Best GPS for Truckers in 2022

Published 7/18/2022

While popular navigation systems such as Google Maps and Waze have become commonplace with consumers, most truckers need specialized truck GPS units that take the vehicle size and cargo into account to avoid low bridges, roads with weight limits, and routes that limit commercial vehicles or certain cargo.

It is also dangerous–and in many places illegal–to use a mobile phone while driving. Instead, most truckers favor portable, large-screen GPS units that are easily mounted on the dashboard and do not divide the driver’s attention between a mobile device and the road.

Many of these systems also include advanced features that not only help truckers reach their destination quickly, but enjoy points of interest along the way.Before GPS units became popular, many truckers relied on the Rand McNally Road Atlas as they charted routes across the country but the popularity of paper maps has waned as they do not update when new trucking routes are designated or two-lane roads become six-lane highways.

If a driver takes even one wrong turn, it can cost a trucking company time and money. Similarly, when drivers need to reroute in the middle of a trip because of a low bridge or a road with a low weight limit, it cuts into the bottom line.

Garmin dēzl OTR700
Truck GPS
Buy on Amazon
Best GPS for Truckers
Garmin dēzlCam 785 LMT-S Truck GPS with Dash Cam
Buy on Amazon
Best GPS with Dash Cam for Truckers
TruckBook Mobile GPS App for Truckers
Apple App Store
Best GPS App for Truckers
About the author
Scott Elgin of Elgin Trucking & TruckInfo.net
Scott Elgin has been in the trucking business since 1982, acting as both a motor carrier and a freight agent at Elgin Trucking Co. During this time, he has overseen thousands of units servicing the entire continental United States.

What is GPS?

GPS, or Global Positioning System, uses signals transmitted from satellites to pinpoint a device’s location and determine its movement over time.

On its own, GPS only provides basic information like coordinates, but when combined with other technology, such as maps, and incorporated into navigational systems, it becomes a very powerful tool.

Once considered a high-tech novelty, GPS systems–many offered in the form of a mobile app like Waze or Google Maps–are now a must-have for millions of consumers. They do far more than help drivers stay on course without getting lost. Many popular GPS systems use real-time traffic updates to help drivers choose the fastest route and avoid accidents and road work.

But for a variety of reasons, the GPS systems that help commuters and travelers stay on course are not a great fit for the trucking industry.

Why Truckers Need Specialized GPS Systems

The country has an elaborate network of trucking routes and truckers need specialized GPS systems that know the weight and height limits of bridges, roads and overpasses, and whether or not hazmat loads are allowed in certain areas. Many roads also feature tolls that truckers should prepare for.

Specialized GPS systems for the trucking industry take these and a range of other factors into account as they help trucking businesses chart the best routes.

It is unwise–and can even be dangerous–for semis and other commercial trucks to use the GPS systems that are popular with consumers, like Waze or Google Maps, that can easily steer a semi to roads where they are not allowed, wasting time and money for truckers.

And aside from helping truckers avoid problems on the road, specialized GPS systems for trucking businesses offer other distinct benefits.

Benefits of Truck GPS Systems

The GPS systems used in the trucking industry range from the stripped-down and basic to systems with a range of helpful features. Some of the features popular with truckers and motor carriers–but which often add to the cost of the GPS system–include:

  • Electronic Logging Device compatibility
  • Hours of Service recording
  • Dashboard camera
  • Route and fuel optimization
  • Real-time traffic and map updates
  • Cost estimates for toll roads
  • Low bridges and overpasses information
  • Specialized trucking routes for a truck’s weight and dimensions
  • Information on truck stops and maintenance centers
  • 3D map views
  • Voice assistant and/or voice control
  • Smartphone integration
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth compatibility
  • USB ports

Carriers should consider the unique needs of their business, and how much money they are willing to spend, as they set about to purchase a GPS system.

Types of Truck GPS Systems

Pre-installed GPS: Newer trucks come with an Electronic Logging Device (ELD) pre-installed per a mandate by the FMCSA. These devices feature a GPS tracker, which is used by fleet managers to keep track of the location of their vehicles. These GPS systems are not the type drivers use to optimize their routes.

Portable/handheld GPS systems: These feature large screens and a range of helpful features for carriers (listed above). Many truckers mount these systems on their dashboards, and bring the unit with them if they change trucks. The most popular and widely used portable GPS systems are made by Garmin and Rand McNally.

