All posts by John Beales

How to tell the internet when your business changes

The internet has a long memory, so when you change something important to your business, such as your phone number, or the business name or when you move, it sometimes takes a long time for your business info to be updated everywhere. You can take control to speed up the process and make sure your business is information is correct everywhere.

In SEO, (Search Engine Optimization), terms, what you are doing is updating your “local citations,” which should all use the same Name, Address, and Phone Number, (NAP). Using consistent NAP data allows search engines can identify your business across multiple platforms and understand that you are a real business that they should show to real customers.

Update your own Website

If you have a website for your business, make sure it gets updated with the new information.

Update your Trucking Industry Listings

Contact 4RoadService and any other trucking industry directories that you are listed in to update your information. This is the fastest way to make sure the trucking industry gets updated.

Update your Business Profile with Search Engines

Search engines like Google have the concept of a Business Profile, which lets you manage your business’s contact information. Make sure to update these so they are correct.

If you have never created a business profile there is a good change that the search engines know about you anyway, and taking control of your profile lets you make sure it is correct.

The three main search engines to update are Google, Bing, and Apple, (for Apple Maps on all the iPhones in the world);

Update Review Platforms and Social Media


Facebook appears to be larger than many other review & social media platforms, so it’s critical to update your business’s Facebook page.

The Rest

There are a lot of other review and social media platforms, and which ones are most important to you depends on exactly what part of the industry you serve. Some of these review platforms also serve as data providers, (see the next section).

Some review & social sites are:

  • Twitter – if you have contact data there, make sure it’s correct.
  • YP/YellowPages
  • Superpages
  • Waze
  • TomTom
  • Here

Update Data Providers

There are a few large data providers that provide local business data to large parts of the internet. Updating your information with these large providers makes sure your business information is correct at the source.

It can take a while for data to flow from these providers to other websites, but it happens eventually.

Major North American Data Providers

  • FourSquare – they’re no longer the social media company from 15 years ago, they’re now a local data powerhouse!
  • Data Axle

The Bare Minimum

All of the above is a lot, and maybe you don’t have time to do it all. At a bare minimum update your 4RoadService listing, website, Facebook Page, and Google, Bing, and Apple profiles, and at least one of the data providers. If you do that the rest of the internet should pick up the changes… eventually.

Featuring Listing Banners in More Places

Last week we started showing Listing Banners in more place on Banners have been shown with listings in search results for a long time, but we are now showing relevant banners at the top of search results in some cases, and on Bronze listing pages.

This should give some more visibility to our service providers who have opted for the Listing Banner upgrade for their listings. The price of the Listing Banner upgrade has not changed.

A screenshot showing search results near San Antonio, Texas with listing banners above the search results.
Listing Banners are now in the Search Results and across the top of the site on some pages.

Search Banners are now Listing Banners

If you’re confused about what “Listing Banners” are, we have simply renamed the “Search Banner” upgrade, because the banners are no longer restricted to search results.

Clickable Call-to-Actions for Listings

Call-to-Action buttons are available on Gold and Platinum listings. These highly-visible tappable and clickable links are great for sending customers to online booking services or contact forms, or even your company website.

CTAs In Action

This is what the Call-to-Actions look like in real listings:

How to Add a Call to Action to your Gold or Platinum Listing

When creating a new listing or editing an existing listing, there is a section on the form called “Call-to-Action” with 2 fields:

  • Call-to-Action Label: This is the text that you want to appear on the call to action. In the demos above, the client entered “Click here to submit service request” into the Label field.
  • Call-to-Action URL: This is the URL, (website address), that customers should be sent to when they click or tap the CTA.

Once you have updated these two fields don’t forget to save your listing by clicking the “Create my Listing” or “Save Changes” button at the bottom of the form.

Managed Services

Managed Services are companies that organize service or repairs for you but generally do not own a shop or service vehicles, and do not do the repair themselves. Usually when you hire a Managed Service to work on your truck they will sub-contract to a mechanic close to you.

Like any purchase, using a Managed Service to repair your truck has both benefits and drawbacks.

Benefits of Managed Services

  • Ease of mind: the Managed Service provider handles finding a reliable service provider for you.
  • You know who to call: Many managed service providers are large, so you can call one phone number wherever you are.
  • Simple Billing: You get one bill from the Managed Service provider so it’s easier to reconcile your accounting.

Drawbacks of Managed Services

  • Indirect Communication: When dealing with a Managed Service provider you don’t deal with directly with the person who will fix your truck. Adding an extra layer of communication may add confusion to your repair.
  • Cost: Managed Service providers generally charge the price they pay for the repair plus an additional fee.

