Maps, Mapping, GPS, And Geocaching

The ability to find locations and plot destinations is integral to the trucking industry. Since the start of trucking, maps have been necessary for pinpointing locations for dropping off and picking up shipments. Mapping has evolved from large, unwieldy pieces of paper to the convenient GPS tracking devices and apps that truckers use every day. Even geocaching, a fun and exciting hobby for people who like adventure, has lent elements to modern-day shipping and tracking in the trucking industry. We are going to look at these things, and how they are integrated with the trucking industry.

Freight Transportation System
USGS National Transportation Dataset
Traffic Volume Maps
Maps And The Trucking Industry

The field of creating maps, or cartography, has evolved tremendously since the early days of the trucking industry. While we tend to think of maps as a layout of physical locations which allow truckers to get from one point to another, maps offer much more information than we think. Raw information can be used to create maps of all kinds. Road maps are the most common, and once filled entire racks at filling stations across the United States and Canada before the advent of GPS and Google Maps. Then there are weather maps. Looking at a regular road map is very helpful when trying to figure out how long it will take to get our truck to a different location, but the estimated time is dependent on the weather. Doppler radar and the data from NOAA satellites can give information on precipitation, storm damage, and other meteorological factors which can delay shipments, or force truckers to find alternate routes. Today, there are even traffic maps, that detail highway congestion, accidents, and emergencies, all delivered in real-time to help truckers travel to their destinations more efficiently.

The National Map
National Geographic Map Database
Interactive Maps
National Weather Service
National Statistics and Maps
Alternative Fuels Data Center
United States Department of Transportation


Mapping is a very dynamic field of study. Truckers rely on mapping, to be honest, and accurate. In big cities, where construction is prevalent, truckers depend on mapping to show which roads and highway lanes are closed and if there are alternate routes available. In some cities in the western part of the United States, new roads are being built as populations expand. Mapping cannot remain static, because information becomes outdated and revised regularly. While the cartographers are busy making sure all information is as accurate as possible, truckers are constantly doing mapping on their own. Picking up or delivering shipments across the United States and Canada is not easy, and the trips can be long. Planning a route from point A to point B requires accurate and up-to-date data. Problems arise if a trucker is mapping a route using outdated information, and discovers the stop-off points for fuel and lodging do not exist because the places closed down or relocated.

Brief History of Maps and Cartography
Fundamentals of Mapping
The New Cartographers
How a Modern-Day Mapmaker Does His Job
Modern cartography as a science
Modern Cartography and Route Mapping
Maps And Alternate Routes

Driving a truck requires quick thinking on the fly. If a route is blocked due to traffic, weather, or bad road conditions, truckers need to find an alternate path to their destination. Just a few decades ago, planning a detour because of unexpected conditions could add upwards of a couple of days onto a haul. Today, with digital mapping, truckers can calculate alternate routes without having to stop or make up time because of delays.

GPS And The Trucking Industry

GPS, or Global Positioning System, was a revolutionary bit of technology, which has made trucking much more efficient. The impact GPS has had on trucking can be felt from the top of the fleet to the individual truck drivers, and even the customers. Using a dedicated GPS, or even an app on a smartphone, truckers can get accurate information about their locations, traffic conditions, construction, weather, nearby filling stations, lodging, tolls, and more. The integration of GPS means truckers have to spend less time making calculations for alternate routes or stopping to try and find what is up ahead on the highway. GPS does not, contrary to belief, encourage laziness. GPS tracking allows truckers to concentrate on getting to their destinations safely, without getting distracted by having to constantly plan for contingencies, or pulling over to unfold a map to compare it with what they are actually seeing. GPS tracking is the driving force behind new and upcoming technologies for the trucking industry, and the innovations can be traced back to a niche sport known as geocaching.

How to Report Residential Truck Traffic Due to Improper Route Suggestions
Global Positioning System History
Global Positioning System
A brief history of GPS
Global Positioning Systems History
History of GPS Satellites and Commercial GPS Tracking
The History of the Global Positioning System
The 2,000-Year History of GPS Tracking


Back in 2000, in the Pacific Northwest, a man named Dave Ulmer developed the concept of geocaching. A “cache” was hidden, containing unknown but intriguing contents, and the coordinates were made available to those who were interested. Using GPS tracking devices, people with a flair for adventure would go searching for these hidden contents. From that small expedition in Oregon, the sport of geocaching was born, and it has since spread throughout the world. Geocaching competitions have become the modern version of the treasure hunt. People are using geocaching to find trinkets, as part of large and elaborate games, and even competitively. But elements of geocaching have made their way into the trucking industry, not as a sport, but to help businesses run more efficiently.

Join the world’s largest treasure hunt
Geocaching BSA
Geocaching Toolbox
geocaching (GPS stash hunting)
Project Geocaching
About Geocaching
How Geocaching Is Pushing The Boundaries Of The Trucking Industry

Geocaching made a fun game for explorers by giving the location of a prize. Participants would use every method listed above, from cartography to GPS tracking to plan their routes and get to their goals. The trucking industry is taking the concept further. Companies like IBM are developing Blockchain technology, which can give the status of shipments. While it is nothing new to use GPS technology and elements of geocaching to give customers a fairly accurate estimate of where a shipment is and how long it will take to arrive at its destination, Blockchain technology is pushing the boundaries. Customers, truck drivers, and fleet owners can not only find the position of a vehicle carrying a shipment but also get the details of individual items within that shipment. Previously, if a truck delivered goods and a few of those items were damaged, it would be a strike against the driver. Sometimes, the situation would result in a recall from the manufacturer or distributor. Ultimately, a lot of money would be lost and blame would be thrown around to all parties involved. Blockchain technology monitors individual items from their source, along the truck route, and even to the point where they are purchased by the consumer. This allows people to pinpoint problems and saves tremendous amounts of money in cases such as faulty consumer electronics and worse, illnesses related to bad food shipments. This granular use of mapping, GPS, and geocaching makes the trucking industry run more efficiently and removes a lot of unnecessary litigation from the shoulders of fleet owners and independent drivers.

The Truck Is A Mobile Command Center

When you stop and think about it, truck drivers have access to a wealth of information, and process data very quickly to get shipments from one point to another. From using real-time maps to plot routes to using GPS tracking to make adjustments on the road, truck drivers are in control of their own mobile command centers. In the near future, mapping technology, as well as the innovations that spring from it, will allow truckers to control small groups of trucks on the same route, monitor the entire health of their vehicles, and check on the condition of the items they are carrying on a long haul, all from the driver’s seat. Despite the innovations and push for automated vehicles, right now, maps, monitoring, GPS, and more point to the need for human truck drivers behind the wheel for years to come.