How To Choose A GPS For Your Truck

Whether you’re buying based on price or pedigree, nothing beats proper trip planning to keep customers satisfied.

Is it just me or are road users facing more distractions daily?
On the road criss-crossing the North American continent, it seems something is clamoring for your attention every minute.

Whether it’s the gorgeous scenery, the CB radio, day dreaming (we know you do it), fiddling with radio/climate control, giving in to distracted driving can lead to you getting….lost.
Think about a time when you couldn’t get directions from other truckers on the CB, your GPS picked that moment to go dark. Or you’ve called the customer for directions but are still waiting for a reply. All the while, you’re driving slowly and hoping you don’t land on a restricted route & have to do a u-turn.

Getting lost can throw off even experienced drivers. Drivers panic and in a rush try to turn around in a very small space. This causes them to drive over, ram or sideswipe something; causing an avoidable accident.

To avoid this stressful situation & to determine the best route, truck drivers plan trips using a number of tools. These include, but are not limited to; directions from the dispatcher, GPS, paper atlas, Google Maps, asking over the CB, road signs etc. It’s important to use as multiple tools as possible as you never know which one will keep you from getting in a jam.

Can You Use a Car-Based GPS for your Heavy Truck
These days, GPS units help us get around on our daily commutes, and it makes sense to use them when planning truck routes. But with so many manufacturers, each offering different models, it can be difficult to choose one. The ‘confusion’ caused by the wide range of choice is partly to blame for the trend of truck drivers popping out the units in their cars to use in a commercial truck. While this may work initially, i can bet it won’t work for long.

Yes, it may appear to be the ‘same’ roads, but it’s not the same vehicles and thus, different rules apply.
In a car with a car-based GPS, finding yourself in a cul-de-sac can be remedied by simply backing out. In a class 9 truck transporting hazmat & using a car-based GPS, the situation becomes quite complex. Potential outcomes include a hefty fine, damage to parked cars etc. Using a car-based GPS for a CMV will definitely put you in the wrong place at some point in time. The GPS units that work for trucks are designed to factor in commercial vehicle route restrictions when plotting routes.
While there are many brands available, not all GPS systems are created equal. According to the FMCSA’s tips for safe use of GPS navigation systems, a CMV GPS must be able to:

• Take relevant information about your vehicle including length, width, height, axle weights, and offer advisories to help keep within the law.
• It should also auto update your maps regularly to ensure you’re following the most current route planning information.

Failing to follow these guidelines and using a car-based GPS will inadvertently lead to drivers driving on truck-prohibited roads, parkways that don’t allow trucks, running into low bridges etc. These incidents occur because the car-based GPS maps out the quickest and shortest routes, but doesn’t take into account routes or roads with weight, height, and hazmat restrictions.
Some drivers try to justify using the car GPS by saying it calculates routes faster than a truck-specific GPS. That’s true as the car-based unit doesn’t have to search through any restrictions, i.e. weight, width, height, and hazardous cargo restrictions, while calculating a route.

Features To Look for When Buying a Truck GPS
Different drivers will have different preferences for a GPS unit. However all CMV GPS units must be able to:
Receive truck data in the form of vehicle weight, height, cargo and choose routes that avoid low overpass, railroad crossings, missing bridges and other route restrictions.

With that sorted, other features that will be ideal include:
• Acting as a backup for tracking HOS.
• Being able to work off OTA data and not require constant mobile tethering to be functional.
• Ability to help drivers find places of interest along the route i.e. truck stops, rest areas, specific travel centers etc.
• Regularly updated so drivers don’t find themselves on a new road that the map doesn’t recognize.
• Allows users to choose add-on features that they actually need, and not just paying for non-essential features.
• Alerts drivers about the location of a weigh station, state border, up/down grades, speed changes etc.
Basically a unit that provides a wealth of information that can help the driver make the right travel decisions. For example, a good truck GPS can help a driver about to run out of hours to find a store that allows overnight truck parking. Bonus points if the stop is close to where they need to make a delivery. This allows them stay within their HOS, complete the delivery and gain a few more hours the next day.

Four Essential Trip Planning Tools

Ideally, a GPS unit should make getting around easier, but ask any veteran driver and they’ll regale you with horror stories of GPS units landing drivers in the middle of nowhere. Remember GPS is good place to start, so use it as one of many tools for trip planning. Most drivers rely on four tools:
1. An atlas to help verify that the roads given actually exist (trust us, this happens). A popular option is the Rand-McNally Motor Carrier’s Road Atlas which highlights truck routes, low bridges etc.
2. Google Maps to see actual pictures of shipper / receiver location. For some deliveries, the address given isn’t the actual truck entrance. Using Google Earth, drivers can see the building, the roads that lead to it, possible parking spots etc.
3. Company provided route suggestion on GPS. Remember to check the steps against the road atlas.
4. GPS unit to provide turn by turn navigation, while accounting for any route restrictions.

Even Post-It notes can be useful for making any extra notations e.g. which streets are listed as a bypass route.
While it may seem like a lot but you’d be amazed at the huge fines that can be issued for breaking any of these laws.

One more thing if you’re looking to buying a ‘cheap’ unit online, note that some of these units were packaged in a different country. Considering the price paid, it may look like a steal but when you attempt to update your maps, you’ll find that you can’t. To get updated will cost another $100 or so.

Some of the GPS devices designed for commercial trucks include the Rand McNally TND series, Garmin dezl series, Copilot Truck Laptop System, Worldnav Truck GPS, and Cobra PRO series. At different price points and with different features, the choice depends on the features a driver considers to be most important.

Most drivers gravitate towards either Rand McNally (they produce the popular Motor Carrier Road Atlas) or Garmin based on their pedigree as GPS manufacturers.

Whether you’re buying based on price or pedigree, nothing beats proper trip planning to keep customers satisfied. It’s the best way to avoid the inconvenience of a fine, delayed delivery, damaged property etc.

It’s the same way that having a plan for maintenance can virtually eliminate the headaches that come with unexpected breakdowns, liabilities caused by preventable accidents and the loss of income that comes with downtime.

It’s one more thing to do but you can’t wing your PM or keep using vehicles and hoping nothing ever breaks down. It’s easy to overlook doing PM, but what if you could do it “hands off”? Would you do more PM if you were notified when it is due?

To help fleets like yours, Perfit Computer designed the world-class truck maintenance software, EMDECS.

A fleet management solution for the time-poor fleet manager; it helps you to keep track of those items that are likely to slip between the cracks.

Don’t leave completing PM to memory or scribbled notes. Contact us here for a free demo now.

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