Managed Services on 4RoadService

It is important that you can make your own choice about using Managed Services for your repairs, so they appear on with the words “Managed Service” where the address would be, and a toolbox icon where the building or truck icon appears for the provider’s location. Here’s how it looks:

Managed Service

This is what mobile providers and providers with shops look like:

Provider that only provides Mobile Repair
Provider with a location you can visit:

Tune-Up + a New Provider Center

4RoadService just completed a major under-the-hood upgrade. Most of the changes aren’t visible but will help 4RoadService improve quickly, but there are some exiting visible changes, especially for Providers.

Brand New Provider Center

After more than six years the Provider Center has been upgraded and fully integrated into the current website design. The new Provider Center faster and fully responsive so it works on computers, phones, and everything in between. There’s a new way to access the Provider Center too. You can still choose “Provider” when logging in, or the Provider Center link in your tool drawer, and now there’s a “Provider Center” link on your dashboard.

A screenshot of the new Provider Center, where road service providers can update their information on
The new 4RoadService Provider Center

Member Dashboards for All

Yes, you have a dashboard, and if you’re a provider there’s a “Provider Center” link on your dashboard. Our login systems are now unified so everyone – Members and Providers – have a member dashboard for quick access to your recent searches and favourite Providers. If you’re a provider and think you don’t need a dashboard, try adding your listings to your favourites & save a couple of clicks when you need to update them.

Fewer, Better-Looking, E-mails

The days of plain-text E-mails from are gone. Our E-mails now look great:

If you manage multiple listings there’s even better news for you: your renewal E-mails are combined for listings that expire on the same day. No more opening your E-mail in the morning and finding a bunch of E-mails from us, there will be just one, (good-looking), E-mail when needed.

A screenshot of a new password reset E-mail from
A new Password Reset E-mail.

It’s Easier to Edit & Perfect Listings

For Providers, there’s an “Edit Listing” link right on your listing when you’re logged in on, and you can see your own listings while they’re under review so you can tweak them to perfection.

Upgraded Account Security

In alignment with modern password best practices we now require passwords to be at least 8 characters long – but don’t restrict yourself to eight, passwords can be as long as you want! Remember, a password is best if it’s a passphrase. Go ahead and use a whole sentence, (maybe not all of Moby Dick, though). Sentences are easier to remember, (if you’re even trying to remember them. We recommend not bothering to remember and using a password manager).

As always, please reach out if you have any questions or feedback. Enjoy the new Provider Center and your cleaner inbox!

A photo of a black heavy truck in front of autumn foliage, for marketing the 2018 Wowtrucks calendar

Trucking Calendars for 2018

Happy New Year! We’re five days into 2018, do you have an awesome truck-filled calendar on your wall, (or the back of your sleeper), yet? If not, here are four eleven of our favourite trucking calendars for 2018:

Jan 10 Update: There are six more calendars that were released or we found since publishing. This is fast becoming a Super Trucking Calendar Round-Up!

Shell ROTELLA SuperRigs

A promotional image for the 2018 Shell ROTELLA SuperRigs Calendar

Loaded with chrome, shine, and polish, the SuperRigs calendar is a classic, and the 2018 edition just became available.

Wowtrucks Calendar

A photo of a black heavy truck in front of autumn foliage, for marketing the 2018 Wowtrucks calendar

Canada’s own Wowtrucks calendar is full of wow-inspiring trucks. They’ve got multi-packs with other goodies thrown in too.

2018 True North: Women in Transport  Calendar

A marketing image for the 2018 True North: Women in Transport calendar.

Also from Wowtrucks, the True North: Women in Transport calendar looks like it’s already sold out, maybe they can be convinced to print some more.

2018 Truck-Eating Bridge Calendar

A promo image for the 2018 Truck-Eating Bridge calendar

That’s right, Davenport, Iowa’s (in)famous Truck-Eating bridge has its own calendar, and profits go to a literacy charity for local kids. You can order your copy here and hang it in the shop, truck, or wherever you need a reminder to pay attention to low bridge warnings!

Volvo Trucks 2018 Calendar

A promotional image for the Volvo Trucks 2018 calendar.

Volvo Trucks North America is offering their annual calendar. You can get yours at

Kenworth Twofer

The January page of Kenworth's 2018 Appointment Calendar.

Kenworth’s giving us not one, but two calendars in 2018. They have both a wall calendar and an appointment calendar available.

Mack 2018 Wall Calendar

A promotional image for the 2018 Mack Wall Calendar

Mack Trucks has a had a photo contest back in the springtime looking for real Mack drivers to put in their calendar. It looks like they combined winners from the contest with some product photos, (including the new Mack Anthem), for a good-looking calendar, available from the Mack Shop.

