Cargo transportation and travel resources on the go

When driving on the highways of America, life can get a little lonely. There are a number of resources you’ll want to take with you, regardless of your reason for travelling, if you’re going to be traveling far and wide.

Road Atlas by Rand McNally Deluxe Motor Carriers

The regular atlas or a AAA triptick is fine for the beginner or the occasional traveler. But if you’re in it for the long haul, you’ll want the luxury of this laminated, spiral-bound monster. You can use it for years without tearing the pages, you can write on it without bleeding and you can spill coffee on it without affecting readability.

On the pages you will find a wealth of information. The numbers for truck associations for the US and Canada, for DOT and state police, for national hotel chains, and for state weather and construction information. The regulations for road carriers: legal weight limits, restricted routes (but not all inclusive), low bridges (but not necessarily all inclusive), inspection procedures, documentation requirements and logbook requirements. If you take the time to read all the information in the front of the Motorcycle Carriers Road Atlas, you will come away with more knowledge than when you started.

Most weigh station locations are relatively accurate, although there are weigh stations in use that are not marked on the atlas. Most trucking regulations are up-to-date and accurate, although no enforcement information is available. CoopsAreOpen has the most current and complete weigh station scales and DOT rules.

You can purchase the Deluxe Motor Carriers’ Atlas at most truck stops or online at the Rand McNally website. The cost depends on the time of year you buy it. The later in the year, the cheaper the price (because the new editions come out towards the start of a new year). Prices range anywhere from $30-$65. It also comes in a large print edition.

The Truckstop Guide

Any truck stop guide will do, as long as it has locations, phone numbers, and a list of services. A “Pocket Truck Stop Guide” is in order if you already know the places and sights. But for the rest of us, a more detailed guide is a good idea. You’ll be glad you spent the money when you want to know where the best places to stop are on the road ahead.

Truck stops used to mean good food and friendly people. It’s not always true these days, but you’re more likely to find these at a truck stop (or nearby) than throwing caution to the wind and hoping for the best. Truckstop guides tell you which truckstops have 24-hour service, repair shops and restaurants. You can usually gauge the size of the truck stop by the size of the lot listed in the guide.

If you need to do laundry, receive a fax, receive a delivery (FedEx, UPS, or DHL type), take a shower, or just need to get off the road for a few hours, a truck stop is a safe bet. A truck stop guide tells you what services the truck stops offer and provides the phone number if you want to call ahead to get the fax number or address.

Don’t be surprised that when you arrive, the Heavenly Haven you were hoping for is a Roach Ranch instead – truck stop guides don’t carry quality ratings. And many truck stops don’t allow you to use the shower facilities unless you’re a truck driver.

You can purchase several truck stop guides at most truck stops. Prices range from $13-$30.

Electric Cooler

Most oil rigs and other vehicles are not equipped with refrigerators, so a cooler box makes sense. The electric coolers (made by Igloo or Kool-a-tron) plug right into your lighter plug – no need to constantly drain water and refill with ice. They’re great for beverages and, in the short term, dairy products. They don’t cool to refrigerator temperatures, so foods that need refrigeration will spoil more quickly.

Meals at truck stop restaurants and other roadside eateries can become very expensive over time. Being able to keep staples like milk, luncheon meat, and mayonnaise can help keep costs down and make small meals more enjoyable.

The electric coolers double as food warmers. So if you’re traveling with prepared food, you can keep it warm all the way to your destination. Most truck drivers who do not own a refrigerator travel with one large electric cooler box and use it to keep groceries and drinks chilled.

You can buy an electric cooler at most truck stops or many super-type stores. Prices range from about $70 to $120 for large electric coolers.

Global Positioning System – Satellite Navigation

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Traveling with a map is great, but traveling with GPS can make navigating your course a lot easier. GPS indicates your exact position in relation to the map and the routing software determines your course and gives you turn-by-turn directions. Magellan, Pioneer, Alpine, Streets and Trips – they all have good mapping software. There are also plenty of other systems. However, these are all designed with cars in mind, not eighteen-wheelers. So you’ll want to keep that in mind if you’re driving anything bigger than an SUV.

There is a GPS mapping system designed for commercial vehicles called CoPilot Truck. It is designed to follow truck routes and avoid low bridges and routes that are unsafe for a truck driver. However, it is always the driver’s responsibility to know where you are or are not allowed and to use your own judgment on the route you choose.

