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Tech Talk – GPS Technology

As GPS technology becomes more affordable, more drivers are using these devices to increase their performance and to simplify trip planning. However, there are some aspects of GPS use that drivers need to be aware of before choosing or using a GPS unit in their truck. First, drivers need to be aware that not all GPS units are alike and second, not every GPS unit is designed for truck use.

There are a wide variety of GPS units on the market and range in price from about $100 to in excess of $500, depending on brand and retailer. Of the top eight devices reviewed by PC Mag, four of these are Garmin® devices followed by three made by Tom Tom. Things to consider before investing in this tool are whether the maps are accurate, if updates are available, and whether the GPS unit will work in your area of operation. For example, I use the Garmin® DEZL 560 which is affordable, comes with lifetime traffic monitoring, and has a full set of North American maps which are designed for truck routing based on vehicle sizes and weights.   Melton’s MCP200 also has a navigation function that is available to purchase for $7 per month.

For use in your truck, I would strongly recommend a GPS unit that is specifically designed for truck use. The more accurate your maps are that are loaded into the GPS, the better the tool will be. I would also recommend a device that has traffic monitoring. In this time of stricter Hours of Service rules, it is in your best interest to avoid traffic backups to increase productivity. In many cases, traffic monitoring in your GPS device can assist you in finding alternative routing to avoid these problems.

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Regardless of the brand or type purchased, there are some things you, as a professional driver, must remember:

1) The GPS is not perfect

2) The GPS does not replace common sense

3) The GPS does not replace the driver’s decision making skills

In addition to a stand-alone GPS unit, today’s smartphones often have navigation apps that can assist you in point-to-point navigation. However, care must be taken to avoid truck restrictions because these applications are primarily designed for automotive use and are unreliable for use by commercial truck drivers.  In addition, interaction with a hand-held mobile device can carry legal penalties.

As with any tool, the GPS unit needs to be used appropriately. This type of device can make route planning easier and can remind you when and where to make turns. It can also calculate a new route to get you back on track if you should miss a turn. However, extreme care should be exercised when following a GPS device’s directions because the device could direct you down truck-restricted roads, toward low-clearances, or into other trouble. To avoid problems, drivers should review any route given by the GPS and compare it with route restrictions found in your atlas.

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