Posted on 08/17/2015 at 12:20 PM by Dena Boelter
Hello fellow trucker friends. Ned, coming back at you again.
Last time we ran into each other, the subject was pre trip inspections, possibly the most important part of your day. So, you inspected your truck and trailer and they checked out fine. What is next? Well, in my mind, another step in carrying out a successful trip is solid trip planning. Where are you going? What is the best route? Do you have good directions to the shipper or consignee?
I know many of my fellow truckers have GPS routing devices. They are OK, but since most generate routes for cars, they can be problematic for trucks. I recommend the basics. Look at a map, visualize your route and write it down if necessary. I don’t know about you, but if I write something down, I tend to remember it longer. We all have heard the stories of truck found in odd places, due to “following the GPS”
I like looking at the map and getting the big picture. Any professional driver should recognize if they are on a US, State, County or local route and use caution accordingly. The old state, county and local routes can have tight curves and low clearances, some not always well marked. Did you know, by the way, state routes and interstate routes are numbered even numbers East-West and off numbers North-South. Sub routes from a major interstate also have a specific numbering system. An even first digit means the route is a beltway off the main interstate (I280, I235, I 480, etc.). An off first digit means the road is a spur from the main route and does not re-intersect.
Of course, the big challenge is always finding your way to a delivery or pick up address. We all know the penalties of missing a turn in the city. A tractor trailer cannot be turned around in your average McDonalds parking lot and those who have tried have suffered embarrassing consequences.
My routine has not changed much over the years. Originally, I would call information from a readily available pay phone (what’s that?) and get a number for the business I was going to, then call the business and obtain directions. Once I had the directions, which I wrote in pocket size notebook, I would then pull out my map and find the address. This did two things. First, I was able to visualize the entire route and then often drove in without the need to look at my written directions. Second, I was able to verify the directions given. Believe it or not, many people cannot give out good directions. Another thing worth mentioning is that many folks have a skewed idea of distance, particularly in the city. More than once, I have been told to go 4 miles down State Street, or Post Road, or whatever, only to find my turn was only 1.5 miles down the road, which I realized as a read the street sign as I whizzed by. To minimize the chance of missing my turn, I generally take note of one or two streets I will pass just before my turn, so I will know when I am getting close.
One other thing, I have always been jealous of those organized drivers who keep directions on index cards and in alphabetical order. Mine were in my book, one set to a page, page after page. If I returned a place 2 years later, I had to do some page thumbing, but I could always find my directions.
Now days, I usually have a phone number for the customer provided and I have a smart phone, so I can call from my truck and also Google the address. Even still, I still carry my atlas, city maps and state DOT maps and use them. I have always liked the DOT maps the states give away because they have city maps on the back, including medium sized towns.
While waiting at a dock, which can happen occasionally, (insert sarcasm), this is a great time to page through your atlas and get familiar with using it, and gain knowledge of more routes.
I guess there is probably more than one way to approach trip planning. I have shared what works for me and if you have good ideas, I encourage you to share them so we can all get better at this great job we all love to do.
Until next time, Trucker Ned