When the U.S. Department of Defense launched the Global Positioning System (GPS) project in 1973, their original intent was to create a global navigation satellite system capable of providing for the defense of America in an age of guided nuclear missiles. Today, truckers use GPS navigation devices to find their way around. Yet as technologically advanced as modern GPS systems are, they are certainly not foolproof.
Every now and again news stories come across the wire detailing trucks that have smashed into overpasses because drivers trusted what their GPS devices were telling them. We have seen stories of truckers in Europe driving down streets that are too narrow or winding up in farmer’s fields after blindly obeying what their GPS devices were telling them to do.
Common sense dictates that truckers need to rely as much on their own brains as they do navigation devices. A GPS device is a tool; it is not an omniscient provider of directions that guarantees an event-free journey from start to finish. If you are a truck driver new to the whole GPS thing, there are some very important things you need to know.
Generic Maps Are No Good
Generic maps are all but useless for truck drivers due to the fact that there are millions of miles of roads across the U.S. that are not suitable as truck routes. Using a GPS with a standard map is very likely to steer you wrong at some point. Therefore, you need either custom-made trucking maps for your GPS device or a new device specifically built for trucking.
Along those same lines, you have to keep your maps updated. Things change all the time to the extent that you could find that same bridge you crossed last month is now closed to truck traffic. Updated maps are still not perfect, but they are certainly better than outdated maps.
Information May Be Incomplete
A good GPS system should keep you informed of low overpasses and bridges that will not accommodate your weight. But don’t rely on a GPS system exclusively. Some information can be incomplete or entirely inaccurate. When all else fails, pay close attention to road signs. They will be your most accurate and up-to-date source of information. More importantly, always choose the road sign when its information conflicts with what your GPS is telling you.
Another reason to get a GPS device that utilizes trucking maps is the fact that such maps can often tell you how much the tolls are for your given route. A standard map may tell you that toll roads are included in your route, but it will probably not tell you how much those tolls will be. A trucking map will. And it will help you better plan your route to avoid any tolls you don’t want to pay.
Last but not least are real-time traffic updates. You can save yourself a lot of lost time and aggravation by going with a system that includes real-time traffic information on their maps. If you cannot find something suitable, you can always keep Google maps on your phone. You can get current traffic information on Google maps without using its built-in navigation features.
C.R. England, a national temperature-controlled carrier with nearly 100 years under its belt, encourages drivers to make use of modern GPS devices. A GPS can take a lot of the guesswork out of planning a route, especially when drivers are going to areas they have never been to before. Just remember one thing: don’t let a GPS device be a substitute for your brain.