Channel 19

Todd Dills

Mobile trends: Has your smartphone replaced your GPS?

| November 12, 2012

The folks at uShip sent along some early results of a survey conducted recently relative to the use of cellular technology by transporters utilizing the online marketplace. One of the most interesting results to me was the high percentage of operators noting a growing prevalence of smartphone use for mapping/GPS-type function over traditional GPS units.

More than a third of respondents reported “they count on their phone more than their GPS device for maps and directions,” uShip notes, “while 17 percent say they count on their phone the same as their GPS device. ”

Here’s the two questions looking at drivers with GPS devices specifically:

For maps and direction, I use my cellphone:
More than my GPS device 36%
Equal to my GPS device 17%
Less than my GPS device 47%

My cellphone’s map and direction feature:
HAS replaced my GPS device:  24%
COULD replace my GPS device:  29%
WILL NEVER replace my GPS device:  47%

These results are interesting in the context of the dust-up over U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer’s call for federal regulation of truck GPS devices.

While Schumer seemed to blame a perceived growing number of low-bridge strikes in his state, New York, on truckers’ over-reliance on GPS direction, many readers took issue with that for various reasons. New York could do a better job, some suggested, with its height signage (many reported repeated instances of confusion when only “snow height” — or height with a foot of overhanging ice — was posted in some quarters). In general, though, any self-respecting driver ought to know enough to take that mistake on the chin, as it were, as did one commenter when he hit a bridge in Kansas City following a non-truck-specific GPS years ago, while moving through a construction zone. He caught just the “top one inch of my truck fairing and my stack…. I was so focused on the construction and not hitting the cones that I did not look at the clearance. I got a case of ‘tunnel vision’ and didn’t see the forest for the trees.

“Now, I could say it was the GPS’ fault. I could blame it on the road construction. Or I could do what I did, which was to be very disgusted with myself and learn from my own stupid mistake.”

Owner-operator Gordon Alkire summed it up best, describing what a GPS is not and never will be: “A GPS unit is not connected to the truck’s steering system or the accelerator or the braking system. A GPS is not a ‘drive by wire’ system. … A GPS is an information-only unit and does not in any way control the vehicle. Far too many drivers allow it to control them, however. What is needed is a GPS and cellphone that has a button to press to TEST FOR COMMON SENSE.”

I’d like to read uShip’s survey results as evidence that the vast majority of drivers understand the information-only aspects of GPS and mapping — in my mind with so many utilizing their smartphones or at least recognizing the embedded mapping programs’ utility relative to their GPS units, the reliance on phone technology suggests less turn-by-turn-type reliance. Then again, that’s how I use my phone when traveling to unfamiliar places — exclusively to get the lay of the land and streets around a location. For specific routes, I typically consult someone familiar with the destination or wait till I get there and see what it all looks like to make the final routing decision.

In any case, what are your thoughts on the results? Has your smartphone replaced your GPS unit? Or is the lack of truck-specific route information in many consumer-use mapping programs on smartphones a hindrance — many haulers utilizing uShip are of course of the hotshot, Class 3-5 pickup variety.

Find some further results from the company’s survey following:

What features do you use most on your mobile phone?

Activity 2010 2011 2012
Texting 70% 65% 79%
Internet/email 45% 45% 65%
Camera 67% 36% 55%
GPS 30% 28% 52%
Apps 33% 27% 43%
Social Media 19% 13% 26%












Has the ban on texting by truck drivers caused you to change your cell phone habits when behind the wheel?
Yes, significantly: 36%
No: 35%
A little: 20%
Didn’t know about the ban: 5%

  • Richard M. Gaskill

    UShip ? Seriously ? Are you ever going to learn the real professionals consider UShip a joke used by shippers looking for the cheapest rate ? Their transporters as a whole don’t have a clue what it takes to run a legal , profitable business .

  • Todd Dills

    Seriously, Richard. And yes, I know you’re not a fan. As I’ve said before, I’ve talked to enough folks who use the system to know that generalizations like that just don’t work, no matter how many professionals consider it a joke. So, enough said.

  • Todd Dills

    The survey data, however, I thought was interesting in being somewhat reflective of anecdotal trends I’ve seen talking to drivers from all quarters of the industry, particularly in light of the GPS standards issue. What do you use for route planning and such, Rick? I forget — GPS as supplement to map?

  • Don Lanier

    If Google ever comes out with a Reat Trucking GPS they would put all the others out of Business, they have an active mapping program with far more vehicles then the rest combined, Google MAPS Is the defacto best mapping program out there, and if they compbined EARTH, and MAPS into a real time GPS unit it would be the Industry standard in no time….Ive used my phone quite often where the GPS wont find an address, especially in Canada…

  • Mike Smith

    My Nuvia truck gps sucks. When I bought it in 09, for $450, it gave me questionable info. Now it gives me bad info. I contacted them & complained. They told me to update for $35. I told them my gps was poor to begin with, why would I pay $35 to them to update. I filed a complaint. THEY REFUSED TO ANSWER.

    I will never use a gps again. I use a Boost ph locally, that has Google maps, which is great. I can use the microphone & ask for a specific location & it will show me where it’s at. It gives me the Ph # & address as well, with a picture of the location. When I get back on the road, when things pick up, I will go back to Verizon & get a Smart Ph with Google Maps. Screw those gps selling theives.

  • Guest

    Me too im not using GPS because

  • Richard John Jordan

    Me too I’am not also using GPS, The google maps is the easiest way look your destination and location. I’am agree with you Mr. Smith.


    Hey Todd I found your article interesting and the guy that admitted to making a mistake and owning up to it instead of blaming the rest of the world was really refreshing. I only use my phones for calling the customer to get directions then two GPS’s (one commercial vehicle, one regular to verify) then streets and trips to back everything up.So with all the technology available today if i get lost it is my own DAMN fault and have no one to blame but myself.

  • Todd Dills

    Yes, I found it refreshing, too, Mustang. And as I’ve been writing about the GPS issue past several weeks I’ve often thought about your TWO units. How’s things going for you with your own authority? Still good?

  • Julian Pietras

    We do not want black boxes ,so they get us GPS . Works same way , do not need logbook . Wake up Big Brother is looking

  • Robert Leston

    My phone gets me in less off trail routes because I get several choices to use. You still have to pay attention because they don’t have truck routes and you can still end up in some tight spots. Most GPS units have a lot more steps and need constant updating. strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.