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Road Atlas: Does a Truck Driver Need A Rand McNally Motor Carrier's Road Atlas?

Updated: Feb 21, 2022


If your phone or GPS dies, you are out of luck. But if you have a road map and know how to use it, I bet you can find your way.

When I started driving a truck, we didn't have GPSs, a driver had to know how to read a map or ask someone else for directions.

A Rand McNally Trucker's Motor Carriers Road Atlas provides information including:

Detailed coverage of interstates & highways.

Toll roads & service plazas.

Restricted truck routes.

Low clearance bridges.

Stationary weigh stations.

Rest areas and Welcome Centers.

City to City Mileage.

Information concerning Hazardous Materials Regulations.

Bridge Formulas

Pretrip and Post trip Inspections

No need for batteries or electricity.

Laminated pages.

Spiral bound.

Durable and long lasting.

Keep reading to find out how these features can benefit you. As you read this article you will probably ask yourself, "Why does she keep writing "Rand McNally Motor Carriers' Road Atlas?"

I keep repeating the name, because there is a big difference between a regular "Rand McNally Atlas" and a "Rand McNally Motor Carriers' Road Atlas". One format is made for cars, while the other is made specifically for tractor trailers and other large vehicles.


Detailed Coverage of Interstates and Highways

Rand McNally is known far and wide by truckers of all ages and experience. Rand McNally Motor Carriers' Road Atlas has been my go to map since 1992.

Each map page has a legend that provides the user with details about the roads.

Including U.S. Interstates outlined in blue.

Four lane highways and principle highways in pinks.

Toll roads outlined in green.

And routes that can be accessed by a tractor trailer, camper or RV are designated with an orange line highlighting the all of the accessible roads above.

As a truck driver, you can look at the entire United States and plan a route from Georgia to California, or New York to Las Vegas.

Or if you just need the principle highways to get to a delivery, you can view the entire state or if it is in a major city you have the option of a close up view.


Toll Roads and Service Plazas

Toll roads are becoming more and more common. Many states have toll roads in major cities.

McNally's Motor Carrier Atlas highlights toll roads in green.

I can quickly grab my map and look see where a toll road begins and ends. I can also see if there maybe another truck approved route that I would rather take.

Toll roads are costly, especially for truckers, many toll roads charge by the number of axles a vehicle has and the amount of miles driven on the toll road.

I have gotten caught on toll roads without cash to pay, it was not a fun experience. I had to park to the side walk inside and deal with the lady behind the counter, who informed me that they only took cash. Or they could send a bill to my trucking company, but it would be a higher amount.

The other feature that Rand McNally's Motor Carrier's Road Atlas provides is service plazas.

Service Plazas are denoted with a black bus symbol.

Yeah, those little stores along the route where a driver can stop and grab a bite to eat, take a break, or go pee, without having to get off the toll road.

They make it seem like the the service plaza is a convenience for the vehicles traveling on the toll road, but if you have ever stopped at one, you know IT'S HIGHWAY ROBBERY!

It's a good idea to have snacks, drinks, and something to make a sandwich with. These little goodies can tide you over until you get off of that expensive piece of real estate.


Restricted Truck Routes

I use to live on a road that was restricted truck traffic, but my dad would drive down that road every day to get home. I often wondered how a truck driver knew before they got off the road that they would have a restricted route.

Rand McNally has made it easy with their Motor Carrier Atlas, all approved routes for tractor trailer are highlighted in orange.

If it's not highlighted in orange you need to be very cautious if you call a shipper or receiver and the person answering the phone gives you directions that they drive everyday in a car.

Ask questions:

Are there any low bridges?

Is this the usual route that "TRACTOR TRAILERS" take to get to the warehouse?

Are there any landmarks, like a restaurant or a purple house at the intersection were I need to turn?

Even if the route is highlighted, it is still a good idea to ask these questions. In a large city like Chicago, if you follow the directions that some people give you or if you make the wrong turn you will be regretting every moment of it.


Low Clearance Bridges

Asking for directions and asking the right questions can keep you out of jam. If you know before hand which roads you will be on, Rand McNally's Motor Carrier Atlas provides a list of low bridges in the front section of the book. Don't take a chance of running up on a low clearance bridge.

I know this because I delivered to McCormick Place in Chicago, on the way out I missed my turn. Not only did I miss my turn to get back on the interstate, but I had another driver following close behind me.

As I wiggled my way through the city of Chicago, I was really nervous.

I could picture in my mind every low bridge I had ever passed.

I imagined having to back not just one truck, but two trucks through the busy streets of Chicago.

I had nowhere to park to look at a map, so stupidly or luckily, your choice, we both made it back to the interstate with out any problems.

If I did run up on a low bridge my map has detailed, expanded sections of large cities.


Stationary Weigh Stations & Ports of Entry

Weigh stations that have buildings and an in ground scale are considered stationary.

McNally uses a red circle with and arrow pointing to weigh stations.

It is always helpful to know where a weigh station is, you never know when they will be pulling in trucks for full inspections.

I have always driven with the idea that I did not need to be pulled in for inspections.

I have worked for a few companies that would send the trucks and drivers they knew would pass an inspection into the weigh station to ask for an inspection.

