If you’ve been following my blog-things, you’ll know that I don’t usually stay on one topic for long. I’m really all over the place, which isn’t far off from how I am in person. In case you didn’t know, for the past 2.5 years, I’ve been driving an 18-wheel semi truck across the lower 48 States for work. There are a few things that I’ve learned I can’t be without in my truck, and a GPS/SatNav is one of them.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing more invaluable on the road than a good old road atlas. I always have one to cross-reference routing information that I’m given for a trip. I wouldn’t do well with JUST a gps to get me from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ because gps maps still have routing flaws, as I’ll mention here. This won’t be an in-depth review, because I simply don’t have the time, but I want to share my experience with this unit thus far.
I have used Garmin and Cobra trucker GPS units in the past. Although Garmin is a long-time name in the industry, Google Maps (Android) does a far better job at finding one’s destination in the UK, and they still have a lot to learn about the needs of professional truck drivers. My Cobra 5500 was a big improvement, however their maps seemed very outdated straight out of the box. This was a model before lifetime maps updates were available. After doing a week of online research on the newest models on the market for trucker navigation, I narrowed my results to three brands that had the best user reviews on build quality, electrical reliability, trucker features and navigation accuracy…as well as bonuses like lifetime maps, traffic, bluetooth, wifi and weather overlays. These models were the Garmin DEZL 760, Cobra 8000 Pro HD and Rand McNally TND 720…all 7″ displays, which is a bump up from previous models I’ve owned. Based on MY needs and wants, as well as cost/feature value, I ended up with the Rand McNally model.
For a full list of specs and features, please visit their website at http://www.randmcnally.com/products/intelliroute_tnd/intelliroute_tnd_720.jsp
Here’s what *I* liked about this unit:
- WiFi capability (in truck stop parking lot or your own hotspot) to use real-time weather radar map overlay. This is useful to know what’s ahead of you without needing to check on your phone or computer before you leave for the day. You can choose from types of precipitation, wind speeds, temperature and more. Keep in mind that this only stays accurate while driving if you’re receiving 3G or 4G data service.
- Accurate posted speed limits and warnings before entering reduced speed areas. If you’re in a state or area that posts a separate truck speed limit, that icon will show up in orange. If none, it will show a white ‘mph’ sign listed for all vehicles. Below that, it will show you a circle in green that indicates your current speed. I have that customized to turn red when I’m going more than 5mph over that speed limit, and an audible warning if I’ve been exceeding that for more than a few seconds.
- Because of the large 7-inch display, Rand McNally was able to cram a lot of pertinent information on the main screen, and once your eyes are trained to it, it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. This was handy because I’d have to open up tabs and fiddle through menus on previous models I’ve owned, and that’s distracting and dangerous at times.
What I *didn’t* like about it was the unnecessary “ruggedized” bezel. I can’t say that I’ve ever been in a situation where my GPS was beaten up because it has always been kept safe in a case or on the suction cup windshield mount. Because the widest-mouthed universal GPS mounts you can find at the chain truck stops only open so much, I was barely able to shove this unit in mine securely. The suction cup mount that comes in the box is not extendable from the windshield to your dash, so it’s more-or-less useless unless you want to lean way forward to touch the screen…which isn’t exactly safe while driving. In the next redesign, I hope they lessen the bulk of the bezel but keep the soft-touch rubberized feel.
Before I began using this GPS, I did a maps/construction zone update online to make sure everything was as current as possible. Within my first week, I found the routing, both in ‘fastest’ or ‘shortest’ mode, to be highly unpractical and sometimes downright weird. There are more issues with the routing with this Rand McNally model than with my Cobra model. Cobra was usually on-par to my Qualcomm routing and needed very little cross-checking with atlas maps. With my very first use, I was going down a familiar route from my home terminal to the Interstate, and, in “shortest” mode, it had me routed a longer way…and in “fastest” mode, it had me turning down a small-town downtown road with very slow speed limits. A few days later, going WB on I-80 in Wyoming, it wanted to have me exit 20 miles ahead of the truck stop exit and take a back road, and when I passed that, it recalculated me to exit onto a frontage road 15 miles from the truck stop…when I could’ve just stayed on I-80 until the actual truck stop exit. Made no sense at all. I’ve been seeing these issues in other places around the country ever since, and it’s frustrating. It’ll be much more frustrating when I’m in a territory I’m generally unfamiliar with, as big trucks can’t afford to take incorrect exits and end up in a bad place for such a long, tall and heavy vehicle. This issue comes as a surprise, as I expected Rand McNally to be the leader in navigation maps, given their history.
Overall, I’m pleased with the layout and intuitiveness of the screens and menu system. The details professional drivers need and look for are all here, however I would like to see a side tab include miles until next travel center, rest area/svc plaza and weigh station available. This was a feature on my Cobra GPS that I found very useful. The full-screen pop-ups just prior to a weigh station are fine, but the ‘miles until’ option would be a nice addition.
Should I find any other issues show themselves, I’ll amend this blog post. Until then, I welcome other drivers comment with their opinions and input. Thanks for stopping by!
UPDATE: I accidentally broke the plastic threaded tip of the original car charger for this unit. The device labels directly caution NOT to use non-OEM cables with this unit. I was desperate to continue utilizing this GPS on the road, so I dug out the car charger for my 5″ Cobra GPS. It blew out both 12v sockets and immediately melted the Cobra charger, so it’s a fire hazard to use anything else but Rand McNally’s charging cables! I will hand it to Rand McNally, though… they DID mail me a replacement cable at no charge when I called their support number.