TSQ: Do you prefer using a GPS or an atlas to find your destination?

by Adam Ledlow

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. – I’ve got a love-hate relationship going on with electronics. As technology continues to progress at breakneck speed, I tend to lag behind, content to use last year’s model until I either lose interest or wear the item out.

I don’t own an MP3 player or a home computer, my first cell phone was forced upon me (thanks Mom), and my first and only video game console I ever owned was a Game Boy I got for Christmas in 1990.

But I do have a GPS for my car, and for the most part, I love it.

The ease of travel it affords, not to mention the comforting voice of my British tour guide, makes for an anxiety-reduced ride.
That said, have I ever found myself twisting and turning down dusty back roads when a straight line on the highway would do? You bet.

Have I ever found myself in an elementary school parking lot when I’d been hoping for the airport? At least once, yes.

For all its shortcomings – though they are fewer and fewer these days – GPS has become an important fixture in truck cabs in recent years. But have truckers embraced it, or do some, like, say, a certain technologically-challenged editor, prefer the old-school feel that only a map can provide?

I went to the Husky Truck Stop in Mississauga, Ont. to see if drivers prefer a GPS or a map when seeking their final destination.

Randy Gray, a driver with FFE Transportation out of Dallas, Texas, was trained using an atlas when he started driving 13 years ago, but uses a GPS these days, courtesy of his PeopleNet electronic on-board recorder. “That’s how we receive all of our dispatch communications, directions, everything,” he says.

That said, Gray says if a driver were reliant solely on a GPS system to get around, they’d be in trouble if the system failed. “Technology is not always 100% reliable,” he noted.

Ronald Fournier, a driver with GoldLine Transport out of Miramichi, N.B., says he’s “too old” to use GPS, having relied on a telephone and a map to get around during his 41 years behind the wheel.

“I’m not technologically literate,” he told Truck News. “I’ve got (a GPS system) in my brand new Ford pickup, and I can’t use it.”

Fournier says that if a driver is going to use GPS – and he notes that most drivers he knows do use a GPS system – you can’t go cheap.

“You’ve got to buy the one that’s for the trucks, the real expensive ones, because the cheap ones don’t give you (information on) the low bridges, the dead-end streets and the truck routes.”

Rod Gill, a driver with Sydia Brothers out of Saskatoon, Sask., has been driving for 41 years, but only using his Rand McNally GPS for the last two. The verdict? He’s a converted man.

“It’s got updates monthly and everything works good,” he says of the system. “I can program it any way I want: high load, wide load, long loads, heavy loads.” He says any driver clinging to the old ways will have to keep up with the changing times, calling atlases “obsolete” for on-road use.

Shawn Pleadwell, a driver with AMS Transportation Services out of Dundalk, Ont., says a trucker’s experience with a GPS system will greatly depend on the unit itself.

“Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re not, depending on the GPS. Sometimes they like to route you around…they take you down the roads that you are supposed to be on, around schools,” says the driver of 23 years, who has been using a GPS for the past couple of years.

Justice McKay, a driver with GTL Transport out of Darthmouth, N.S., has been driving for 47 years and using a GPS system for the last three or four years.

“I love them,” he says. If he has any complaints, McKay says his GPS is a little too earnest for its own good.

“I’ve got the new Rand McNally 720 and it has a very annoying habit. It keeps asking me questions on the screen. There’s a little box down there that you hit that says, ‘Don’t remind me again,’ and I keep hitting that little box, but it forgets that I’ve hit that box and it keeps reminding me anyway.”

Can’t blame a GPS for trying.

Have your say

We won't publish or share your data