Today’s truck driver has a world of technology literally, right at their fingertips. Probably the best, and at the same time, most misused one is the GPS. It can be of enormous assistance in many aspects, but can also lead to some tremendous and sometimes catastrophic failures.
There are many drivers of the old school who swear they will never use the things because of all the times they’ve read how a person got themselves in a bad situation by using one. I myself was not a fan of the whole idea of letting an electronic device be my primary resource driving down the road. And yes, in my early use of them, I did get into a bind from time to time.
But, technology has improved greatly since then as has my continued years on the road. I have learned greatly from the mistakes I made using them in the past and now have found more and more ways they can increase my overall productivity by saving time and keeping me well informed of what is coming up in my future.
Using GPS as a Tool
There is a right way to use this technology and a wrong way. The first step in using one the right way is to not put your full blind faith into what it tells you to do. When you put a destination into any type of device, you need to go over the route and verify that it is taking you on routes that are legal for your size and weight. Most of the commercial drivers GPS units available now are very good at this task on their own. But it still is up to you to verify it.
You should compare the local destination’s directions with the route the GPS plans out for you. And I mean street by street and turn by turn. Call a customer and confirm a route if it seems questionable in any way. Perhaps you have to back into them off the street, and you don’t want to do that from the blind side if there’s a way to avoid it.
You are the captain of the ship
If you use Google maps or Trucker Path, use the satellite view to look at your customer from overhead. Are there any challenges you may have to face upon arrival? If arriving overnight, do they have a gate or overnight parking? If you are wanting to park nearby at a Walmart, do you see trucks parked in their lot, or is it designed to keep trucks out? Perhaps you’re thinking of stopping at a rest area for your 10hr break. How big is it and what are your chances of finding a spot to park at your arrival time?
These are just a few of the questions GPS and other similar applications can help you with. But don’t expect or trust that everything they tell you is correct. You are ultimately responsible to “Know before you Go.” If you are being routed on a course you would not want to take, then follow your own route and make the GPS catch up to you as you go. Eventually, you will be on the same page because you know where you are going from your trip planning.
Using GPS to Help with Traffic
The best advantage I have found from the use of GPS over the years has been the ability to spot traffic problems well in advance. Expanding your view down the road a couple hundred miles and looking for any backups can give you the time necessary to route yourself around the problem well ahead of time.
If the “Time to Arrival” on Google Maps turns from green to yellow or red and I am traveling down open Interstates, then I need to scan far enough ahead to determine what the problem is. Then l will take action to avoid the area on a new route that is also a truck approved route. Time is money in our industry and using the tools available to maximize your time is critical to making the money we all hope to. So often, I drive right around a horrific backup that has hundreds or even thousands of vehicles backed up for miles with a simple detour to a route that I’m on almost by myself.
But write this down on a rock and live by it, “DO NOT FOLLOW A GPS. MAKE YOUR GPS FOLLOW YOU.”