Online Route Mapping For Truck Drivers
For truck drivers who hit the road years before the Internet existed, finding routes depended on atlases, experience and word of mouth. Today the web offers truckers looking for routes a world of opportunities. While every trucker worth his miles should own a paper atlas, depending on one’s smartphone or GPS for getting to a destination is a real possibility. Here are some ways you can use technology to improve your trucking route planning.
Websites for Maps
By far the most popular website for mapping routes is Google Maps. Using the power and technology of the world’s most advanced search engine, Google Maps lets you visualize your route using real-time street views. You can also pull up and print both a map and the directions to your route. Google Maps is also an app that is available for Android, iOS and Windows smartphones and tablets. Another option for pulling up maps and directions is MapQuest. As part of the AOL family, MapQuest has been a staple for searching online for directions since the mid-80s. Here are the ways you can use online map sites:
- Map the location of a destination by the name or address
- Get directions for multiple routes by adding destinations to your search
- Get multiple routes for a single trip, allowing you to choose a route based on tolls, accessibility and time traveled
- Find out an estimated time for arrival based on traffic
- Discover any construction zones or related delays along your route
Another way you can get directions while planning your route is to go to the shipper or receiver’s website. Most businesses offer directions and travel advice for arriving at their place of business on their site. Additionally, if there is important information regarding construction or confusing road signals in the general area, most businesses will make mention of this on their website.
Monitoring the Weather
In order to arrive at your pick-up or drop-off point, as a truck driver you are part meteorologist. You need to be able to track the weather along your route to help you avoid one of the most common problems truckers encounter on the route—a sudden change in weather conditions. From hail pounding on your flatbed trailer loads to gusty winds threatening your oversized loads, running into severe weather is one of the worst case scenarios. Fortunately, there’s an app for that. Check out The Weather Channel, where you can download an app to your smartphone or tablet. Other tips for using The Weather Channel for monitoring weather on your trucking route:
- Sign up for free alerts via your mobile device or using your email address
- Track storms in upcoming travel destinations using the zip code search feature
- Use the Commuter Forecast option to find out about any traffic conditions to be aware of along your route
You can also find out about local weather conditions like the seasoned truckers have done for decades. Turn on your radio and find the local stations to hear about the latest weather alerts for your area.
Tips for Using GPS Systems
GPS systems are considered a must-have tool for any trucker on the road today. However, just as with any form of technology, you can’t depend solely on these devices as your only route planning tool. Broken touch screens, frayed cables, burned out motherboards—these things happen every day to truckers. While having a GPS system is a good way to plan a route, please keep a paper atlas in your rig as well. Also, just as your GPS system needs to be kept up to date, invest in the latest year’s road atlas so you aren’t caught in a bad spot due to newly constructed, or destructed, roadways. Now, for the tips on using your GPS system:
- Truckers stick out like a sore thumb for traveling thieves, and GPS systems are a hot prize item. Prevent these losers from stealing your GPS by installing a friction mount in your truck. These are mounts using weights that grip on most any location, allowing you to stick your GPS under your seat when you roll into a truck stop. Also, you won’t have the tell-tale signs of a GPS—those suction cup marks on your windshield—which will deter would-be thefts in their tracks.
- Did you know you can change the way your GPS communicates with you? If you would like for your GPS voice to speak to you in street names rather than just telling you the distance of your upcoming turn, you can change that. Go to “text-to-speech” in your settings for this feature, which is available on most mid-range receivers. A note, you will need to change the voice to “computer” or “TTS” in order to get this feature to work correctly with most GPS systems.
- Tired of straining to hear the GPS, or do you drive a noisy tractor-trailer? Instead of depending on your smartphone speaker to listen to directions you can utilize a built-in FM transmitter. This device will let you transmit the audio from the GPS to your stereo speakers. The key is in finding an open frequency, or radio station with zero music coming through, which can be difficult in metropolitan areas. Attach a patch cord via the headphone/audio out jack on your GPS to the auxiliary input in your truck stereo to get static free sound from your GPS. You may also be able to use Bluetooth capabilities if your rig and GPS are fairly new.
- If you have a TomTom GPS you can use practically any voice for your travel companion. Choose from downloadable celebrity voices, or record your spouse or child’s voice for a personalized travel experience.
Updating your GPS is the most important step. Otherwise you are left with a useless system when you really need it—during the new construction or remapping of an area. The stickler here is the price for updating your system. This can cost anywhere from $40 to $100. Keep in mind you’ll be able to use this expense as a tax deduction come IRS time. The best route for updating a GPS is to check with the brand website to see when they roll out a new update. Sometimes brands will include a discount or free for a limited time offer for updating your system. Here’s a tip:
- You don’t have to use the brand manufacturer to purchase an update. You can get your GPS updates from an online retailer that acts as a third-party. Make sure to choose a legitimate and trustworthy company by checking under the BBB (Best Business Bureau) or online for reviews of their products. If the company has scammed a single person, chances are you’ll read about it online.
- If you have a Garmin GPS you can download US, Canadian and Mexican maps that are completely free and safe to access. These maps include highway and topography maps. While you won’t receive turn by turn directions when using these maps, the topography maps are a higher quality that those offered through Garmin’s standard features.
With these features and routing capabilities you can spend less time worrying about how you are going to make it to your destination, and more time enjoying the ride.