GPS units have been around for several years and have made quite a heavy penetration into the automotive marketplace. It would be logical to assume a degree of maturity when it comes to GPS maps and operating system software on the units themselves. However, there is still quite a bit of room left for improvement.
GPS market saturation, combined with the sales of millions of Android and other smartphones that contain sophisticated GPS functionality have conspired to bite into the growth of stand-alone GPS unit sales, forcing a reduction in price along with a search for ways of adding value in order to justify and/or maintain higher price points. Thus, GPS manufacturers have created a market segment of specialty GPS units aimed specifically at truck drivers and the recreational vehicle market segments.
After trying and returning two faulty TomTom GO 2535M Live units, as well as trying and returning a Cobra 7750 Platinum trucker GPS unit, I’ve settled on a Garmin DEZL 560LT trucker GPS. The Garmin 560LT has a 5” pressure sensitive widescreen LCD display along with a number of features that attempt to tailor it toward commercial drivers.
From an operating system/software standpoint, the Garmin is solid. Also, the Garmin hardware build quality is quite good. The unit seems very solid and the pressure sensitive touchscreen works extremely well. The 5” widescreen LCD display is bright and colorful, remaining quite visible in bright daylight. It includes Bluetooth speaker/microphone functionality, along with the ability to display photos as well as function as a video display for a composite backup video camera.
Most of the trucker-specific features revolve around map and point-of-interest databases. As always, these databases continue to have holes in them. Although you can program in large/heavy vehicle types and sizes, the Garmin mapping software does not necessarily follow only truck routes when calculating routes. Garmin’s “out” on this point seems to be the fact that it makes a chime sound and pops up a specific on-screen icon when on a route that “truck accessibility information” is not known. When on secondary roads, this icon pops up a surprising amount of the time. It even pops up when driving on a fair number of freeway access ramps. This lack of “truck accessibility information” is quite perplexing, since the vast majority of these roads have been around for many, many years and therefore HAVE to be clearly well-known. The surprising thing is that these same roads that “truck accessibility information” isn’t available for have extensive speed limit information available. The Garmin unit is highly accurate in displaying the vast majority of speed limits on federal, state, and even on many county roads.
The other problem has to do with truck-specific point-of-interest databases that are included in the unit. These include truck stops, truck washes, truck repair shops, etc. Some of these facilities show up in the database, and some don’t. It can be quite maddening. Also another problem that has long plagued point-of-interest databases is inconsistent naming conventions. “T/A Truck Stop” may sometimes be entered into the database that way, or it might be “TA Truck Stop” or “TA Truckstop” or “TA Travel Plaza” or “Travel Centers of America”, etc., etc., etc. – you get the picture. When one tries to do a text search for the name of any business this inconsistency will almost immediately rear its ugly head.
Although the GPS certainly makes many things easier to find, it is not anywhere near a 100% foolproof solution. I frequently find myself having to search Google on my Android phone, which carries with it its own set of problems. Search Google for “truck wash” along with the name of a city and state and you are almost certainly going to come up with a bunch of listings for local car washes that have nothing whatsoever to do with offering washing services (specifically, refrigerated trailer wash-out services) for large commercial vehicles.
I like the Garmin DEZL 560LT and plan on keeping it. It’s a good hardware/software platform, and hopefully Garmin will continue to develop the updatable databases so that future updates contain more complete information.
My idea of the ideal trucker GPS would include the full-time data connection and “HD Traffic” of the TomTom GO Live, the solid, easy-to-use design of the Garmin, much more accurate truck-specific information concerning secondary roads, along with much better, more consistent point-of-interest information.