In a perfect world, shippers would provide their transportation partners with consistent business at consistent levels. But with today’s rollercoaster demand, shortages of parts and inventory, tight capacity, rising fuel prices, lack of truck drivers and more, nothing in freight is consistent or smooth. Because of this volatility, sustainability is often compromised.
Routing technology can help maintain — or improve — sustainability performance in times of crisis.
Route optimization and planning solutions build optimal routes for freight. These routes consider constraints such as time windows, vehicle capacity, driver schedules, delivery constraints (low bridges, limited access, etc.), hours of service, delivery location, number of stops, traffic congestion, weather, driver skill and much more. As you can see, route optimization goes beyond just moving an order from point A to point B.
Using machine learning algorithms, the software plans routes that reduce waste of time, fuel and labor. These algorithms sort through thousands of possible routes in a manner of seconds. Route optimization technology isn’t meant to replace planners but to empower them. Here’s a breakdown of its benefits:
- In the LTL world, routing is typically done by dividing a trip into geographic areas based on zip codes. Drivers are assigned geo-areas depending on the volume of freight available. Dynamic routing can improve the efficiency of the routes as it removes geographic boundaries and creates highly optimized routes spanning multiple zones.
- Route optimization software can consider customer special requirements and create the most operable routes. If a customer has special receiving hours, for example, the software will prevent driver dwell time.
- Historical data and machine learning can predict customer dwell time/ handling time, which helps create the best stop sequence in routes.
- Location-aware routing dispatches drivers with appropriate equipment — e.g. smaller vans for urban areas — preventing wasted trips.
- Carriers can quickly reroute freight if a disruption occurs. Route optimization software will show the impact on cost and service for various alternatives, allowing carriers to make an informed decision without adding extra legs to the trip.
- Pickup assignment, often based on a dispatcher’s tribal knowledge, instead considers real-time data like driver location, distance and available trailer space to improve pickup decisions and reduce missed pickups.
- Real-time driver ETAs help decrease idle times at each stop, as workers can be prepared to load/unload trucks.
- Some route optimization platforms are integrated with third-party weather data providers, allowing fleet managers and dispatchers to glean valuable insights into weather patterns, traffic jams and other disruptions. More efficient routes can be created on-the-fly while meeting all operational constraints.
- Machine-learning algorithms that calculate trailer utilization help reduce empty miles — improving labor efficiency and decreasing emissions.
Ram Yadlapalli is director of routing systems at HaulSuite.