Smartphone applications: A range of companies make smartphone-based GPS applications. These include:

  • TruckBook
  • Truck Map
  • TruckerPath
  • inRoute
  • Sygic GPS
  • Copilot GPS
  • PTV Navigator

Most are available via monthly subscriptions that range from around $9 to $30. Many truckers, however, complain that GPS apps crash frequently, and do not always offer updated route information. And since apps display on small phone screens, they are not considered the safest option for drivers. Using a cell phone while driving is actually illegal in nearly half of all U.S. states.

How to Update GPS Units

GPS systems need to be updated periodically, as conditions change on the road. Failing to update a system could result in suboptimal routes or worse, being directed towards roads that no longer exist, have lowered their weight limits, etc.

Popular Garmin units need to be connected to a desktop computer via USB cable, where device updates can be downloaded from a user’s Garmin account. Other units, like those offered by RandMcNally, are updated automatically with Wi-Fi connectivity.

Truckers should keep in mind the update process when comparing truck GPS units.

Rand McNally vs Garmin vs TomTom

A look at review sites, e-commerce top sellers, and online forums frequented by truckers shows that Rand McNally and Garmin portable GPS systems–both of which are easily mounted on the dashboard–are the most popular among truckers. Both companies have a long history in the navigation business, and both companies have a range of GPS units available for trucking businesses. TomTom, which makes a range of navigation and geolocation technologies, also offers a portable GPS units that many trucking companies use.

At a Glance:

  • Garmin was founded in 1989 and makes navigation systems for the marine, aviation, automotive and trucking industries. The company also makes GPS-enabled smartphones, smartwatches and other products, and its devices have the reputation of being reliable and long-lasting.
  • Rand McNally was founded in 1856 and was originally known for producing railroad guides, business directories and maps. Before the digital age, the Road Atlas by Rand McNally was the country’s trip-planning gold standard. The company today offers a range of digital fleet management and connected vehicle solutions, including popular GPS systems for the trucking industry.
  • TomTom was founded in 1991 in Amsterdam, and sells navigation software for carmakers, maps for automated driving, traffic data, and portable navigation units. The company is credited with offering some of the first satellite navigation devices to consumers.

What Truckers Like

Truckers love that Garmin and Rand McNally GPS units feature large display screens and are easily mounted on truck dashboards. Both companies also offer units that integrate with eLogs and can be controlled with voice commands, and route-planning features for both Garmin and RandMcNally get rave reviews from truckers. TomToms have slightly smaller, 6-inch screens, but drivers say they are as easy to read in bright light as in low light. The units also get good reviews for smartphone integrations that enable hands-free calling, and for their fast, automatic route updates.

 However, many carriers who use these systems say they each feature advantages and disadvantages:

Rand McNally advantages:

  • Better screen display
  • Simple functionality
  • Seamless integration with eLogs and ELDs

Garmin advantages:

  • Better automatic route updates, provided the unit is connected to Wi-Fi
  • Break-planning features, including information on gas stations, restaurants, rest areas, hotels, and Wi-Fi hotspots
  • Voice control

TomTom advantages:

  • Good smartphone integration
  • Simple route-planning
  • Screen easy to read in varying light levels

Since all three manufacturers offer a range of GPS systems, the advantages and disadvantages can vary by model.

How Much Does a Truck GPS cost? 

The most widely used portable GPS systems for trucking businesses range from about $200 for a simple system to more than $900 for a system with more features, with the most popular GPS units being in the $300 to $400 range. Second-hand systems can also be found for lower prices. Carriers are should be prepared to pay more for a GPS system if they want:

  • An extra-large truck navigator touchscreen with high-resolution display with either landscape or portrait view
  • Voice activation
  • Custom truck routing based on the size and weight of truck, with updates and alerts related to bridges, weight restrictions on roads, sharp curves, steep grades or other relevant information
  • Information on parking, restaurants, rest areas, gas stations and other amenities
  • Automatic map updates
  • Dashboard camera
  • Load-to-dock guidance when approaching a destination

How to Find the Best GPS for Truckers 

Every carrier will use different criteria when selecting the best GPS system to fit their unique business needs. Our selection of the top five GPS units for the trucking industry is based on reviews posted online by truckers, top-selling units on e-commerce sites, and those that get positive reviews by industry blogs and information portals. They are ordered based on the frequency of their mentions and numbers of positive reviews.

Some of those considered to be the best options have a number of features in common, including:

  • Screens larger than 6 inches
  • Detailed mapping, including 3D maps and the ability to zoom in on specific areas 
  • Traffic and weather alerts
  • Free map and route updates with Wi-Fi connectivity
  • Turn-by-turn directions with lane information (vs just road information)
  • Customizable features, including the ability to plan routes based on the truck’s length, width, height and weight
  • Information on gas stations, rest stops, and other amenities on the road
  • Integration with eLogs and ELDs

Popular Garmin units need to be connected to a desktop computer via USB cable, where device updates can be downloaded from a user’s Garmin account. Other units, like those offered by RandMcNally, are updated automatically with Wi-Fi connectivity.

