Smart Driving

Redefining the map

As route-planning programs come of age, developers offer enhancements to improve the user’s experience

RexDon, a power-only transport company, has been a PC*Miler user almost since the day the trucking routing software became available. When General Manager Jerry Thomason got hold of the new PC*Miler 25 version, he found a useful feature.

Garmin International dezl routing tools for truckers offer enhanced traffic and mapping details.

Previously, Thomason says, if you wanted to favor or avoid certain road segments, you had to zoom in on the program map and click on each highway segment. It could be a tedious, time-consuming task and you might click on the wrong road. “With the new GeoFencing feature, I can draw a square or another shape around an area and say to avoid it,” he says. “There might be something about the route that we want to avoid. Or an area may have been flooded or hit by a tornado.”

Thomason also says company dispatchers are able to grab and move on-screen maps more easily. “It’s much more user-friendly,” he says.

The company, with about 80 owner-operators leased on, uses the program to compute mileage and locate pick-up and delivery locations. Mileage figures are used for making bids, billing, payroll and fuel tax reporting.

Route-planning providers are fine-tuning their offerings in the ongoing drive to outdo the competition and make the trucker’s life more profitable and safe. Dave Marsh, head of the development team at Rand McNally, says the team constantly talks with customers to update information and consider new features that will improve navigation. “We’ve added routing flexibility to allow drivers to find shorter routes that are truck friendly,” he says. “We want each driver to feel the system is unique to their preferences, so we’ve added to the number of preferences that are available to each driver.”

Following find a sample of what some of the major route-planning tool providers have developed. Additional features are planned for early this year, developers say.

Rand McNally TND 760

This device is a combination routing tool and electronic onboard recorder. The product integrates into a truck’s onboard computer and can send information via Wi-Fi and cellular. It offers communications via email, driver and vehicle performance monitoring, hours-of-service compliance and navigation.

The Rand McNally TND 760 Fleet Edition device combines route-planning functions, navigation and electronic hours of service recording.

As an EOBR, the product is Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rule 395.15 compliant and provides HOS alerts and warnings while automatically recording hours. On the routing side, the device offers routes based on load dimensions and 200 vehicle-specific measures, using IntelliRoute TND navigation.

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Although targeted at fleets, the device is attracting owner-operator interest. “One of our first customers was an owner-operator fleet of less than five operators,” says Amy Krouse, Rand McNally spokeswoman. “They’re seeing the value of being in compliance with an electronic help mate in the cab.”

For Jones Motor Group, the device combines several functions in one tool. “It blends Wi-Fi capability, mapping, a navigational component and an onboard component as well,” says Ken Lacey, vice president of safety and risk management.

Lacey says about 10 contractors will begin using the devices at the all-owner-operator group of three operating companies and about 500 trucks. Contractors won’t be required to install it unless an operator has experienced problems with roadside inspections. “It’s kind of a shock to the system [for drivers] to have EOBRs, but it’s a way for us to save drivers we otherwise would terminate.”

The cost is just under $800, plus a monthly data plan.

ALK PC*Miler 25

ALK Technologies has introduced new features for its route-planning software. Its point-to-point PC*Miler routing, mileage and mapping program has been upgraded with routing and traffic enhancements. Within PC*Miler 25, a user can calculate a route’s arrival time by designating departure and arrival dates and times.

A GeoFencing feature to designate geographic areas to target or avoid has been added to the PC*Miler 25 version from ALK Technologies.

Also, in collaboration with Inrix, ALK has added real-time and historical traffic speeds to its routing network. Users can call up current traffic maps and traffic forecasts for more than 1 million miles of roads in the U.S. and Canada. Traffic speed data is available for free with PC*Miler 25 until the new version is released in 2012. The same services are available on PC*Miler Web 25, which is accessible on any Internet-connected computer.

ALK also has launched RouteSync, which provides a link between dispatch and the CoPilot Truck GPS navigation system. Dispatch can send a PC*Miler customized route to the CoPilot program running on a laptop, tablet or smartphone. RouteSync helps minimize mileage differences between actual and planned routes to reduce nonrevenue mileage. RouteSync is available through the Apple app store and Android market, as well as for the PC*Miler Windows and PC*Miler Web monthly subscription service.

For Qualcomm users, ALK’s introduced its CoPilot Truck onboard navigation system for Qualcomm mobile computing platforms 200, 110 and 50 that incorporates PC*Miler routing software. It generates truck-specific, turn-by-turn voice directions, and CoPilot Truck will calculate a new route if the driver misses a turn or moves away from the planned route.

Garmin dezl

Announced early last year, Garmin International’s dezl (pronounced “diesel”) comes in 560LT and 560LMT models. The 560LT is a traffic-enabled model that alerts drivers to traffic delays and road construction and offers detours, while the 560LMT adds map updates and allows users to download the latest maps and points of interest up to four times a year.

Garmin includes more than 30,000 locations in the NTTS Breakdown Directory of truck repair facilities and towing services.

Dezl devices enable routing that can be customized based on a truck’s height, weight and length and whether it’s hauling hazardous material. Users can maintain multiple truck profiles, Garmin says.

Dezl units also keep track of number of miles driven based on state or province and can help in logging fuel purchases. Devices also can help drivers log hours by recording driving status and warn of potential violations.

Added features include nuRoute predictive routing that suggests routes using trafficTrends “historical traffic data and recurring traffic trends,” the company says. For users hauling consistent lanes, the devices employ myTrends to predict a destination without having to activate a route. Arrival time and best route based on traffic information are displayed.

The 560LT’s suggested retail price is $469.99, and the 560LMT is $529.99.

TeleType WorldNav truck GPS

Version 11 software with an electronic onboard recorder and truckstop directory is available for TeleType WorldNav models 5200 and 7400 (pictured). A tire pressure monitoring system is optional.

TeleType offers Version 11 software for its WorldNav GPS units that includes a federally certified electronic onboard recording system, updated maps and address recognition. Junction View offers more realistic images of approaching road intersections, likewise a directory of truckstops and weigh stations. Another feature is a State Mileage Odometer that tracks fuel tax miles per state, TeleType says.

A new option is a tire pressure monitoring system ($329 including four tire sensors) that can be integrated into the GPS through a plug-in receiver. The operator can monitor temperatures and pressures for all tires, including trailer positions. An alert warns of slow leaks, and the operator can touch the screen to locate the leaking tire, the company says. The system is available for WorldNav 5200 and 7400 models.