Ahh, remember the “good ole days” where we printed our driving directions from a map we looked up online, on our desktop computer? The computer that every one in the house shared, and it was set up in the corner of the dining room.
Believe it or not, before the convenience of getting driving directions online, “old school” truck drivers planned their routes by unfolding and reading paper road maps. Yes, there as once a time where reading a road map was the only way we could navigate from one place to the next.
Ask any veteran truck driver, and they’ll be sure to remember the days of pulling over on the side of the road, spreading a road map out on the hood of their big, gas-guzzling sedan – or trying to pin it to the side of their 18-wheeler – and trying to figure out which exit was missed, before finally realizing that the map was upside-down.
Back when zooming in on a section of the map meant taking the magnifying glass out of the glove box to focus on the teeny print of obscure street names and cities no one has ever heard of. When searching for businesses on a map was a matter of hoping the street was big enough to print numeric address block indicators.
If there’s one thing that might make you love your GPS navigation even more, it’s observing the offbeat holiday known as National Read a Road Map Day.
Every year on April 5th, Americans remember that folding road maps truly is a lost art, and that you really can travel without satellites in outer space. (Though, it might not be wise to attempt your next delivery with a “real” road map unless you’re sure it’s up-to-date.
Why Celebrate National Read a Road Map Day
Today, truck drivers rely on a variety of maps – GPS, Google Maps, Google Earth, TruckMiles.com, directions from dispatch, or even specific directions from the customer. And, of course, a good old fashioned road map.
But, if you think younger generations are losing the art of map-reading, you’d be right about that. Third grade social studies classes used to teach an entire map-reading course. But many schools aren’t even teaching social studies because it’s not generally on standardized tests.
To celebrate the art of road map reading – and to make sure it does’t go extinct – you might consider taking your kids on an old-fashioned road trip, or if you want to see if you’re tough enough to hang in an analog world, celebrate the day by mapping out a day trip ahead of time and stashing the GPS. (Just for the day. C’mon! You can do it!)
Read a Road Map…No Driving Required!
You probably see road maps displayed for sale at every truck stop you’ve ever visited, but you can also pick them up for free at any AAA office, if you’re a member. Online retailers also sell maps, as do some book stores, grocery stores, and drug stores.
There are a couple things things to remember about old-fashioned maps. Road maps don’t get automatic updates like your cellphone map app. Construction happens, and roads change, so it’s good to “update” your map by buying a new one each year. And, unlike your GPS, a road map won’t tell you how long the drive will take, and they don’t alert you if you’ve missed a turn. So choose your road trip buddy carefully because it’s their job to navigate.
Don’t have a trip in mind? Haul out the road maps and give them a peek anyway. Got any old ones stashed? It’s fun to see how things have changed over time. The symbols, road names and layout of cities are interesting to look at even when you’re not going anywhere. Maps are a fun way to kill a few hours – though most of that time might be spent trying to re-fold the map the right way. Reminisce about the misadventures from your glory days and remember what the world was like before GPS.
As a truck driver today, you might criss-cross the nation using your GPS without giving it much thought; punch in your destination, and let your Sat-Nav do the rest. But what happens when your battery dies, or you lose satellite signal? It might be wise to brush up on your map reading skills and keep several general roadmaps in your truck for such an occasion!
Rand McNally even prints maps specific for motor carriers with updated restricted routes, low clearance, and weigh station locations.
Remember, the right training makes all the difference in your success as a truck driver. When you go through CDL training at US Truck Driving School, you’ll get trip-planning knowledge from instructors with a million miles of experience, plus a network of drivers all trying to navigate the roads just like you!