McNally's Motor Carrier Road Atlas also provides information concerning Ports Of Entry.

A Port of Entry is marked with two flags crossed, one is black, the other is white.

While you may be thinking that you don't need to know where a Port of Entry is because you are not going into Mexico or Canada, Texas has a Stationary Port of Entry in I-10.


Rest Areas and Welcome Centers

Rest Areas and Welcome Centers are usually a great place to stop and stretch your legs. These days most rest areas have toilets, but when I first started driving there were some that didn't have toilets.

McNally's Motor Carrier Road Atlas uses a blue house for rest areas with toilets and an outlined blue house for rest areas with out toilets.

Rest areas and welcome centers usually have toilets, snack machines, drink machines, a map on the wall, and several stands that hold motel flyers. Many rest areas have an animal walking track, but make sure to take a bag to clean up after your fur baby.

Many rest areas have security officers, while other rest areas do not. Either way make sure to lock your doors, do not walk in between trucks, especially at night, and always be aware of your surroundings.

Another great place to stop and rest a bit, stretch your legs, or take a nap is a wayside or roadside park.

Wayside and Roadside Parks are also marked with an orange picnic table.

Just be aware, most of the wayside and roadside parks do not have toilets. Many have a picnic table and a small outdoor grill.


City to City Mileage

Every state has a city to city mileage chart. McNally uses many of the popular cities to provide drivers with a quick estimate of the mileage from major cities.

In the back of the atlas, is a much more detailed section of city to city mileage.

I know with the technology of smartphones, it may seem quicker to click a few buttons and find the mileage through Google Maps, but it really takes the same amount of time to look at an atlas, especially if you do it on a regular basis.


Hazardous Materials Regulations

If you haul hazardous materials you will benefit from the extensive information McNally's Motor Carrier Road Atlas provides regarding the transportation and placarding of hazardous materials.

Hazmat is one of those endorsements that a driver can get with their CDL. You have to take a written test, be finger printed, and pass a background check.


Bridge Formulas

Bridge formulas are important to know. Many of the restricted roadways have bridges that have a weight limit.

Trucks weigh a great deal more than cars, the weight restricted bridges can not withhold the weight of trucks continuously drive across it.

McNally's Motor Carriers' Road Atlas drivers with a visual of a truck and how to use the formula weights.


Pretrip and Post trip Inspections

Pretrips and Post trip inspections have a lot of different details to inspect on a truck. McNally's Motor Carriers' Road Atlas provides you with directions on what need to be inspected to complete a pretrip or post trip inspection.


No Need For Batteries or Electricity

What happens if you GPS decides to stop working half way to your destination?

What if your phone is not receiving service or the internet is down?

I know the last one is a bit of a stretch these days, but you never know!

Rand McNally’s Deluxe Trucker’s Road Atlas needs no batteries or electricity of any kind. It does not need to be charged daily, it does not need cellular service, and it does not need an internet connection for updates.

Knowing the ends and outs of reading a map can take some of the stress of driving away, you don't constantly have your GPS talking to you.

This is no joke! One of my drivers had 3 GPSs in his truck all set for the same destination. He said that he like it when they fought with each other.

As my driver provided a GPS or two can be fun, but he is old school and generally uses a Rand McNally’s Deluxe Trucker’s Road Atlas.


Laminated Pages

Rand McNally’s Deluxe Trucker’s Road Atlas comes with laminated pages, that can be wiped off if you step on it with a muddy boot, or your coffee spilled when you hit that pothole in the middle of the road.

A set of erasable markers can be used to highlight the route you want to take. You can even use sharpies and some wet wipes to mark your route.

If you take your kids with you and they get bored, the laminated pages and a few markers can keep them occupied for a few minutes.


Spiral Bound

Tough spiral binding allows you to open it out to the full size of the map or easily fold it over, so that you can lay it up on the steering wheel to look at before you start driving.

I hate maps that fold up in to a nice rectangle, eventually the folds tear and I have to buy a new one. If I use as staple bound map, it is hard to open and lay flat, but the spiral binding adds another great feature to an awesome atlas.


While you may feel that a GPS is the way to go, the Rand McNally Motor Carriers’ Road Atlas provide added backup and an overall visual that may save you time, money, and a ticket.

I discussed all of these features in detail, but there are many more to be found in a Rand McNally Motor Carrier's Road Atlas.

Detailed coverage of interstates & highways.

Toll roads & service plazas.

Restricted truck routes.

Low clearance bridges.

Stationary weigh stations.

Rest areas and Welcome Centers.

City to City Mileage.

Information concerning Hazardous Materials Regulations.

Bridge Formulas

Pretrip and Post trip Inspections

No need for batteries or electricity.

Laminated pages.

Spiral bound.

Durable and long lasting.

As you read this article you will probably ask yourself, "Why does she keep writing "Rand McNally Motor Carriers' Road Atlas?" Here is a link to a regular road atlas without all of the truck stuff.

Although it’s not a GPS, a Rand McNally Motor Carriers' Road Atlas has many features that make it a must have for any truck driver.

Try a map today!

Leave a comment about how you use your map.

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