Today’s electronic trucker-specific navigational tools provide a wealth of information to help you save time and money in delivering your loads. For a few hundred dollars, affording a laptop computer or a smartphone and an Internet connection, you can efficiently find your way from pickup to destination.
Planning the shortest route is only the beginning. Primary players in the navigational tool market provide programs with everything from detailed maps, accurate mileage and millions of points of interest to the latest construction nuisance. Some will serve weather information or direct you to the proper lane in making your next freeway exit. You can plug in multi-stop itineraries or find the closest Wal-Mart. You can be alerted to time zone changes, state boundaries and upcoming speed limits. “It really reduces driver distractions and worries,” says Rand McNally spokeswoman Amy Krouse.
Using an electronic navigation tool offers practical advantages in addition to saving miles and minutes. “If I’m running out of hours, I can go into the route and see cities that are along my route and look at POIs and find a truck stop that’s available,” says Mark Kling, a former company driver who is the lead beta tester for Rand McNally.
Kling feels that the navigational aid helps where it counts most — in your settlement. “Many times I was able to push out to five runs because I was able to get to places early, because I knew where I was going and could pick up another load at the end of the week,” he says.
Following are highlights of features of some of the top trucker navigational programs.
Common to all four of this system’s products is Know Before You Go technology that enables you to look at the entire route, with or without stops, and detect ahead of time restricted areas, such as low bridges or construction zones. Streets are color-coded to help a driver see these areas. “We can tell you ahead of time the location of a low bridge and enable you to take another route,” says Marleen Winer, vice president of business development.
Another recent technology is Smart Search, which allows you to enter an address with minimal information or pinpoint a more complicated address that could be confused with another similar location.
A new 7400 model has been launched at $349, with an estimated $50 option to add traffic alerts. Model 7100 is being phased out.
Rand McNally IntelliRoute TND
Available in models 500 and 700, this device offers detailed road construction information. An ETA feature takes into account construction en route and adds time or suggests an alternate route. This information is updated every two to four weeks and is available for download to customers.
Included is the Trucker’s Friend National Truck Stop Directory, which can be searched according to 70 different amenities, such as fuel cards and shower availability.
A Quick Planner feature enables you to put in the cost per mile or profit per mile for a load and decide whether to accept it. “You can do a quick comparison so that if you’re looking at a load board or a dispatcher is calling you and has two opportunities, it can quickly calculate miles and give estimated times and send it back to you” so you can make a decision quickly, Krouse says.
You can zoom in on the map of your route and find upcoming details such as turns and elevation changes. “Instead of totally concentrating on that road and trying to guess where that road will be going I can glance down and zoom in and get good indication of what’s ahead of me,” Kling says.
Cost is $399 for the 5-inch TND 500 and $499 for the 7-inch TND 700.
CoPilot Live Truck Version 8
Available for laptop computers running Windows 7 or XP and mobile devices such as the iPhone, iPad and Android, this new version offers features also found on the PCMiler Navigator. New features include live search of local addresses and live weather en route or at the destination.
An option is Active Traffic, which displays traffic incidents and uses the routing engine to create new alternate routes around the delays. The premium bundle costs $9.99 a month for a 12-month subscription.
This new truck version provides enhanced graphics and 3D map displays. It costs $149.99.
Software developer ALK Technologies introduced three new models in 2010 for the widely used device, with screen sizes ranging from 4.3 inches to 7 inches. With the new Least Cost Routing feature you can create most-efficient routes based on fuel-, time- and operating-cost settings. The feature also calculates estimated greenhouse gas emissions.
The new MapSure mapping service enables customers to download map updates quarterly and submit new or missing addresses to the database. Lane Assist provides specific information about the proper lane for upcoming exits, and Clear Turn technology displays turning information for complex intersections and highway exits. The new 50 series devices also have expanded points of interest information, such as truckstops, to more than 7 million.
“The live information will offer live fuel price data to determine closest and cheapest fuel prices,” says Dan Titus, ALK Business Development vice president.
Prices for the new models range from $299 to $449. If you own a previous model, you can turn it in for credit toward purchase of a new model, because old versions can’t be upgraded with the latest applications. You’ll receive a $100 credit for your current Navigator, working or broken, to buy 450 or 550 models, or a $50 credit for other brands of routing devices toward purchase of a 450.
Garmin Nuvi 465T
This device features information from the National Truck & Trailer Services Breakdown Directory covering more than 30,000 repair facilities and towing services in the continental United States and Canada.
Like many of the competing products, this device can be customized to incorporate rig-specific information such as height, weight, length and hazardous materials restrictions.
The device comes standard with subscription-free lifetime traffic alerts for most major metro areas from map provider NAVTEQ Traffic. It will alert drivers of traffic delays and road construction. “With truck-specific points of interest, it’s easier to look up where you need to go and the best route to take to get there,” says spokesperson Carly Baltes.
The price, including lifetime traffic data, is $349.99.