Life & Truck Navigation

A while back as I was browsing through my many, many notes & directions looking for an old route into a cold storage that I had been to before, I took a picture. It wasn’t anything fancy, just a picture of my hand written driving directions going into an onion shed in Washington State.

I laughed at myself thinking that this was my GPS—the only one I truly believe in, even though I know GPS’s are becoming more and more popular with truck drivers every day.

I myself refuse to buy one and have snubbed out Hubs many offers of purchasing a GPS for me as a gift with my subtle not so nice hints that it would be well used as a wheel chock rather than take up space in Rosie.

I don’t want one for a number of reasons that I will list below. I will not use one and in all honesty, I do not believe in them. Not in a truck for sure, and a four-wheeled vehicle is a close second.

Of course that’s just my opinion, and you know what they say about them…

And who knows, maybe someday I will fall and severely hit my head, and I will then change my mind. However, as I write this, I know of too many drivers who don’t even own a trucker’s atlas, and because of their relying on said GPS devices, have been led the wrong way more than once. Now, being led the wrong way in a four wheeler is one thing, but in a 13’6 high, 60 to 80 foot long semi truck, this can lead to many problems like running into a low clearance, being led into parts of town where trucks are not supposed to be or being led many miles out of route. This happens all because they trusted this little computer that is only suppose to be a ‘Tool’ not a guarantee. I feel there is no excuse for hitting low bridges or getting fined because you weren’t smarter than a GPS.

That being said, I have been blogging at One Girl Trucking for over three years as of August 9th, and I have been blogging in total for over six years with a couple of other blogs that I have gotten rid of as I have woven my love of our farm, trucking, my animals, photography and cooking into one blog here. I absolutely LOVE my computer and wouldn’t leave home without it.

I love technology, and I do believe it has a place, but that place is not next to me while I’m driving.

I learned something many years ago, and it is very simple yet it relates to not only life but also truck driving and the use of a GPS.

Trust your instincts and believe in yourself before anything else.

If you cannot do both of those things while driving down the road in a car or semi truck, you don’t belong out here. In my eyes, you are a hazard.

With that I have a story, or really a part of my life to share with you.

Many, many moons ago my dad taught me how to drive. Because of this I am a damn good driver (I don’t mean to toot horn, but if there is anything in my life that I’m sure of, it would be that I can wheel a truck with the best of them). I will be honest in that I disliked my dad many times over because he would push and push for me to be as excellent as I possibly could. He didn’t believe in my just being an okay driver. He made me back-up our old ford for miles and miles down roads; he also had the theory that if I was going to drive it-whatever it may be, that I was going to be able to work on it too. So, if I wanted to drive I also had to be there for oil changes, brake jobs and anything in between. And I was.

I’m pretty sure, by the time I was 14 I knew where all the zerks were located on all of our vehicles. By the time I was 15 I was tooling down our country road on my Dads ’84 softtail- ape hangers and all, by myself.

Now days, I owe my knowledge of trucks and anything mechanical to my dad, and I love him for it. And, although I think it backfired on him since he wanted his daughter to be a state trooper, not trucker, it has made me who I am today. That is not to say that my dad is not proud of me and what I’ve done in my life, because he is very proud. I just think he wanted me to be a legal, gun-toting girl who gave tickets. Not a daughter who received them for going ’round scales, speeding or telling state troopers what she really thinks…

Not too long after I got out of high school, I made the decision to save my parents money and not go to college to be a highway patrol. Instead, I ran team with an my then boyfriend. It was an absolute blast for a while, because I so wanted to be with him, and not only that, I wanted to drive truck and see the country. Let me tell you that was the worst thing I could have ever done for myself. Being young and probably impressionable, I put all of my trust into him, and worse yet when I thought I couldn’t do something I gave up way too quickly and let him do it for me— be it driving in downtown LA traffic at rush hour, counting produce, or crossing a mountain pass. Although he taught me tons about trucking, I always, ALWAYS thought he knew better, could do it better, or was smarter than I was. Sadly during that part of my life, I ignored what I knew, along with all of my instincts and that made me a bad driver and most importantly an unhappy person.

To me, this is what a GPS does to a driver. It gives them a false sense of security, because they put all of their trust into that little computer rather than pulling out a trucker’s atlas and looking over a map and/or calling and asking for help. The common sense they were born with is long gone out the window.

Sure I can see that a GPS will give you directions, and an ETA, but it is still just a computer that has NO clue you are driving around 80,000 pounds even if it is truck friendly! I may be different here, but I read maps, I know my routes, and without anything but my brain, I can tell Hubs or anyone else who asks what time I’m going to show up to deliver in Minnesota, when I’m sitting in California without a GPS, a computer or any trip planning of any kind. And I will be there on time, if not early. I know my routes. I know my truck and most importantly I know my limitations.

And that’s not to say that I have not made a ton of mistakes over the years, because I have. Thankfully none of those mistakes have hurt anyone or wrecked mine or my employers equipment. I think the worst thing I think I ever did was have to call the Chicago police to get me off of a one way street that dead ended up against I90. I made the wrong turn off of a five way intersection that led me to a 12′ 6 bridge. It was either take the one way, dead end road or wreck my truck. Of course it was embaressing as hell, but I made a friend in the police officer that helped me out, I got a very cool escort to I90 (flashing lights and all), and I learned a HUGE lesson.

Pay Attention!!!

There were no cell phones back then, only pay phones and it was no use to call my dispatcher or my Mother (whom I really wanted at that time!) so I got my myself out of my truck and figured the situation out on my own and that is what most drivers don’t know how to do anymore and it’s the one thing I absolutly dispise about the trucking industry today.

