1.The old fashioned CB radio with a technological twist
Since the 1960s, truckers have been using CB radios to keep in contact with one another, sharing personal communication as well as important on-the-road tips—like weather conditions, traffic congestion, and unexpected rest stop or weigh station closings. Though the CB is still popular because of its person-to-person communication abilities, new models incorporate weather radios, blue tooth technology, and wireless mounts to allow easy road condition communication.
For example, Cobra makes a CB radio that incorporates a weather radio, including ten National Weather Service channels. National Weather Service transmitters broadcast for about 40 miles, and are located throughout the United States, though terrain can often interfere with their signals. For this reason, CB/weather radio combos have advantages over weather radio only units. The CB can be used for communication when National Weather Service transmitters are too far out of range, in addition to allowing truckers to conference over other road condition issues like construction and traffic. According to Tim Wylder’s post in “Life on the Road,” a trucking blog, a CB/weather radio is a good way to stay informed as weather is changing.
- Cellular Phone Updates
With Cell phones and CB radios, it’s easier than ever before for truckers to stay in contact with one another. Obviously, cell phones, like CB radios, allow a person to rely on others for road condition updates. If you’d rather consult a service than your friends and family about road updates, however, many websites have programs that can be downloaded onto cellular phones for road condition updates. The popular web service Google Maps has a mobile version that beams real-time traffic updates to your cell phone or PDA. The service also comes with other useful goodies, like interactive maps and written directions. Weather.com has a similar program for real-time satellite radar maps. A cell phone with wireless web access is all that’s needed to download the free programs.
- Web Chat Rooms
If you have a laptop with a wireless internet card in your cab, road condition chat rooms for truckers are an option for you. Like the CB radio and cell phone, these chat rooms allow truckers to communicate with each other about important road condition updates. Thetruckersreport.com has one such chat room, and truckmiles.com includes an alphabetical by-state list of road condition links, including state Department of Transportation sites. Although chat rooms such as thetruckersreport.com aren’t affiliated with any service like the National Weather Service or The Weather Channel, they are a good resource for truckers looking for specific information about a specific area, especially if that area is remote. These chat rooms allow users to post topics and reply to others’ topics. Users can also add images, like weather or traffic congestion maps, to their posts.
- Internet Weather and Traffic Websites
For those internet connected truckers who can’t find what they are looking for in chat rooms, or who want a second opinion, a variety of road condition service websites are available across the internet. Besides weather.com, many other websites offer up-to-the-minuet weather and traffic info. Wylder recommends National Skywarn, a severe weather prediction site that includes national weather radar and can be used to check out upcoming or present weather conditions. Weather Underground, another of Wylder’s recommendations, allows users to pick the radar location nearest their trucks and learn important information about the speed and direction of wind and rain during storms. Similarly, traffic.com provides traffic maps and conditions for areas in the United States. Users can select their area by address, city, or state. The website gives information about road closings, construction, and other circumstances, like parades or fires, that might lead to traffic congestion.
- Desktop Road Condition Alert Programs
Websites that deal with road conditions are useful and contain quite a bit of information, but they make the trucker do all the work. Though checking the sites to get an idea of the day’s drive is beneficial before starting work, truckers need something to alert them immediately while in their cabs. That’s where desktop road condition programs come in. Like cell phone alert programs, these laptop-downloadable gadgets send out road condition reports when they’re most needed. Though they require an internet connection to work, the programs save truckers the work of having to research road conditions by alerting them to severe weather or traffic conditions when they occur. Weatherbug and Weather.com are two of the most popular programs. Weatherbug also provides a severe weather widget for Macintosh computers, while Traffic.com provides free e-mail or text message traffic alerts
Road conditions play a very important role in the trucking industry, and avoiding dangerous circumstances and delays is crucial to every successful trucker. Thanks to trucker-to-trucker communication, and advances in technology, several options for getting road condition updates exist. So, take your phone, computer, or CB radio in hand and prepare to stay informed!