers of the "For Dummies" series of books.

This past January, he launched an Android version of the app.

"At the moment, I am currently working on a Blackberry version of the app, along with a website which will give truck stops the ability to post ads and specials directly inside the app," he said. "I am really excited about getting the website online soon."

Gagnon's mother, Betty Benner, said she is thrilled for her son. She loves the fact that he has been able to earn an income from all his hard work.

"I think it's great that he can make a living out of it," she said. "And he doesn't have to drive trucks anymore."

Just last week, TransCore, a company based in Portland, Ore., called Gagnon to see if he would develop a "load board" for truckers that includes information from the company's DAT Load Monitor network.

The network gives independent truckers access to high-paying loads to haul and reliable carriers.

"It's for truckers that own their own trucks and need to find loads to haul," he said. "This load board shows companies that need loads hauled, where the truckers need to go, and where to pick up the loads. All they have to do is contact the company to find work."

Gagnon said he learned how to develop apps at developer.apple.com.

He said the website gives step by step instructions on how to develop and sell apps. Developer.android.com is another site where people can get information, he said.

"You don't have to be an expert to do these things," he said. "You just need some basic knowledge of programing language."

Gagnon said each type of phone has its own online market where people can upload his app. The iPhone version of his app is sold on the iTunes Market page and the Android version, the Android Market page.

He said they sell his app and collect all the revenue then send him a check for 70 percent of the proceeds. His apps sells between $2.99 and $4.99 a copy.

"I'm getting $7,000 a month just on the iPhone and Android," he said. "If I get the Blackberry and website up I could make $150,000 in sales this year."

Mechele Cooper -- 623-3811, ext. 408

mcooper@centralmaine.com

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