There is way too much mommy coddling and hand holding out here. I think it has hurt the trucking industry immensly, the new drivers especially, and let in a bunch of steering wheel holders who without the help of a dispatcher couldn’t drive a semi through a wet paper bag.

Sadly, this is happening with the automobile industry too.

My opinion is that if you cannot drive it without the help of GPS, assisted backing, or having your headlights turn on when it gets dark out or it raining!, then you should be riding the bus.

The trucking industry and automobile industry alike are making people stupid and reliant rather than self reliant, smarter and safer, even though they tell you differently. The worst part is most people are falling for it.

So, if you have to have a GPS, or any other new fangled device to help you drive, please, use it as a tool only. Use it as something that is in the background of your life, not the foreground while you are driving. Learn to rely on YOU, the most important thing in your drivers seat, because not only does your life rely on it, so does the rest of the motorists on the highway.

Bethany About Bethany

I am a prisoner of the highway, farmer and lover of Mother Nature, the moon and stars, my long and low, flat-top Peterbilt, chickens, cats, dogs, horses, cooking, photography, tattoos, tea pots and vintage barnifacts…among other things. I’m also a very, happily married, third-generation truck driver. My career choice is both demanding and rewarding, just like most things in life that are truly good.

Comments

  1. Paul Hawkwind Wyrick says:

    Hi Bethany,Well written article and agree with you 100%.I pulled for a company as an O/O and they installed Qualcomm and would send direction for places in CA.and on more than one occasion the direction would go down roads that years ago where posted for load limits with hefty fines(750$} so I just went the way I had always gone ,no problem.Tried several times to have the directions changed and was blown off but after 3 weeks of the company bailing out company drivers they ask me to give them the correct directions.To this day I still use a paper map and written directionsSaves time and money.
    Hope this finds you well and you guys are doing well.Paul
    P.S. I do own 2 GPS devices but none in a big truck and still don’t trust them.

  2. always inspiring Beth! I know I’ve told ya, but you are one of the best around! Keep it up <3 xoxo

  3. Bethany, very good an I agree with 100%. I only trust my motor carriers atlas, an paper maps. Like Paul, I tried to send correct directions to the last company that I drove for, and nothing was ever changed, so I would just go the way that I knew. I keep a ‘Fat Book’ of directions an write them down, and I have several of those that I still go back to and use the directions that I wrote down to get to a consignee or shipper. I “had” a GPS, an it was a well known brand, too (the one that does the motor carriers atlas), an it just quit working while I was on I80 going wb in Nevada. And I just used it for the tracking that it could do on fuel mileage an over-all speed, AND THAT WAS IT. Very good writing an article, as usual. Keep up the good work, Bethany!!

  4. doug pickard says:

    Very nice article. I whole heartedly agree with you and have experienced much of the same thing. Its interesting because upon graduating from high school , it was my every intention to be a Maine state trooper. i instead ended up in the trucking industry because it was a good income to support my new family with. I understood everything you spoke of. Sometimes you just need to get out of your comfort zone in order to experience something first hand. There is a real need to know everything there is to know about your eqiupment and and your job, something many of the new drivers of today have no idea of. This , in my opinion is where they begin to go wrong. Not only do they not know how to drive, but they have no idea how to do any kind of pre trip, post trip, inspection because they don’t understand the equipment they operate. To me there is nothing more embarrasing than to have a DOT inspector know more about my job than I do. I enjoy your blogs. Your a good embassador for the trucking industry. keep up the good work!!…:)

  5. I haven’t had to rely on maps for professional driving in years (gave up coaches for local transit), but when I’m going someplace new, I do not use a GPS. I do have one, but it just seemed like too much fuss. I’d rather study the map in advance and make my own notes, often memorizing the route I want to take, because the middle of an intersection is really not the place for looking at notes. I often look at Google Maps’ Street View, too, but never on the road, unless there’s no choice.

    When I was driving and needed maps, I saved all my directions. My husband also saved directions (and brochures, when he could get them) of all the places he was sent to over twenty+ years of driving coaches.

  6. Saltydoggie says:

    Like the others above, I use an atlas and make notes in a spiral notebook. Tried a GPS in my four wheeler and got so frustrated that it ended up in the median strip on US Hwy 285. We all make wrong turns now and then but that is part of life. I think looking at a map is beneficial in more ways than one. It gives one a sense of perspective of the area. You can mentally note some of the major cross streets close to your destination. Bethany, you express your thoughts so well on paper. Once retired, you should write a book or two!

  7. A great post and nice info;. I think this might be my first time commenting. I now have my own blog site having moved all my posts over from my daughter’s site. I’ve been reading you for quite sometime. Just never did subscribe or comment.

  8. Couldn’t agree with you more Bethany. My truck came with a GPS in it and the only thing I find it useful for is estimated miles to go. For fun I trusted it (to someplace I had been before) over my old fashioned tried and proven method of a Rand McNally, phone, pen & paper and caught it trying to send me under a 11′ bridge. Fortunately I knew where I was at the time and just turned the opposite direction to my delivery point.
    I read a write up a while back about how GPS systems have made almost 200 trucks hit bridges in NYC. I’ve ran NYC for years and never, ever, ever hit a bridge or gotten stuck there. But again I rely on my tried and proven methods.
    Do I like technology? Absolutely! But it has it’s place. And some of it is not in the Trucking industry. Guess that is part of what separates the “Drivers” from the “Steering Wheel Holders”
    My favorite tech in the truck however is my Drivers Daily Log program on my laptop. Troopers love it because it is easy to read, I love it because many times the trooper will just look at it on my laptop and say “Your good” without really looking at it. It’s not electronic logs though just paper on the screen.

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