Peterbilt Twofer

A promo image for the 2018 Peterbilt Appointment Calendar.

Like Kenworth, Peterbilt has both an Appointment Calendar and a Wall Calendar this year, both available at

Midwest Peterbilt

The cover of Midwest Peterbilt's 2018 Working Trucks calendar.

It looks like it’s only available from the dealerships, but the Midwest Peterbilt has a calendar filled with working trucks. If you have to stop by one of the dealerships soon & like Petes, try asking about the calendar.


Are there more?

If you know of more Trucking calendars let us know @4RoadService on Twitter or on our Facebook page.

Making load faster, Smashing edition

We have always tried to make 4RoadService fast to use, and especially so since our current design came online in 2015, but “fast” is subjective, and changes over time, so when Smashing Magazineannounced their Front-End Performance Challenge at the end of October, we knew we wanted to level-up our performance, so we set to work.

Non-Technical Summary

The homepage is usable 45% sooner than it used to be, and downloads 23%* less data. The most dramatic improvement was the homepage, but the other pages we tested had improvements as well.

* This number removes the banner for the “Featured Listing” at the bottom of the homepage. It changes frequently so so including it gives us inconsistent numbers that either hide or over-emphasize the improvements on the rest of the page.

The rest of this post is more technical than anything we’ve written before, and is aimed at web developers & performance geeks. Proceed at your own risk!


We’re optimizing for three views that are the most important to someone looking for repair service: the homepage, search results, and the listing detail page.

Figure 1: Performance before Optimization (Lower is better)
Page Load Time First Meaningful Paint Perceptual Speed Index Total Download Size
Homepage 2.921s 2,220ms 4,154 380KB
Search Results 6.62s 1,630ms 5,746 2,080KB
Listing Page 2.924s 1,590ms 5,276 555KB

Quick Wins

Being a Cloudflare customer made some things pretty quick & easy:

  • We turned on WebP conversion & Lossy compression for images in Cloudflare. While this shrinks image files, it could be better:
    • PNGs and Gifs are converted to lossless WebP images, (only JPEGs get lossy compression from Cloudflare). Using lossy compression would save more bandwidth.
    • Only filenames ending in .jpg, .jpeg, .png, .gif, and .img are WebP-ized, so images we manipulate on the fly with a PHP file need more trickery
  • Turn on auto-minifaction of HTML, (CSS and JS are minified in our build system).

Cache Static Assets

Part 1: Assets that we create

We gave all static assets on a versioned URL using this strategy, (but not on WordPress), then set caching headers to tell browsers, (and other caches), to cache static assets for at least a year.

Part 2: User-Uploaded Assets

Repair companies with paid listings on 4RoadService can upload their company logo, a banner, and some photos.  Since they don’t change at the same time as we make changes to the code they need their own versioning scheme. In our old system new versions of images didn’t get new URLs, so we changed that so whenever a new image is uploaded it gets a unique URL, and set far-future expiry headers on those as well.

Optimize the Critical Rendering Path

The Critical Rendering Path is the work the web browser does to render a web page, and it turns out we can tweak our web pages to make it happen quickly, but the “normal” way of building websites is pretty slow.

Async all the JS

When we built the current version of 4RoadService back in 2015 we made most of our Javascript asynchronous, but there’s one stats package that we just copied & pasted the code for. It turned out it was loading slowly and blocking rendering. Adding an
asyncattribute to the script tag cleared that up and shaved 200ms off the time it took to reach the DOMContentLoaded event.

HTTP/2 Server Push things that block rendering, (hint: it’s styles)

The next biggest blocker to our CRP being speedy was our main CSS file. Even with HTTP/2’s multiplexing, there was still a period of time between when we started sending the HTML and when the browser requested the CSS file. HTTP/2 Server Push to the rescue!

HTTP/2 Server Push is fantastically simple to set up. If the web server supports it all that’s needed is adding a HTTP response header and the web server handles the rest for you. While it helped our rendering time, the difference wasn’t as dramatic as we had hoped, but it was an incremental improvement of 50-100ms.

We also tried HTTP/2 Server Pushing our main Javascript file, but since it was already loading asynchronously it didn’t help, and possibly harmed, the load speed.

Status Check

Everything discussed up to this point improved the DOMContentLoaded event, and Lighthouse‘s First Meaningful Paint, First Interactive, and Consistently Interactive values but about a second. Depending on the page that’s loading that’s  a 15% to 33% improvement. Not bad!

