Gone are the days when truck drivers had to line up at truck stop pay phones to check in with dispatchers or loved ones. Today, all standard trucks are equipped with satellite communication systems that typically include a small, dash-mounted unit that has a keyboard and small screen.
While not a laptop, these units let long-haul truck drivers contact their dispatchers, access load information, track routes, get directions and even receive important information about weather, traffic or road closures. Of course, different companies take their communications to different levels, but the basics of load information and dispatcher communications are all there. Some companies even allow truck drivers to email back and forth with family and friends.
These satellite hookups are also equipped with GPS technology, making it easier for dispatchers and truck driving companies to track loads while also keeping a driver safe. If a truck is stolen, gets lost, or is in an accident, it can be tracked using GPS.
Of course, most truck drivers, particularly OTR drivers, also pack their own communications gear. You'll find most of them are carrying either a laptop or smart phone that lets them access personal email and entertainment via high-speed Internet hookups or even their own cellular networks. Instead of static-filled phone calls home, they can now maintain almost constant contact with their loved ones.
In the last 10 years, truck drivers, along with the rest of the world, have become a lot more sophisticated in how they utilize communications technology. Personally, I think it's drastically improved life on the road and helped to make those long OTR routes just a little bit shorter.