Truckers should keep in mind the update process when comparing truck GPS units.

The Top 5 GPS Units for the Trucking Industry

Garmin dēzl OTR700

Price: $399

Ratings

  • Amazon Top-Selling GPS, rated 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • Best Buy rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars

What truckers say

  • Pros: Simple to use, great high-res screen, easy route planning
  • Cons: Alerts and updates occasionally inaccurate, software can be glitchy

Notable features

  • 7-inch touchscreen with high-resolution display
  • Custom truck routing (for some areas) based on the size and weight of truck
  • Alerts for upcoming bridge heights, sharp curves and other road conditions
  • Parking information along routes
  • Truck and trailer services directory with information on truck stops and other amenities
  • Load-to-dock guidance with loading zones and storage lots
  • “Most popular routes” feature
  • Voice control
  • Compatibility with Garmin ELD for Hours of Service Recording 
  • Automatic route updates with Wi-Fi connectivity
  • Preloaded maps for the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and Bahamas

Rand McNally TND 740

Price: $249

Ratings

  • Amazon 4.1 out of 5 stars
  • Best Buy 3.3 out of 5 stars

What truckers say

  • Pros: Relatively simple with few software bugs, fast route updates with Wi-Fi connectivity
  • Cons: No camera, no special routing for hazmat loads

Notable features

  • Easy to use interface
  • 7-inch screen
  • Advanced lane guidance in 3D
  • Live traffic and weather updates via Wi-Fi connectivity
  • Display preferences and customizable warnings
  • Compatible with Rand McNally ELD
  • Estimated toll costs
  • Navigation for the U.S. and Canada

Garmin dēzl 580 LMT-S

Price: $299

Ratings

  • Amazon 4.3 out of 5 stars
  • Best But 4.2 out of 5 stars

What truckers say

  • Pros: Easy to configure for different truck sizes/weights, smartphone compatible, free lifetime map upgrades, voice activation
  • Cons: None outside of common complaints for all GPS units that routes are not always perfectly optimized, and roads and buildings are not always upgraded

Notable features

  • 5-inch or 7-inch screen
  • Free live traffic and weather forecasts via the free Smartphone Link app
  • Customized truck routing based on size and weight of truck
  • Alerts for upcoming bridge heights, weight limits, sharp curves, steep grades and other road conditions
  • Suggestions on nearby restaurants, rest areas, gas stations, parking and weigh stations
  • Truck and trailer services directory
  • Voice activation
  • Automatic route updates with Wi-Fi connectivity
  • Preloaded street maps for the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and Bahamas

Rand McNally TND 750

Price: $399

Ratings

  • Amazon 4 out of 5 stars
  • Best Buy 3.3 out of 5 stars

What truckers say

  • Pros: Customizable navigation tools, mileage and fuel tracking
  • Cons: Interface tricky for new users, complications can arise when charging

Notable features

  • 7-inch screen with 800 x 1280 pixel resolution
  • Real-time traffic updates and weather overlays
  • Detailed routes with 3D renderings of buildings
  • Mileage and fuel tracking
  • On-screen alerts
  • Strong magnetic mount
  • Map coverage for the U.S. and Canada

TomTom Trucker 620

Price: $299

Ratings

  • Amazon 3.8 out of 5 stars
  • Best Buy 4 out of 5 stars

What truckers say

  • Pros: Simple interface, includes points of interest, the display works in various light conditions
  • Cons: Sometimes inaccurate, cannot be optimized for taller trucks

Notable features

  • 6-inch touchscreen 
  • Updated maps of the U.S. and Canada 
  • Customized routing, including for hazmat loads
  • Regular map updates via Wi-Fi connectivity
  • Hands-free calls and smartphone messages via Bluetooth
  • Information on 1500+ gas stations, parking locations, and service centers for large vehicles

The Best Trucking GPS with a Dash Cam

The Garmin dēzlCam 785 LMT-S is the best truck GPS with a dash cam. However, most truckers recommend purchasing a separate dash cam, which will usually have a better camera quality.

Reviewers on industry websites and e-commerce sites most frequently talk about this tablet and the similar unit Rand McNally TND Tablet 85, which also has a dash cam and sells at a similar price point of $499. 

