Truckers using GPS to avoid fuel mix-ups

When a driver is required to get from A to B it sounds straightforward. But as most truck drivers know it’s not always that simple.

A to B might include stops at C and D along the way. Destination B might not be clearly defined or the exact arrival location might not be fully known. And when it’s critical that a driver arrives at the correct destination, it becomes even more important that the route a vehicle takes is clearly marked and mapped out.

The challenges of delivering fuel and fertilizer

One example of critical delivery is Redfern Farm Services, a Canadian crop business that services local farms with fertilizer and fuel needs. There are a couple of reasons that knowing exactly where a delivery is to be made and what the delivery is to avoid problems.

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Truck GPS is more than just navigation

GPS devices built specifically for truckers are growing in popularity, and it’s no surprise. Truck drivers spend most of their working day driving so it makes sense if they make their job as easy and effective as possible.

While there are still a good percentage of truck drivers who like to stick with their trust paper ‘GPS’ otherwise known as a map, the majority of drivers realize the importance of using an electronic GPS to get to their destinations quickly, safely and with the minimum of stress.

So what are the main things truck drivers want from a GPS device?

Common complaints made by a lot of truck drivers with regard to GPS devices include:

Manufacturers of GPS devices (or PNDs as they’re sometimes known as) are starting to realize that truck drivers have specific needs that a lot of the devices out there are not currently meeting.

Building the ideal truck GPS

To fix the shortfall of GPS devices to meet the requirements of a truck GPS, is it simply a case of making the screen size bigger and connecting the audio to the truck’s sound system or an external amplifier?

A lot of devices are also now including software designed with truckers in mind, offering features such customized waypoints, truck POIs, maintenance reminders and multiple stops. Browse some of the different truck GPS units that are available now.

While a standalone device will provide a lot of help for the driver, fleet managers need more to effectively manage and support their team. That’s where fleet management software comes in.

Truck GPS fleet tracking for fleet managers

Fleet managers have different requirements to drivers. While drivers are more focused on their own truck and individual journeys, a fleet manager needs to keep a birds-eye view of the entire fleet. Fleet management software provides fleet managers with a single-screen dashboard that shows all vehicles and their current activity.

Having access to this information and setting up alerts for exceptions that break company rules (e.g. excessive speeding, HOS infringements) keeps a fleet manager informed and in control of the fleet. Telogis Fleet makes it easy for managers to customize the interface so they are kept up-to-date with what’s important to them.

Another side of fleet management often involves route planning. This can be anything from grouping jobs with a particular driver to save miles to doing cost analysis on a new client to see if it is profitable. Telogis Route factors all of the firm’s jobs, clients and drivers to create the most efficient and optimized routes based on route costs (including driver overtime and vehicle use costs). These optimized routes can then be sent directly to a driver’s GPS device using Telogis Mobile.

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Telogis Mobile is the software that runs the GPS unit that sits inside the truckers cab. We know that truck drivers have specific needs. Routing software that is built for consumers doesn’t understand the rigors of driving trucks for a living. Aside from the road restrictions that can hurt a driver or company in the back pocket, there are other issues like being unable to make u-turns or wanting to avoid tollways and dangerous left-hand turns. There are also POIs that are specific to truckers such as designated weight stations, truck stops and refueling stations.

What makes it possible for Telogis Mobile to offer truck-specific features is the very powerful, yet very flexible, Telogis GeoBase, mapping software that can be customized to offer routing based on road restrictions and show custom map layers for truck specific POIs.

Truck GPS is more than just navigation

If truck drivers are only using their GPS unit for turn-by-turn navigation they’re missing out on a lot of the benefits of having a vehicle use GPS tracking. Anything from automated maintenance reminders to optimizing asset utilization to make sure fleets are providing a healthy ROI.

In future articles, we’ll discuss other ways fleets and truck drivers can get more from their GPS systems, making their job easier and more profitable.

How can truckers deal with road restrictions?

oversized-load-road-restrictionsAll roads are not always an option for trucks. Some roads have may have weight restrictions. Some may pass under bridges or other objects thus creating height restrictions. Others may be too narrow or too busy at certain times of the day and restrict larger vehicles from using them.

For truck drivers using GPS they need to make sure their navigation system knows about these restrictions and can route them accordingly.

Unfortunately a truck driver can’t blame his GPS for getting ticketed on a restricted road.

So how does a GPS system route to a destination taking relevant restrictions into account? There are a few factors involved to make this happen:

  • The PND needs be programmed to store road restrictions as well as receive updates (for new or changed restrictions). In most cases this requires the device to be able to store and display custom map layers. It also helps if the device is connected to a GPRS data service that can feed updated road restrictions.
  • The PND needs to know the truck’s attributes (e.g. current weight, height, width, length and cargo) so it knows which road restrictions apply. The device’s software should be able to allow the driver to enter this information in directly.
  • Whether the driver is able to make left-hand turn, U-turns or use toll-ways (while these parameters may not strictly be road restrictions, a truck driver may prefer to avoid having to make certain maneuvers or pay toll fees. For example, PNDs running Telogis Mobile allows some of these settings to be made on a per-user basis.

How does a GPS device know what roads are restricted?

One way that a GPS device can know about road restrictions is by allowing a custom map overlay to be loaded on to the device.

Custom map data, or GIS layers, are visual geospatial databases that contain information relating to points on a map. They generally follow a standard format, such as raster or vector.

This overlay is used, along with the truck’s attributes, to determine if a particular road can be used or not. If it is restricted, the routing program will find an alternative route to take that complies with all the relevant restrictions.

What are the benefits of using a GPS device with road restrictions?

Primarily the advantage of using a GPS device that includes road restrictions is that it improves the safety levels of both the driver and the general public. To keep commercial trucks off certain roads is vital, particularly if a hazmat load is being transported or the truck’s size poses a danger to other road users.

Because a GPS device is correctly routing based on road restrictions, drivers are also less distracted, allowing them to concentrate on the road ahead and driving safely.

Improving safety has other benefits, such as reducing the liability risk your fleet faces should anything go wrong. If a truck is on a road that it shouldn’t be and there’s an accident, insurance may not pay out.

There are financial benefits as well, such as avoiding infringements for taking restricted roads and taking inefficient routes when a driver realizes they’re unable to turn into a street.

With a GPS device keeping an eye on the road restrictions, it means drivers can do what they do best and drive with their eyes on the road.

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