Doing a lot of city driving, I often am puzzled by the suggestions that my GPS shows as the fastest route.  Of course it has settings that allow you to set it for either the fastest route or shortest route, but sometimes neither are as fast as the route I know as the best from experience.  This is what led me to pay attention over the past couple weeks and measure some time differences between what my GPS unit calculated as the shortest route and the fastest route on a lot of my regular deliveries. 
What I witnessed while conducting this was that I was able to use a function I had not previously known of on my GPS that was available after the newest software update, which allows me to compare multiple route options prior to selecting one as my path of travel.  In doing so, I was able to compare up to three route options right on the screen and visually verify ahead of time if it was taking the “scenic route” or actually getting me the most direct approach.  As I have stated previously, I use this unit in conjunction with Google Maps as well as my previous routing experience, so I am able to find the true “fastest route”.
As a general observation, I noticed that the GPS might not have known a route was truck-safe, so it would route me around it taking up precious minutes on every delivery route.  When I took the time to pay close attention, I noticed the “fastest route” option bettered my times over the “shortest route” option by 2-3 minutes on many of my regular routes.  Taking this routing experiment a step further, I began adding my own routing knowledge to that of the GPS in its fastest route calculating and began to shave off 4-6 minutes in some cases.  Although this does not seem like a big deal, lets look at what this results in.  The shorter travel times not always were the product of shorter routes, but usually resulted in less stoplights and needless idle time sitting at red ones.  Although it doesn’t seem like a big deal to save six minutes per run to most drivers, an average of just five minutes per leg of a run for me can mean an extra hour per day and the possibility of another run.
So the next time you overview your GPS routing, remember that a complicated calculation of its pre-programmed routing may not be the only approach to getting where you need to go in the most efficient real-world manner.  These units take into account speed limits in their calculating and not necessarily the real travel speed of a roadway.  When was the last time you were traveling through a city and were actually able to maintain the speed limit through the whole city without a stoplight or pedestrian causing you to slow or stop?  Remember to use your GPS wisely, combine it with your knowledge rather than follow it aimlessly into the dark, and you too can gain precious time back into your trucking day!

Comments (8)

Jimmy Nevarez

Jimmy Nevarez is the Owner/President of Angus Transportation, Inc., based in Chino, California.  Jimmy pulls a 53' dry van hauling general dry freight for his own small fleet, operating on its own authority throughout all of Southern California and Southern Nevada.

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Linda, the traffic function is something I am dabbling with. I tried to subscribe to the service they have, but it requires wi-fi. I am in works to get the lifetime receiver that does not require wi-fi and will fill everyone in on how that goes. As for now, I use it in conjunction with Google Maps on my iPhone for traffic. Google has the most accurate traffic awareness system I have used thus far.

December 23, 2013 22:17:37 PM

I think GPS units are a great invention, but as all of you mentioned the driver still needs to use their gray matter between their ears, there is no substitute. In my specific operation I don't carry a GPS unit. When I receive a call for a fire I look on paper maps and Google maps to locate the area that fire camp is located. Beyond that we rely on specific maps created by the Forest Service as the bulk of the "roads" I travel are not on GPS units.

December 16, 2013 8:43:33 AM

Looking out our windshield is my first choice and next is the GPS. I have found the GPS is a great aide when the road is closed and we have to use a detour that is not marked.

December 15, 2013 11:29:50 AM

I have found the GPS is just a tool that adds to my toolbox. The area I used to run in the North East rarely agrees with the GPS routing . This is because GPS sticks to facts and not to experiance.

December 15, 2013 11:00:32 AM

There will never be anything as good as a sharp mind and experience.

December 14, 2013 15:24:41 PM

I've been using a regular car GPS for the past 3 years in my truck. I found out that the truck GPS was taking me WAY out of route to get places when I tested one in familiar territory. I knew I couldn't trust it in areas where I wasn't familiar with. I always double check my Garmin car GPS route with my GPS on my iPad and use a map as a fail safe. I don't use the car GPS exclusively; that's the point. I've hauled loads as high as 14'4" with no problems using this method. I wouldn't recommend it to a rookie though.

December 14, 2013 9:01:33 AM

Great post Jimmy, I also have been doing some route option experiments myself. I drive the midwest and southeast and use google maps and my gps. A lot of times, google maps give me 3 route options that the gps doesn't even consider. I look at the times, miles, and just compare. I also confirm with a road atlas just to make sure all is truck legal. I've had the gps try to take me down a road with 12' 6" bridge.

December 14, 2013 6:11:56 AM

Jimmy does your GPS also let you know if the traffic is slow?

December 14, 2013 5:04:02 AM