But the Garmin dēzlCam 785 LMT-S model has similar features and better reviews.

Garmin dēzlCam 785 LMT-S GPS with Dash Cam

Price: $459

Ratings

  • Amazon 3.9 out of 5 stars

What truckers say

  • Pros: IFTA reporting feature, great graphics, voice command, ability to integrate with other Garmin devices
  • Cons: Camera quality is lower than most stand alone dash cams, harder to navigate than simpler GPS devices

Notable features

  • Camera-enabled alerts with forward collision and land departure warnings
  • Easy integration with Garmin backup cameras and the eLog ELD
  • Custom truck routing based on size, load, and weight of truck
  • Hands-free calling with Bluetooth
  • Truck and trailer service directory
  • 7 inch touchscreen
  • Magnetic mount

Other Popular GPS Systems by Garmin

  • Garmin dēzl OTR800 – Features an 8-inch touchscreen, which is larger than many other units on the market


Other Popular GPS Systems by Rand McNally

  • Rand McNally TND 540 – This is a compact model with a five-inch screen and a powerful processor inside for quick, over-the-air route updates

The Best GPS Apps for Truckers on iPhone and Android

While many truckers prefer standalone, portable GPS systems because of their large screens, there are also mobile phone apps that provide navigation for truckers. Some even feature the same real-time updates and route optimization by vehicle size/weight that Garmin and Rand McNally do.

Even though many companies and 24 US states forbid the use of mobile phones while driving, mobile GPS apps are still popular because turn-by-turn directions can be played through a vehicle’s speakers, which means handling the phone while driving is not necessary. 

Common GPS apps like Waze and Google Maps are not appropriate for truckers but many truck specific GPS apps are available.

TruckBook

This navigation app is part of a platform that offers a range of services to truckers, including load booking and payments.

  • Available on: Google Play, Apple App Store
  • Price: Free
  • Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars on Google Play, 4.7 out of 5 stars in Apple App Store

TruckMap

Truck Map connects to an online freight marketplace and offers guides to loading docks and other areas of shipping facilities.

  • Available on: Google Play, Apple App Store
  • Price: Free
  • Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars on Google Play, 4.7 out of 5 stars in Apple App Store

Trucker Path

Used by more than 950,000 truckers, Trucker Path is popular because it offers useful information on parking, weigh stations, fuel prices and truck stops.

  • Available on: Google Play, Apple App Store
  • Price: Multiple monthly and yearly membership tiers ranging from $1.99 to $149.
  • Rating: 4.1 out of 5 stars on Google Play, 4.7 out of 5 stars in Apple App Store

inRoute

Some truckers find inRoute useful because it lets them export their route to another GPS device or mobile app.

  • Available on: Apple App Store
  • Price: Free basic membership, additional membership tiers up to $49 per month
  • Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars in Apple App Store

Sygic GPS

Sygic GPS offers offline 3D maps, route alternatives, and voice-guided navigation.

  • Available on: Google Play, Apple App Store
  • Price: Three-month subscription for $12.49, one-year subscriptions from $14.49 to $26.49
  • Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars on Google Play, 4.6 out of 5 stars in Apple App Store

Copilot GPS

Copilot makes apps for both navigation and fleet management which can be customized by vehicle type

  • Price: $9.99 per month/$119 per year for truck navigation, other in-app purchases available
  • Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars on Google Play and in Apple App Store

PTV Navigator

PTV Navigator is available in 20 languages, and is used for both navigation and fleet management. The app is for international drivers, and covers Europe and the U.K.

GPS FAQs

Why does my GPS keep shutting off?

GPS units are not supposed to shut down or reboot while they are in use but truckers still report this happening at times. Depending on the manufacturer and model you are using, possible explanations for sudden shut-off include:

  • The GPS unit is in battery saving mode
  • The unit needs to be reset
  • The memory card needs to be removed
  • The device is not connected to a power source with the manufacturer’s cable

When should you program your GPS for your destination?

To minimize distracted driving, truckers should input their destination into the GPS unit and select a route before getting on the road.

Will my GPS work in Canada?

Most GPS units made by the top two manufacturers, Garmin and Rand McNally, cover Canada. Many models convert to the metric system automatically when a driver crosses the border. Additionally, some Garmin and Rand McNally units cover Mexico and U.S. territories like Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. 

Can you use Waze or Google Maps for trucking?

Waze and Google Maps are not good choices for trucking businesses.

They will steer trucks into areas where they are not allowed and will not offer information about low bridges or weight limits on overpasses and roads. It can be dangerous for commercial truckers to rely on navigation systems that were designed for consumers.

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