When it comes to being a better truck driver, it all starts with delivering those loads on time. If you fail at that task, then you might be in trouble with your trucking job. Start with figuring out the best way to plan your routes as a trucker. You have millions of miles ahead of you—choose a system now that helps you be as efficient as possible from the get-go. We have covered everything from truck driving apps to good old paper maps. See what’s available on the market so you can create your own route planning strategy.
A Paper Atlas
In this digital age, having a paper atlas might sound redundant. After all, you can just Google Map your directions. But what happens when you are in the desert, in a small town in South Dakota, or your phone battery is dead? You are going to need a paper map on hand. Opt for a spiral-bound laminated atlas so you can protect against wear and tear on your map. The last thing you want is to rip the paper cover off, after which the state pages have no chance against the elements.
Some tips here are to learn how to read the maps in the atlas you have. Study the key to the map and the state where you live to start. This will help you when you are in a time crunch and need to understand what a tiny blip on the map means.
Also, replace your atlas every year. It’s only about $20 and you can deduct it as a business expense. All of that road construction you pass through every day has to get updated at some point, and you want to be on the cutting edge when it comes to mapping. An updated atlas each year will do that. Add it to your Christmas gift wishlist.
There are so many apps these days, something truly for everything. Take maps. You have a ton of options from Google Maps to Waze. Which is the best? It depends. Each of these apps offers a similar service. These help you find your directions according to GPS and taking into account the traffic and time of day.
However, you will find that trucker apps offer some specific features that you can use. For example, trucking apps include information about truck stops, fuel prices, truck parking, and rest areas along the route.
This is vital to your overall mission with route planning. Along with figuring out which roads to take, you are also trying to coordinate fuel stops, truck parking locations, and construction zones. You probably want to avoid toll roads and weigh stations, too, whenever possible to save time and money.
With trucking apps, you can get all of this additional information to supplement your route plans. Best of all, most of these apps are free as long as you don’t mind a few advertisements popping up.
GPS Mapping Devices
If your truck comes equipped with a GPS mapping system, this is going to be useful as long as you keep it updated. Garmin and the like require you to maintain a software update for best results. Keep in mind, you will want to use a GPS system specifically designed for truckers. There’s a difference.
Trucker GPS units are set up to identify trucker specific hazards and conditions, such as roads that are closed to oversized loads, etc. This is important for when you are using the GPS in the real world. A standard GPS will take you along the passenger car route. You need the trucker friendly route.
A GPS that comes pre-installed in a big rig is most likely going to be accurate in this regard. However, there is a chance that it will not be, which is why you want to double-check before heading out on the road. A simple search online or call to customer service will give you the information about whether your GPS is for commercial truckers or passenger car drivers.
Final Routing Words of Wisdom
When you are planning your route each time you go out, plan at least two different routes. Have a back-up route that takes you along a different but similar route. This way you can easily deter to the other route in case the original route has traffic, bad weather, construction, or accidents that slow you down.
Also, keep a notebook either in person or online of your routes each time you go out. Then you have a written route reference book to use for your future truckloads. This will save you tons of time and help you become more confident with your route planning.
Want more advice on how to be a smarter and more efficient truck driver? Careers in Gear has everything you need to be prepared as a trucker and ready to find better-paying trucking jobs.