Trust your instincts when GPS leads you astray



The semi-trailer may be the king of the road, but its dominance goes no further; there are certainly places he does not belong.

However, with the constraints of time, traffic, construction work, and other stresses along the way, many commercial drivers opt for the faster route even if it means stepping off the beaten track.

Brian Runnels urges drivers not to blindly trust GPS devices. As Reliance Partners’ chief safety officer and seasoned driver, he explains that the best navigation tools are often an old-fashioned map and driver instinct.

“When drivers rely solely on GPS, it looks like they’ll end up in a bad spot,” Runnels said.

If the road suddenly narrows or seems to lack commercial traffic; if it looks like it twists and turns into jagged ground; or especially if any warning signs are present, now would be the time to turn around if possible – it may already be too late.

As the industry encourages greater confidence in technology, GPS-related tractor-trailer crashes continue to grab the headlines. Truckers should always trust their instincts and rely on a road atlas to greatly avoid these situations.

In Tennessee, emergency services spent 12 hours cleaning up the spill from an overturned tanker truck. The driver of the crashed truck, carrying 4,500 gallons of motor oil, told reporters he “took his GPS for granted, sort of distracted himself and took the wrong road in uncharted territory on a highway county campaign “.

Commercial drivers are encouraged to heed traffic signs prohibiting large vehicles from an artery, but even that is not enough to deter some.

A West Virginia community reportedly saw tractor-trailers break down “once or twice a week” at a specific crossing in the city. The police chief expressed frustration that many truck drivers do not read the warning and detour signs, and do not see the steep slope of the intersection as a potential danger.

Runnels spoke of an incident in his home state of Indiana where a semi-trailer made a detour over a historic bridge with a weight limit of 6 tons – with warning signs duly displayed. As expected, the bridge warped.

Runnels attributes crashes like these to complete reliance on GPS devices and inability to develop street intelligence. That is why he always carried an atlas or a road map on board each line.

“I would compare the route the company gave me to my map, and by the mileage I would know how far I could go,” Runnels said of his old school techniques. “I would then pull out a truck stop guide to see what was in that area. I knew exactly where I was going, and there was no guesswork in it.

Its purpose for cards is that they will never point you in the wrong direction. Runnels is not against the use of GPS navigation per se, it only warns that these devices are not always designed for truckers. This is especially true for basic navigation services like Google Maps or Apple Maps.

“I wouldn’t let a student [driver] who was in my truck used a GPS until they learned to read a map. They learned how to use the first 10 or 15 pages which has a ton of information on things like bridge laws, large low clearances, and restricted routes, ”Runnels said. “Maybe towards the end, if I saw that they were getting good enough map reading, I would allow them to use the GPS to compare it to what a map was saying; there were often differences.

Runnels explains that several trucker-specific atlases contain far superior traffic information than any GPS can provide.

One of these guides is the 2022 Rand McNally Motor Carriers’ Road Atlas. This manual details state and country designated routes, as well as updated restricted routes, low clearances, and weigh station locations. Also included are hazardous materials regulations, construction and road conditions hotlines, and a 22-page mileage directory with over 40,000 road and city-specific mileage.

“It’s a fairly simple tool to use to find this information. Maybe it’s past its prime, but until we see no more pilots ending up in places they shouldn’t be, I think it’s a pretty solid tool to work with, ” Runnels said. “I’m kind of a card demon; I like to watch them. When I study one before hitting the road, it all makes sense.

Click for more FreightWaves content by Jack Glenn.

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