What Remains

Once the browser starts receiving the web page the first several steps now progress very quickly. Most room for improvement still exists at both ends of the page load: our time-to-first-byte could be improved, (it’s just under 1/2 second), and on some pages there are large images that take a while to finish loading, (this is especially true on very large screens). To tackle these problems we can make our resized-on-the-fly images, (user-uploaded images), cacheable, and WebP-able, by Cloudflare, optimize our source images better, and speed up our server code. Because of the deadline on the Smashing Magazine challenge we focused on the first two.

What doesn’t seem worth doing (right now)

Heading into the challenge we thought we would be breaking up our monolithic stylesheet file, and some of our concatenated Javascript, to take advantage of HTTP/2’s parallel downloads, but the stylesheet is relatively fast right now, and the Javascript comes in late, and is relatively fast, so there are bigger gains to be found elsewhere. We feel like there’s about 100ms to be gained here, and will revisit it in the future.

We could also break up our styles by media query and use several <link> tags with different media attributes. When a browser encounters a <link> to a stylesheet with a media query that’s not applicable it doesn’t block rendering for that file, so there may be gains, especially for people on mobile devices, however because the styles are fairly quick, and we would have to make guesses about which CSS files to send with a HTTP/2 Push, we’ll explore this later.

Optimize Those Last Few Images

Remember how we thought using lossy WebP would improve the download size of some images? Cloudinary’s Website Speed Test says that the gains could be big, especially for large PNGs like the orange truck on our homepage. Since the large images were taking 5-7 seconds to finish downloading on a very large screen we went ahead and optimized these in 2 steps.

Step 1: Optimize non-WebP images

Our build process already compresses our images, but we can do better. By tweaking the algorithms used for image optimization, then waiting forever while they run, (ahem, Guetzli), we shrunk the file sizes for everyone who can’t accept WebP images.

Step 2: Lossy WebP, and special URLs

We also added a step to our build process to create lossy WebP versions of every image. The size differences are incredible, for example, for the largest version of the orange truck on our homepage, the unoptimized PNG is 4.2MB, the optimized PNG is 1.1MB, and the WebP is 244KB. If you can use Lossy WebP, do.

These magical WebP images cause a problem, though: Not all browsers understand them. We could solve that by serving a WebP image if the browser sends images/web in its Accept HTTP header, but since CloudFlare caches our images it would cache the WebP version of a file and serve it to non-WebP-capable browsers, so we have to have separate URLs for WebP images, which means some image URLs change if the browser sends an image/webp Accept header. Once that happens both our optimized non-WebP images and our tiny, lossy, WebP images are cached in Cloudflare’s CDN for ultimate image speed.

Step 3: Compress user-supplied images as much as possible

Compressing the user-supplied images is more tricky. We resize some of them on-the-fly in PHP, and the compression tools in PHP don’t seem to be as good as the tools we use in our node-based build process. However, we can take advantage of Cloudflare’s compression. Yes, it’s not as good as the lossy WebP images we’re serving for our own assets, but it’s better than nothing. There was a hurdle, where Cloudflare doesn’t apply image compression to URLs ending in .php, so we re-wrote the URLs to look like image files and Cloudflare started compressing them for us. Problem solved-ish.

Next Steps

This is all we had time to do before the deadline for the challenge, but we have identified a few things to keep working on:

  • Improve our time-to-first-byte: We’re working on one thing that should improve this a lot. There may also be ways to improve it by caching more, but some of our pages are customized for logged-in users, so we’ll have to work on caching pages while keeping customizations for logged-in users.
  • Improve compression of user-provided images: We need to spend some time researching PHP compression systems.
  • Resource Hints: We can tell the browser what outside services we’re going to connect to in HTTP headers, then it can get started on the connection without waiting to parse the HTML.
  • Break up CSS and JS: This time around we decided there are bigger fish to try than breaking up our CSS & JS files to take advantage of HTTP/2’s parallelization, but doing this should yield a small reduction in load time.
  • Service Workers, and Progressive-Web-App-izing 4RoadService: Some of 4RoadService relies on getting accurate, fresh, data from the server, but some things can be sped up with Service Workers and locally-cached data.


That’s as much as we snuck in under Smashing Magazine’s deadline. So, how did we do?

Figure 2: Performance After Optimization (Lower is better)
Page Load Time First Meaningful Paint Perceptual Speed Index Total Download Size
Homepage 1.765s
Search Results 4.255s
Listing Page 2.117s

That’s not too bad. This effort took less than half a week of developer time and produced very real improvements to our page load times, and reductions to the number of bytes we’re sending to our largely-mobile audience. In addition we have identified things that we can keep improving. Participating in the Smashing Magazine Front-End Performance challenge was a worthwhile exercise, not just to bring our skills up to speed on some new front-end performance practises, but to improve the experience of people using 4RoadService and let them find help quickly.

