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The Importance of Commercial Maps for Commercial Vehicles

When it comes to navigating on the road, consumers are used to opening a mobile app and expecting it to quickly route from Point A to Point B. But, if you drive a commercial vehicle for a living, the road and the means by which you navigate it can look very different.

Suddenly, the consumer-grade navigation app you depend on in your personal time harbors some major shortcomings that can lead to time wasted, wages lost and safety jeopardized when you’re behind the wheel of a truck.

Carriers, shippers and the drivers they depend on to keep freight moving need to take into consideration a wide range of challenges that your typical commuter (and their app) simply does not. Let’s explore how practical obstacles, legal restrictions and safety concerns make it essential for commercial transportation and logistics organizations to use purpose-built maps and navigation tools.

Why Do Commercial Vehicles Need Special Maps & Navigation?

From the back office to the driver’s cab, the challenges commercial operations face on the road are numerous. Overcoming those challenges depends on information that is collected and presented in a way that understands what commercial drivers need to know to safely and efficiently deliver their cargo.

Physical and logistical challenges abound along with the loads hauled and the road conditions. For instance, different vehicle dimensions can limit which roads trucks can travel without fear of crossing lines, striking bridges or encountering dangerous intersections. Speed limits or detours can severely impact the carrier’s ability to meet ETAs. And, inadvertently traveling roads built with strict weight tolerances might put a commercial driver and those around them at risk, should their heavily laden vehicle exceed the limit.

In addition, countless legal restrictions and regulations can create a complex web of requirements that only commercial maps and navigation tools can accommodate. US federal regulations, for example, dictate that a driver cannot exceed more than 14 consecutive “Hours of Service” on the road, so as to limit the possibility of fatigue and dangerous impairment.

Commercial drivers are required to avoid truck-restricted roads that prohibit oversized vehicles for fear of putting other drivers or themselves at risk. Failure to obey the rules can cost a business thousands in fines, from a few hundred for drivers to tens of thousands for companies. When every minute counts and safety’s top of mind, it’s vital the route planned for a commercial driver is—above all—accurate.

How Are Commercial Maps & Navigation Tools Different?

Simply put, commercial maps and navigation tools differ from consumer-grade products because they factor in the physical risks and regulatory considerations. There are numerous attributes of the vehicles, their loads and their routes, including:

  • Bridge clearances

  • Load limits

  • Vehicle height restrictions

  • One-way road designations

  • Left-hand and dangerous turn restrictions

  • Urban road classifications

  • Hazmat restrictions

  • Truck allowances

  • Toll costs based on axles, time of day and day of week

  • Precise boundary polygons and truck entry and exit gates at commercial locations

When these parameters are taken into account, routes from the same location to the same destination can differ greatly for commercial vehicles using maps and navigation tools built for them, as opposed to those built for typical drivers.

Fine-tuning these maps and tools isn’t easy. Trimble MAPS, for example, employs a team of hundreds of GIS and map data specialists to make hundreds of daily adjustments to roads based on roadwork, closures, regulations, the addition of new roads, and more. The team goes so far as to outline thousands of potential destinations in boundary polygons. 

Geofences make it easy to see when a truck’s GPS has passed into or out of a location; the company and its customer can quickly be notified of arrivals and departures. Plus, with location entry and exit gate information in Trimble MAPS’ commercial offering, drivers can travel the safest, most efficient route down to the last mile.

What Are the Major Benefits?

Using the right maps and navigation tools can lead to a cascade of advantages and benefits for carriers and their drivers.

1. Purpose-built resources help ensure drivers’ safety where consumer-grade products cannot.

By taking into account a vehicle’s dimensions, road restrictions, and load and planning a route accordingly, carriers are able to better avoid the maneuvers and circumstances that put their drivers at risk. Plus, these tools take into account the regulations designed to keep drivers and their cargo safe.

2. The right data and navigation can increase operational efficiency and improve ETA prediction by ensuring a vehicle’s route is calculated based on actual, truck-legal roads.

This saves time and money and improves resource usage, allowing more deliveries to be made, miles to be tracked more accurately, and drivers to be more satisfied with their work. Routes planned with consumer-grade tools for typical autos might take longer than they can accurately predict for commercial vehicles, resulting in unpaid miles, delayed arrivals and frustrated customers.

Ultimately these benefits and more combine to deliver an improved experience for those customers. When their routes are built on commercial maps, carriers more accurately rate miles, bill and pay drivers, and can gain valuable insights into operations. When drivers are guided by tools that understand the challenges and priorities they face, they’re better equipped to drive safely and efficiently.

Harness the Power of Commercial Maps in Your Fleet

Regardless of what type of fleet you have or what lanes you travel in, a commercial mapping solution can help you and your drivers get there safely and efficiently.

Contact us today to learn more about Trimble’s driver-focused technology, including commercial routing capabilities, to enhance your productivity wherever the road takes you.