Truck stops generally always sell a variety of truckers atlas books and trucker maps. Did you know that buying the wrong kind can cost you money? We will share with you not only our experience but provide our recommendation.
When we were in truck driver training school, we were each issued a paper map book and given some basic instructions about how to use it.
We took those with us on the road after we got our first truck driving jobs.
Being newbies, there was a lot about navigating the USA that we didn't know. Hailing from the southeast, we had absolutely no experience driving in some parts of the country. So, we referred to the books often -- that is, until they wore out!
The pages were paper and the spine regularly got "cracked" by our repeated opening of the map book all the way so we could read the maps without them flipping closed. As you may have guessed, it didn't take long for first one book and then the other to completely fall apart!
So, we found ourselves in the market to buy a new set of trucker maps. We visited the stores of a few truck stops and noticed just how many different kinds of truckers atlas books were on sale.
Disclaimer: We focus on Rand McNally road atlases on this page; there are other map books but this brand seems to be the most popular in truck stops.
In a nutshell, there were both truck-specific and non-truck specific map books. At right is a photo of a non-truck specific map book. DO NOT buy one of these to do your trucking work -- even if it does read "GPS and Online Travel Partner" on the front -- because it will not give you all of the information you may need.
The kind of truckers atlas you want is what is referred to as a "Motor Carriers' Road Atlas" and it will always have a picture of a large commercial motor vehicle on the front.
The display pictured at left shows that two of the truckers atlas books are sold out.
Let's take a closer look at the covers to see the differences between them (and why their costs differ).
Touted as "America's Best-Selling Trucker's Atlas" this Motor Carriers' Road Atlas (2010 edition) cost $9.99. The features of this book include:
It is the least expensive of all the truck-specific map books on sale here.
The Deluxe Motor Carriers' Road Atlas has everything that the one above does except that it has laminated pages and a spiral binding.
It is definitely a step up from the paper pages of the truckers atlas above and well it should be because the price is three times that of the map book above.
The laminated pages work very well, but since every page is laminated, the book can feel heavy.
The spiral bound, sheet-protected Large Scale Motor Carriers' Road Atlas is our favorite and the one that we highly recommend. (Note: at least one of Rand McNally's Large Scale map books is paperback.)
But the one we're recommending has the same great spiral binding (no more flipping closed when you're trying to read a map) as the Deluxe version. However, instead of the thick, glaring laminated pages, it has "wear and tear resistant, no-glare pages."
The maps are larger, which we'll see below...
|This map of South Carolina is in a Deluxe Motor Carriers Road Atlas. Notice that it fits all on one page.|
|This map of South Carolina is in a Large Scale Motor Carriers Road Atlas. Due to its large scale footprint, it fits on two pages.|
|This photo shows a comparison of the sizes of South Carolina maps between the Deluxe and Large Scale Motor Carriers Road Atlases.|
|In this photo, Mike Simons uses his Large Scale truckers atlas to look up information. In the background, his computer is showing routing software.|
Does a trucker with a GPS unit in his/her truck still need a traditional truckers atlas?
We say yes. Why?
What if your GPS unit goes out? What will you do?
It's a good idea to have a back-up. Furthermore, it is a great idea to become very familiar with all of the features in the front of the book, especially the low clearances and restricted routes.
Money saving tip: A truckers atlas with laminated or wear-and-tear-resistant pages will last longer than a paper-only map book, given the same amount of use. Although more expensive, it can last longer, being able to be used for perhaps a few years (at least that's what we've done). It should be noted that new map books have up-to-date information that older books don't have. You should consider updating your atlas every 2-3 years.
Trucker maps seem to be most expensive when they first come out. If you wait a few months, the price (at least in our experience) comes down.
Non-glare pages will assist you when the sun or an interior light in your truck is angled in such a way that the light would reflect back at you.
Depending on where you buy your atlas, it can be more or less expensive than buying one online. If you buy a Rand McNally 2010 Large Scale Motor Carrier's Road AtlasTravel Guides) online, look for free shipping. If you buy through Amazon.com, look for the Super Saver Shipping option.
If you buy a truckers atlas in a truckstop, aim to buy one if you can in a state with a lower state sales tax.
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