4RoadService Truck Repair App Winter 2017 Promo Image

Keeping 4RoadService Apps Fresh on your Phone

Some, (actually, most) people prefer native apps over a great mobile website, so it’s time to shine the light on the 4RoadService Breakdown Directory Mobile Apps.


Android devices are the mobile workhorse of the trucking industry, and while we would prefer you’re rolling instead of looking up repair vendors, when you do need some truck repairs 4RoadService for Android is there.

Recent Android highlights include:
  • 12 updates in 2016, and we’ve already released an update in 2017.
  • Maps of search results
  • Error Reporting and Vendor Suggestions from within the app, (and thanks to anyone that submitted reports or suggestions – you rock!)
  • Lots of error fixes, because the last thing you need is a broken app when you’ve got a broken truck.


Apple seems to rule the world, so it’s only appropriate to have a world-ruling iPhone app. That’s why 4RoadService for iPhone, (the original Truck Repair Locator in the App Store), got a complete rewrite in 2016, just in time for Christmas, with some snazzy new features:

  • Find truck service near you with one tap and your phone’s GPS.
  • Save your favourite repair companies to your phone.
  • Report problems & suggest new repair shops from within the app.
  • See repair shops on a map.

While both our Android and iOS apps are great, there’s so much more that we can, and will do with them. Keep your auto-update turned on and check the release notes to keep up with the latest tricks we add to your phone.

Improved City Location Data, and and Android Update Roundup

There are a lot of Atlantas in the USA.
There are a lot of Atlantas in the USA. is always being updated & improved, but this week we have some updates that we would like to share.

Improved & Faster City Location Data

We have cleaned, merged, sorted, imported, beautified, and turbocharged our location data for cities, added several thousand more cities to our database, and improved the accuracy of the location of most cities, (over 60,000 of them)!  Cities with multiple spellings have been merged, but old spelling and abbreviations are still recognized, so if you need Truck Repair in Eighty-Eight, KY, you can type “88 ky” “Eighty Eight Kentucky” or any combination of those into the search box and we’ll find it. If ever you search for a city and can’t find it, let us know, and we’ll add it, (Twitter & Facebook work too).

Eighty Eight, Kentucky 42130

Several non-cities that had worked their way into our data-set, (mostly because they have their own ZIP codes), have been removed, so no more suggestions to search near the city of “Dept of Human Resources!”

Even with all the improvements, the auto-suggestion for cities has been sped up. That’s right, we made it faster.

Android App Update Roundup

A new version of 4 Road Service for Android went live late last week. This new version supports searching by ZIP or Postal code in addition to using your phone or tablet’s GPS or searching by city, so if you need a tow in 90210, you can find it on your Android device. Previously, but not announced here, the app was updated to let you suggest new service providers and report problems with listings – so use the orange buttons in the app to let us know who we’re missing!

New Design, New Logo, New Possibilities

Regular visitors to 4RoadService will have noticed that we’re sporting an entirely new design – and even a new logo! Besides improving our looks the new design is a responsive one – which means that works great to find truck repair on phones and tablets, as well as computers, and it’s fast.


Our old design dated from 2008. At that point the iPhone was less than a year old and there were no Android phones yet. The mobile web was very different, the few smartphones out there were Blackberries, and if you were using the web on your phone it was probably a WAP site.

Since 2008 smartphones have saturated the world. Today over half of the people who visit do so on mobile devices so we built our new design for mobile devices first, and use Responsive Web Design to provide a desktop layout when the website is viewed on a computer. We want everyone, from the dispatcher at a desk with a 24-inch monitor to the co-driver in the sleeper with a laptop to the driver stuck at the side of the road with looking up the closest truck repair company on his phone, to find the service they are looking for quickly and easily.


Part of designing for all screen sizes is designing for all network connections. If you’re in a mountain pass with a patchy cell connection making you wait while your phone downloads images 10 times the size of the screen doesn’t help you get back on the road quickly, it’s just frustrating and possibly expensive. We’re proud that the new design is incredibly fast-loading. It’s so fast that we’ll be writing a whole separate blog post about it in a few days, so stay tuned.


The great thing about the web is that anything can change at anytime, so 4 Road Service will keep being tuned to be faster and easier to use. If you run into problems or have suggestions please let us know with our contact form, or hit us up on Facebook or @4RoadService on Twitter.