Mobile Office: GPS Units

GPS: Finding Your Way

Aftermarket GPS devices for working pickups


By Larry Walton

Years ago I had a boss who did a stand-up routine when giving directions to the next job. He’d say, “well, you go down to the … if you start by heading up … “ After trailing off a couple of times he would end with, “You just can’t get there from here.”

According to, TomTom offers exclusive technology that evaluates routes based on actual traffic speeds, rather than posted speed limits, and will recommend the fastest route for the time of the day.

Getting there from here is important. Getting the crew from the shop to the job site or from one job site to the next quickly and efficiently over the course of the year can really impact the bottom line.

As much as we would like to supply each crew member with a top-trim-level pickup equipped with OEM navigation system, we can also think of better ways to spend the transportation budget.

The solution may be found in aftermarket, portable GPS devices. The leading manufacturers of these modern marvels have been successfully making these little computers with eyes in the sky for many years.

They are accurate, reliable and in most cases, easier to use than the upscale built-ins. They are safer to use than most smart phone applications because the mounting, displays and voice commands were specifically designed with safe, hands-free driving in mind.


Garmin nüvi 2595LMT
The nüvi 2595LMT by Garmin can be voice-activated or by intuitive touchscreen interface. Simply wake up nüvi with a customizable voice command and begin speaking menu options that are clearly displayed on the screen. In an emergency the “Where Am I?” locator provides your exact latitude and longitude coordinates, the nearest address and intersection, and the closest hospitals, police stations and more.

I’ve tested a lot of these units over the years. Features have come and gone. Few business owners would miss having mp3 capabilities or photo storing and viewing, which have been replaced with cell phones.

However, these devices can handle some tasks that may not otherwise be covered in a base model pickup.

Perhaps the most useful functions for pickup drivers, in addition to easy navigation, are:

Magellan RoadMate 9055
A 7-inch color touch screen, hands-free calling and a noise-cancelling microphone highlight the features of the RoadMate 9055 by Magellan. Technology includes OneTouch favorites menu, free lifetime traffic information and spoken street names and directions so you can hear upcoming turn directions. Route customization lets you choose the shortest distance, fastest time, most use of freeways, or least use of freeways.

• Spoken street names and directions so you can hear upcoming turn ­directions

• Bluetooth for hands free phone use

• Backup camera monitor capabilities


The portability of these useful GPS navigators increases their value by making them useful to more employees in more places.

Rather than equipping each vehicle, they can be issued as needed for a specific job or outing. You can even send one along with employees flying out of town to bid a job, attend a conference or trade show.

Destination addresses can be preloaded making navigation even safer and easier when employees are in unfamiliar territory.

When setting up portable GPS devices, keep in mind that navigation is more intuitive for most employees when the display is in 3D (like the view through the windshield) versus 2D, which is like reading a map.

Cobra 550 Pro is ideal for both commercial vehicle use and pickups.

You can also store the shop or home location of your business so they can always return your pickup, which you will find is as valuable as having them find their way to the jobsite with the help of a little voice on the dash.

Cobra Electronics offers several models specific to the trucking industry and for pickup users.

Long haul services and log features in the Cobra 550 Pro will be helpful to our big rig readers.

Additionally, companies moving equipment could really benefit from the Cobra’s truck-specific routing, which can help avoid the dangers of low overhead clearance and insufficient bridge support structures.