Over the years using the company-supplied directions, a motor carrier atlas, and then looking up the directions on the Internet, which did not have truck routing, could be very frustrating. In time, though except for the company supplied directions all of the aides have a place.
When we get a load we first look to see if we have the address stored in our GPS address book and if not then we add the address for the pickup and the delivery. We then compare routes to see if which way makes the most sense on the GPS. If possible we turn off toll roads and then if needed we turn on what type of HAZMAT we are carrying so that we will be routed accordingly. At times the toll roads make more sense then to go cross-country.
A little more about saving addresses. Over the years we have gone to many places where the address given is usually to the front door of an office or when going to a military installation the directions are to the main gate. Bring in a load of HAZMAT to the main gate and very quickly someone will be YELLING at you and the closer they get the louder they yell. Using the GPS once we find the right entrance for a commercial vehicle we save that reference in the address book and then give it a name. We are also able to add notes if needed. Over time this address book has become very invaluable to us.
As soon as we put our information into the GPS a few things happen in the background, the GPS looks for truck legal routes depending on information we have put in. We have added our parameters of our Cascadia and if needed what type of HAZMAT we are hauling, the GPS looks for a truck legal route from beginning to end. The GPS looks for truck friendly roads, low bridges, and either the quickest route or the most direct route, we choose which we prefer. If we are going to a new location and we might get there in the middle of the night so we go to Internet and use the satellite imagery to look at the location and see if there might be room for us to park and if possible we call the location to ask if we can park there. Once again, when we arrive we will add this location to our GPS address book with a note.
Along the way is when the GPS really out shines the paper version maps. As soon as the truck starts to move we are given turn-by-turn streets all the way to receiver. For a team this is really important, as one of us could have been asleep when we arrived and we have no idea of where we are. The directions to an address are not that detailed on a paper motor carrier atlas.
Next we are on the way and our GPS is set to tell us the next crossroad, show what town we are in, and what highway we are on. The GPS also tells us what direction we are going, how many miles to delivery, and what estimated time we should arrive. We can also change what is displayed and seeing the elevation change that can be interesting information on why our fuel mileage is changing and some loads are altitude sensitive.
Also displayed is the mile marker of where are currently located and our current speed. I have found that the speed shown on the GPS is much easier to read then my dash readout. As we approach a city where we might need to change our route the GPS shows us what lane we need to be in even before the signs if the exit is to the right of to the left. As we drive into the evening the GPS screen automatically dims so as not to blind us and as morning approached the GPS screen adjusts again. We can change the settings of the brightness or darkness to fit our tastes.
Now that we have been driving a bit we see that we are getting closer to needing fuel or our mandatory rest break. Running an ELD in the truck we know exactly how much more time we have to drive till our break or till we are out of drive hours for the current driver. Using the GPS we can plan our next stop. The next stop could be for fuel and we can look up a particular truck stop or we can say look at all truck stops on our route. No guesswork involved as once we select the truck stop we know the miles to that truck stop and what time we should arrive. A great feature of picking a truck stop is that we can look up the details of that truck stop and we are given a phone number if we need to call them to ask about amenities. This has proved very valuable to me when we are in the boondocks and I need to find a truck stop with a laundry. If we need a rest area we can also look up one along our route and see if the rest area has all of the facilities, is parking only, or like in Texas a picnic area. Along the route the GPS lets us know when we are approaching a state line or approaching a scale.
Another feature of our GPS that we use all of the time is the Points of Interest or POI. We can look up a Wal-Mart on our route or if we are at a truck stop we can find the closest Wal-Mart. When we bring up the information we also have a phone number for the store so we can call and ask about truck parking to confirm the GPS information. The GPS tells us if the Wal-Mart allows overnight parking but we have found it is best to call and talk to a manager. We have also used the GPS if we need parts as we can look up specific parts stores close to us and their phone numbers.
I have only touched on the feature of our GPS but this little bit of information that we can see on the fly is why the GPS is far superior to a paper map when we are constantly in new territories. Hopefully this explains why in our operation a GPS will always have a place on our dash. Remember the GPS cannot be placed on the windshield in the sweep of the windshield wipers.
We are the captains of our Cascadia and the GPS is an aid, not the dictator. When looking out the windshield we have to make the final decision on our route to not go on a bike path, under a low bridge, or try to cross a body of water not using a bridge. Our Rand McNally GPS is one of many aides we use as we haul our freight safely across the United States.