The Trouble with Google Maps for Truckers

Elyse Byers profile image
Elyse Byers
2 min read
December 16, 2022

Going from point A to point B while driving a truck and trailer should be as simple as plugging an address into Google Maps and hitting ‘Start,’ right? Well, if you’re a driver you know it’s way more complicated than that. 

As long as trucks have been hauling freight, navigation has always been an issue. But why is it such a big deal? 

Driving on the interstate or in a small city may not be too difficult. However, in larger cities it can be a real challenge for a semi truck to get around. That’s not taking into account roads that don’t allow vehicles above a certain size. Another challenge is destinations where there isn’t a clear address. Relying only on GPS, you can end up at a location miles out of the way.

How did truckers get around before GPS? 

We turned to r/Truckers on Reddit to gather testimonials from long-time truck drivers on how they got around before GPS was readily available. Here are some of the answers we found:

  • Many long-time truck drivers swear by the Rand McNally Motor Carriers’ Road Atlas.
  • Calling shippers and receivers for directions. Sometimes this meant using landline phones at truck stops before cell phones became common.
  • Keeping paper copies of city maps on hand.
  • Calling a taxi and following it to the destination.
  • CB radio came in handy to get directions and advice from other drivers who knew the route well.
What’s the best option today? 

As the old saying goes, don’t fix it if it ain’t broke. Some of the methods used for years by long-haul truck drivers still get the job done.

Rand McNally still publishes a Motor Carriers’ Road Atlas each year. It contains maps as well as detailed lists of rules and regulations for interstate travel. In addition, some drivers still have paper copies of maps or digital copies saved to their phone in lieu of Google Maps, especially for traveling in rural areas. 

Some drivers even have group chats for helping each other with directions and/or Google Docs for sharing important information about customers and navigation.

Of course, many drivers swear by a trucking GPS, such as one made by Garmin or Rand McNally. If you’ve ever thought about buying one, you’ll know these can be expensive. So what if you’ve decided you want to go all out on that fancy Garmin GPS but don’t like the price tag? Here’s a life hack for you: If your company’s fuel program allows you to keep points earned through truck stops like Love’s or Pilot/Flying J, save up the points and use them!

There’s also plenty of GPS apps for truck navigation out there. Some commonly used by drivers include Hammer and Trucker Path.

And, yes, Google Maps does have its place. Many drivers use Satellite view for planning their route ahead of time. What if your destination doesn’t have an address, or you can’t find the address you need using GPS? When you do get there, use Google Maps to drop a pin at your location. Next time you make the same trip you’ll know right where you need to go. 

Did you know?

TruckSpy’s all-in-one platform includes turn-by-turn truck navigation. Not only is this feature built with truck drivers in mind, it’s also integrated with your dispatching. All your drivers have to do is click ‘Start Nav.’ Want to see if our turn-by-turn truck navigation is the right option for you? Learn more here.