Dutch navigation provider TomTom has jumped into the North American truck GPS business with its Trucker 600. TomTom is a giant in Europe but this is its first attempt to crack the truck navigation market on this continent. This device folds around a six-inch screen and comes with a secure locking mount so it won’t come tumbling off your windshield when the defrost fan is turned on. More important, it’s meant to be paired with a smartphone (either iPhone or Android system) to enable the traffic function and comes with an embedded chip so you won’t be dinged for roaming.
This is probably a clever move on TomTom’s part. Most truckers carry smartphones, and I daresay many are reliant on the navigation apps available on the small screen – talk about distracted driving. So, pairing the phone to the GPS via Bluetooth makes sense.
The device functions well enough without the phone-driven traffic function, but it’s worth connecting since it does come with lifetime traffic as well as lifetime trucking maps of Canada and the US. Also, TomTom’s MyDrive app allows you to plan a route on your home computer, send it to your phone, and when you start the truck in the morning the route will be automatically downloaded to the GPS.
The machine asks for your vehicle’s dimensions and GVW as well as supplying a separate platform for Hazmat. This should keep you on the truck routes and away from low bridges and residential areas.
The unit switches easily between truck, van, auto and bus modes, and has tons of data points. For instance, I was supposed to meet someone at a certain restaurant near Pearson
Airport and to my surprise it was listed (it wasn’t Hooters, but I’m sure that’s there, too).
Tap the Parking function and multiple municipal lots pop up, good for motorists but not so much for big rigs as most of those are inaccessible to Class 8 trucks.
The voice control is pretty neat as you can ask it to guide you to a pre-planned destination like work, or home, or a fuel stop. It will answer about a dozen commands like “When will I get there?” and “What’s the next instruction?”
You can also choose a voice from a surfeit of accents. Right now I’ve got an Irishman named Sean telling me when to turn, but the Trucker 600 also can communicate in 22 languages, from Danish to Latvian to Arabic.
When it comes to layout, simple is better, rather than besieging the operator with a plethora of options. One arrow takes you back to the previous screen, and the “…” icon brings you to the menu. The mapping is truck friendly and doesn’t try too hard to include buildings or scenery. Which is good, I like maps to look like maps.
One unique feature is the “route” bar, which appears as a translucent strip of data on the right part of the screen, providing information such as a changing ETA and traffic jams or construction on the way.
I like the functionality of the unit: the interactive voice is effective and the directions are solid. More crucial is that it connects quickly to satellites. I suggest taking it out of your vehicle and playing around with it while plugged into your computer or laptop. There are lots of intriguing functions to check out.
With a price tab of $399 it’s about competitive with the other top-of-the-line trucker GPS units. As I mentioned, it’s new to the marketplace so it’s currently only available from Amazon or from TomTom.com. A one-year warranty is offered directly from the manufacturer.