How Do Truck Drivers Get Driving Directions?

Being a truck driver for some time, I’ve been asked this question a handful of times.  The quick and easy answer is;

Most truck drivers have a number of ways to obtain directions to unfamiliar places that they travel to.  Many use different apps on their cell phones, some still use an atlas, and others may use some sort of GPS.  Many of these truckers also call the customer to confirm the local driving directions just to make traveling a bit easier.

Overall, these are not all of the methods that truckers use to arrive safely and on time to their customers.  Continue reading below to get in-depth insider information on how truckers avoid low bridges, small back roads and all the dangerous routes that could take a truck driver for the ride of their life.

How Truck Drivers Of Today Get Driving Directions?

In today’s age of things. Obtaining driving directions is greatly easier than it has been in the past.  In the distant past, having lots of spare change was a must and the use of pay phones was popular.  Since back then, there were no cell phones.

Let us race through time into today’s era where cell phones are considered one of the most must-have devices known to mankind.  Within this single device, the smart cell phone is capable of connecting to the internet.

This allows the truck driver to use various different maps along with maps that are in real time being displayed from satellites.  Not only does the real-time help, but having the ability to take a map from appearing like an Atlas to clicking an option to view the area as it actually would look from a helicopter is an amazing feature at times.

In today’s time, many people utilize a GPS that is used on their smart cell phone.  Though to be honest, these are not all of that reliable.  I’ll give you one little example and imagine this in your mind for a moment.

“”You’re traveling down the highway at 63 mph on cruize control, and all of a sudden your phone GPS says to you, “RIGHT TURN NOW, REDIRECTING, MAKE A U-TURN, REDIRECTING, LEFT TURN NOW!” In a car, I have seen some people do some odd driving.  In a semi truck, this instant-prompt to follow directions can be dangerous.  Especially if you actually do what the GPS is telling you to do.  Which you should not.””

Even though cell phone GPS is not reliable, it does not mean they are not a good reference.  Just keep in mind there are better GPS than what is on most cell phones.  Myself, I use an actual GPS that is not any part of my cell phone, or another other devices.  It is its own individual device.

Having this type of GPS is much more reliable.  Though some GPS devices are better than others.  Even with that range of ability, some people have their favorites for one reason or another. Myself, I prefer the Garmin Dezl 580 LMT – S 5″.

You can find this GPS in many different places for sale.  As a heads up its normally cheaper to buy in a store than in a truck stop.  This is the smaller of the two versions, with the 7″ costing a little bit more.  I love this GPS for many reasons.  Here are my biggest reasons:

  • Manipulate weight, height, and width requirements of the Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) within its settings.  When you are hauling cars, having this ability to keep you away from low bridges and the like is highly important.  Also with different full loads, your gross weight will vary.  Having the ability to change these to keep me safe is very important.
  • At some points, I would have multiple stops.  I can create a new trip, with all the multiple stops I could ever imagine and include them very simply on my created trip within the GPS.
  • Some states have split speed limits, meaning the speed limit is different for CMV’s than for personal vehicles.  I can edit the speed limit to match the area of the road I am traveling and save it.  By doing this, in the future its already set to match reality.
  • With truck driving, construction is never-ending.  Each year old areas are finished and new areas are begun.  Roads change and new roads become available. Having the ability to update the maps within the GPS for free is a huge plus.
  • I can edit my display to show the icons I want to see.  There is a preset default on the main screen.  Though being able to edit it, allows you to customize it to your liking to better assist you.  (I edited mine to display the main map, the direction I am traveling, my speed and the speed zone for the CMV in the area, distance from my next destination or stop, distance from my next action (turn, exit ramp, etc,.) and my overall distance from trip completed.)
  • While I am traveling, if I enter a backup or the road becomes closed, I have the ability with a click of a button to assign a detour.  This will automatically bring up the nearest, quickest and safest alternative route based on my settings for height, width, and weight.
  • Lastly, I have been using this Garmin GPS for well over 8 years.  It is the exact same and only GPS device I have ever bought in my life.  The only issue mine has is it needs a new battery.  But, I never have mine unplugged from the charger to have to worry about that.

Even though in today’s time, I own this fantastic Garmin GPS doesn’t mean I do not double check my routing.  I will input my information into my GPS, then after that, I pull up google maps to look at the immediate area of the customer.

This immediate area is where I take notes on streets, landmarks and etc so that I do not become lost or put myself in a dangerous situation. Both in satellite view and regular view. After this, I always confirm my directions with the customer.

If the customer tells me something that does not match the directions I have in a list of actions on my GPS and the notes I’ve taken. I then take additional notes on what is being stated as corrections.  I will then adjust my directions to fit what is needed.  After all of this, I will jot down on my notes what I need to know where I am going.

At times, google maps may not be a possible resource to use, not all cell phone towers are created equal.  Because of this, most major cities have a zoomed in view of the city inside of a Road Atlas, and at any time you could end up having power failure to your CMV I double check my GPS Directions with the Road Atlas as well when going to an unfamiliar location.

About Michael : Semi Truck Driver

I have been a semi truck driver for approximately 20 years. Throughout this time I have been taught a lot of different things from a lot of different people through the years. I've also learned a lot of things from my own mistakes. With all of this in mind, allow me to share with you what I have been lucky enough to learn.

View all posts by Michael : Semi Truck Driver →