The following is an article authored by Rand McNally offering a review of the proliferation of GPS devices and specific RV applications.
GPS devices have become nearly ubiquitous in personal vehicles. Today, mapping and directions can be delivered via mobile phone, or a device mounted or factory installed in a vehicle.
With so many options, one may begin to wonder what really is the difference between routing solutions? Is it simply a brand preference, or is there more to it? What about “specialized” devices for RVs? Is it worth the additional dollars generally needed for these types of units?
GPS (global positioning system) has become an essential tool in navigation. GPS devices detect a user’s location, thereby allowing the delivery of relevant maps, directions, and other information.
GPS was developed by the U.S. Department of Defense and became fully available to the public in 1994. Satellites orbit the earth, sending signals to GPS devices, which in turn determine the user’s location. By combining satellite signals with digital mapping data, the navigation device calculates the best route to the desired destination. Besides mapping, GPS devices may show points of interest, offer turn-by-turn directions, and in some cases provide information about traffic conditions.
There are a variety of federal, state, and local laws that govern where large vehicles may or may not travel. Federal law governs: 1) the weight of vehicles on the Interstate System, and 2) the width of vehicles on the National Network. Often state or local jurisdictions will enact additional regulations based on RV lengths and width.
States and local jurisdictions may restrict or allow access by RVs. Physical restrictions occur due to low vertical clearances, such as bridges and underpasses, or due to weight and/or length constraints. Legal restrictions may apply related to items being transported, such as propane on board.
Needless to say, the nationwide collection and update of this data is an exhaustive, expensive and continual process for data suppliers and manufacturers of GPS devices, but critical for safe routing.
Benefits of RV navigation devices
Those using GPS devices for assistance with routing and navigation should employ a device that is designed specifically for navigating the type and size vehicle they are driving – one that contains information about restricted roadways, as well as takes into consideration the size of the vehicle (length, weight, height and load type) as it routes.
Although personal navigation devices (PNDs) – commonly called GPS devices – have existed for years for passenger cars, devices that accurately route large vehicles are relatively new. Part of the delay was in collecting RV-specific information on the roadways, which takes time and money. Unlike car devices, RV-specific GPS devices provide safe routing for such vehicles, ensuring that RVs and campers are not mistakenly routed on roads that cannot accommodate their weight or height. RV devices route to avoid low bridges, illegal routes and too-tight turns.
Drivers of RVs need to consider the ease of turns based on vehicle size (right for smaller vehicles and left for larger ones), and of course height and width. A car would not typically be concerned with this and therefore routing can be quite different.
And using a truck-oriented device is not the answer. RV GPS devices have propane restrictions for tunnels and bridges that are specific to the bottle sizes and volumes commonly carried on RVs.
(As an aside example, Rand McNally produces separate GPS devices for commercial truckers and RVers for this very reason. Although commercial vehicles and RVs may have similar size characteristics, there are distinct differences in routing an over-the-road truck and a motorized or towable RV or camper.)
In routing an RV, it is helpful to receive warnings about what lies ahead. An RV-specific GPS can be used to identify and warn of potential issues on the road ahead – steep grades, upcoming merges and lane changes, dirt roads, and more.
In addition to the safety of the RV, accurate routing for the vehicle size helps protect fellow travelers on the road by avoiding accidents and the delays they cause, while protecting the structural integrity of our highways.
Pay attention to data and signs
When considering an RV GPS device, it’s important to note the data source. Is the company reputable? Does the data have an updated copyright? Are map updates available? The best, freshest data will help with more accurate routing.
Road conditions and status can change. It is important to note that no matter what form of in-vehicle navigation a driver uses, he or she should pay attention to local signage. Local postings provide the definitive guidelines as they will be the most up-to-date.
Providing a great user experience
Robust road specifications as well as municipal and state restrictions are key in producing an RV-specific GPS device. But data collection is just one piece of the puzzle. Besides a route, what else enables an RV driver to be safe on the road and enjoy the trip?
RV-specific stops and points of interest are critical. An RVer may need to know where to find the nearest dump station or where to find overnight parking for a large vehicle.
In an emergency situation, and RVer may need to find the nearest RV dealer – or animal hospital for a beloved pet along for the ride. Campground locations, RV Parks and all the amenities (dump stations, showers, parking, and electric hook up) are also part of the navigation experience for RVs and campers. And since RVers are leisure travelers, useful information for trip planning, such as pre-planned getaways, pet-friendly locations, family festivals, and city information, also helps make traveling easier.
Beyond content, the device itself is important to the experience; RV-specific devices should be large, easy to use, with loud speakers and big buttons.
Putting it all together
GPS devices created specifically for RVs and campers can help take the worry out of routing. Such devices can cost more than their car counterparts, but the RV routing and content they offer is worth the price. The best units offer:
• RV-specific navigation with routing options for various types of RVs and campers;
• Routing based on physical and legal restrictions;
• Thousands of locations with distinct RV amenities (such as dump stations, RV repair, and restaurants and other facilities that allow RV parking), and tools geared just for RVs;
• Additional trip content that works for RVs and campers;
• And the right form factor for the device – large, loud and easy to use.