Anyone old enough to remember traveling with a dog-eared set of maps can appreciate the miracle of modern navigation systems – smart technologies that have changed the way we travel. Yet, as good as they are, none are perfect and some are downright wrong for you.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA), many OTR truckers rely on free navigation apps commonly found on Apple and Android smartphones. These systems are not designed for big-rig drivers, and may steer you down a bad road. Literally.
Fortunately, there are many good, easy-to-download navigation apps designed specifically for OTR drivers. And there are also a number of excellent personal navigation devices designed for truckers from Rand-McNally, Garmin, TomTom and the like.
These truck-dedicated systems have settings for the weight, width, height and length of your rig, plus any hazardous material you may be hauling. Routes are then selected to keep you out of tight spaces and off restricted roads, where fines can exceed $1,000.
To get the most out of your device, it’s really important to update the map data regularly in order to capture changes in conditions, speed limits or new road construction. Ideally, you should update monthly.
With most nav systems, you’ll want to select “fastest route” in the preferences – not “shortest” – and make sure your warnings are set to alert you to sharp curves, steep grades and sudden speed-limit changes.
To really turbocharge your system, consider downloading additional databases focused on specific hazards. One database we found clearly identifies 7,069 low-clearance spots in the U.S.
Most important of all, though, is to treat your GPS like a partner, not your boss. Your experience and common sense are the best tools for getting you there safely and on time.