Never rely entirely on your GPS. GPS is a great tool, but relying on it without common sense and your own ability to navigate and follow directions can get you into trouble from time to time. Road closures, map inaccuracies and wrong addresses are all concerns when it comes to using computer routing. Make sure you know where you are and where you are going at all times – just in case.

You can purchase a GPS system at most truck stops, electronics stores, and super specialty stores. It’s best to shop around. Most GPS navigation systems require a laptop to run them, although there are built-in and portable GPS systems. Prices for independent units range from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.

Mobile phone

When mobile phones first came out, they were an expensive investment. Local plans were often 20 cents a minute and roaming or long distance calls could get you into the poor house in no time. Today, you can find a reasonably priced service plan tailored to your needs.

Cingular, Verizon, Sprint PCS, and Nextel all have good plans and coverage areas. You also have the option of prepaid mobile, which can help if you’re on a tight budget (you never buy more than you can afford).

Cell phones are handy to have in case of an emergency or breakdown. But they are also good for keeping in touch with loved ones. You’ll find it’s worth talking on a cell phone instead of trying to have a private conversation through a payphone in a truck stop, even if it’s in a private payphone.

You can buy a cell phone at most truck stops, supermarkets, super-type stores, electronics stores, and individual mobile company stores. Cell phones range from free with a service contract to several hundred dollars. Plan prices vary largely depending on what your needs are.

Citizen’s Band Radio (cb)

The cb radio is the cornerstone of freight transport. It will be hard to find a truck driver who doesn’t have one, although there are truck drivers who choose to travel without the beep box, as it is sometimes called.

Many people go deep into the cb (and ham radio) lifestyle. You see cars running around with huge radio antennas and drag bars that ground the car for good reception – not a good idea in a thunderstorm. You see truck drivers with large antennas with coils on them pointing diagonally forward. Many truck drivers pay a lot of money to get big power into their radios.

Until you’re sure of what you want, you want to start small. You can spend a lot of money and if you don’t know what you are buying, you may have spent your money unnecessarily. For starters, a Cobra 25 or Cobra 29 will do just fine. You can take it to a radio shop at a truck stop that has a good reputation for getting it “peaked and tuned” and “tuned to your antenna” and you’ll put it to good use.

The CB radio is very useful in bad weather and traffic situations. You can talk to other drivers and find out what the roads are like for you and hear warnings of dangerous situations you may encounter. You will also find that there are many people who use the cb as their personal entertainment – talking non-stop and harassing other drivers. Sometimes it’s hard to get the information you’re looking for because there’s so much chatter on the airwaves. Still, it’s a good idea to have a cb radio so you can communicate verbally with the drivers around you when needed.

If you are new to trucking or cb radios you will find that truck drivers have their own language. They will be able to single you out as a newbie or beginner, so don’t bother trying to be a smooth talker at first. There are a few drivers who will bully you until you can “blend in”, but most drivers are helpful and don’t mind talking to a fellow traveler.

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You can buy a cb at most truck stops and electronics stores. Prices range from $20-$30 to hundreds of dollars.

Satellite radio

The birth of satellite radio was a huge milestone for the trucking industry. Most truckers who subscribe to one of the two services (XM Radio or Sirius Radio) can’t imagine trucking without satellite radio, even though they have been doing so for years. For most truck drivers, satellite radio isn’t an option… it’s become a necessity.

Hours and hours of driving can lead to boredom. It’s frustrating to lose an AM or FM radio station you’ve been listening to. Both XM and Sirius have hundreds of talk, comedy, sports and music stations that won’t fade no matter how far you drive.

The satellites orbit the Earth south of the US, so the farther north you drive, the more likely you are to experience a blocked signal. If you run through a valley between mountains or through a tunnel, your signal may drop until you reach clear skies again.

If you’re using the little “mouse” antenna that comes with most satellite systems, you’ll want to make sure it’s properly mounted on the top of your vehicle. If you mount the antenna to the side, if you are driving east or west and the antenna is on the north side of the truck, your vehicle may block the antenna from receiving a signal. If you are parked on the north side of a large warehouse, your antenna may be blocked from receiving a signal.

The larger your vehicle, the more likely you’ll want to switch to a truck antenna for satellite radio. These are larger and mount more like a cb antenna. They have a stronger signal in situations where the mouse antenna could lose signal.

Some transport companies offer satellite radio systems and/or service for their drivers, but for those who have to pay for themselves, it’s worth it.

You can purchase a satellite radio system at most truck stops, electronics stores, and car radio stores. Prices range from less than $100 for a plug-and-play unit to several hundred for an in-dash radio. You also have to buy the service from the provider for around $15/month to experience satellite radio.