High-Tech for the Highway
By Heather Hogeland & Kim Grimm
Rapidly changing technology can be a blessing or a curse. It’s truly a blessing to not have to take the time to stop and look for a pay phone to make those daily check calls or just check in at home, but it can feel like a curse when you need to make a call but can’t get cell service.
Years ago the CB radio was the drivers main form of communication with the world outside the truck, it was the place we went for a traffic or weather report, it was where we turned for someone to talk to through a long, lonely night. Back then we had to be running in the same direction, at the same time, in the same general place in order to run together, now all we need are a cell phone, a headset, chargers for them both and unlimited minutes! There are actually huge networks of drivers that get together every night on conference calls and discuss numerous topics from the Bible to the latest new change in the hours of service. It has become a relevant and much needed support system for these drivers as it has helped them stay awake and alert throughout the entire shift.
Today’s technology has changed so much, now we have satellite radio, the weather channel and cell phones that are actually mini computers. We have hands free devices and bluetooth technology that will connect these devices up to one another so that they can talk to each other and we can talk to them! In days gone by shippers and receivers used to hand write bills of lading, today, if the computer is down a driver could be tied up for hours waiting on paperwork.
GPS is another amazing tool that can make our lives a bit easier, just remember, it is a tool; it does NOT replace a phone call to a customer where you would be able to get information such as “is there parking available at their facility?” or “is there construction or a road closure my GPS doesn’t know about?”. Some GPSs are programmed with information that includes rest areas, truck stops, even WalMart stores, in addition to scale locations, ports of entry, and state borders, they have all kinds of extra things like speed limits and speed warnings built into them. BUT, they don’t know everything, you are the driver and it’s up to you to use common sense! DON’T drive under a low bridge because “my GPS told me too”.
One of the coolest things technology has brought about has benefited not only our industry, but has helped our military as well and that is the face to face talking over the Internet. Nowadays we can call home, with the help of a device and an Internet connection, and actually see the people we are talking to while we are talking to them! Being able to see as well as talk to a loved one back home is a luxury I know many drivers wish they could have had years ago. For the little ones you have to leave behind while you make a living, actually being able to see them when you’re miles away is priceless, and for them to see you? What a gift!
One more great piece of technology that we believe drivers should have, if they don’t already, is a dash camera. One that mounts easily and can be operated with a bluetooth shutter device. It doesn’t have to be an expensive one, just a small digital device, that can be used to record many things out through the windshield of your truck. You never know when that may come in really handy. Besides, there are ALWAYS things going on in front of you worthy of being photographed. As long as it’s done hands free.
Almost every device we mentioned can be powered by using the cigarette lighter plug in the dash. Many trucks, cars too now, are coming equipped with USB ports for the same purpose. Most vehicles are even equipped with multiple outlets. If yours isn’t, you can purchase plugs with adapters and extension cords along with a series of splitters so you will be able to power several devices without having to cut into any wiring. If for some reason you have no power in an outlet, the first place you should check is the fuse panel to see if the fuse has blown.
Stay safe out there and Keep it Shiny!
Heather Hogeland and Kim Grimm are CDL holders and longtime friends with a combined 75 years and 7 million miles of driving experience. Both are writers and have a love for everything trucking, as well as, furry, four-legged friends. Kim is currently a full-time owner-operator and part-time writer. Heather writes for various trucking publications and enjoys traveling with her husband Roger.