Why Consumer Navigation Apps Fail Trucking Fleets

September 21, 2020 by Trucks.com, @trucksdotcom

Editor’s note: Written by Dwayne Lazarre, director, strategic accounts, enterprise solutions at Trimble MAPS. This is one in a series of periodic guest columns by industry thought leaders.

Consumer-grade GPS navigation is great when you need to drive a passenger vehicle to the nearest grocery store in an unfamiliar town. It’s designed for consumers, and it will route and navigate drivers using map data sufficient for automobiles. But commercial truck drivers need unique map data attributes to guide them safely and legally on the road. They need navigation that generates routes based on their vehicle’s height, weight, load restrictions and more. Even further, they need maps that go beyond an address.

With the right advanced commercial navigation technology, drivers can navigate routes confidently and arrive at facilities knowing where to go and what to do, while keeping the carrier informed along the way.

The Maps Behind the Navigation

Maps are only as good as the data behind them. Professional drivers need maps powered by data that includes road classifications, roadway allowances and restrictions based on vehicle dimensions, weight and load. Turn restrictions, hazmat rules and truck-restricted, truck-designated and truck-prohibited roads are all taken into consideration.

The penalties for failure to comply with posted route restrictions can be steep. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the maximum penalty for a company is $11,000, and a driver can be fined $2,750. And if the potential financial consequences aren’t daunting enough, consider the safety angle: the FMCSA links bridge strikes with the use of consumer navigation systems.


Dwayne Lazarre

Commercial maps also can deliver relevant details about locations truckers visit on the way to pick up and deliver loads, such as truck stops and rest areas. They can provide critical information on amenities, parking availability and hours of operation.

Power of Navigation in the Last Mile

For many drivers, their daily stops are at distribution and fulfillment centers, manufacturing facilities, intermodal terminals and truck stops. These locations have site-specific details, like where trucks can enter or exit, which may be on a completely different road than the actual address of the location.

With the last mile potentially making up 28 percent of total transportation costs, using insufficient data or wrong location information can waste significant time and money. It also can create a safety risk if drivers resort to unsafe maneuvers to get to their destination.

Navigation can be more than just voice-guided, turn-by-turn directions. It can be the driver’s co-pilot, providing information and guidance to a destination. With advanced navigation technology that links the back office to the vehicle, fleet managers and dispatchers can specify a “gate path,” which defines the specific roads that drivers should take to approach or depart a facility, taking into account any applicable restrictions.

Back Office-Cab Connection Improves Fleet Efficiency

When commercial navigation is deployed fleet-wide, all drivers are using one source of safe, reliable data, ensuring consistency in routing, mileage, and ETAs.

The back office can utilize technology to inform drivers of important location information through their navigation systems, such as hours of operation, dock information and parking availability. This can help drivers make decisions on the fly – what if their projected ETA falls outside a facility’s hours of operation? What if no parking is allowed? They can in turn make confident decisions on the road, eliminating the need to call dispatch. This leads to more productive, satisfied drivers.

Navigation is no longer only an in-cab tool – it can send information to the back office to monitor out of route events and view planned versus actual routes for post-trip driver coaching. The back office can set up geofence alerts for precise notifications when a driver enters or exits a facility. This can help in determining the precise ETA, if time windows were met or the average dwell/detention times at locations.

Using commercial navigation technology powered by commercial map and location data lets both companies and drivers work smarter. It allows fleets to become intelligent with both real-time and post-trip information and empower their drivers to focus on doing what they do best – drive.

Trucks.com welcomes divergent thoughts and opinions on transport technology and trucking industry issues. Use the comments section to cite yours. Qualified opinion leaders are welcome to offer suggestions for opinion columns. Contact info@trucks.com.

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