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Thursday, 11. February 2021

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4 reasons why precision in truck route planning is crucial for success

Good truck route planning is the basis for successful transport logistics on the road. That is indisputable. However, the question of whether it makes sense to calculate with as high a degree of accuracy as possible when planning tours is an exciting one. Because it is also clear that no route plan is carried out one-to-one as it was planned. Traffic jams and delays in loading and unloading always result in changes that simply cannot be foreseen. So why go to the trouble of planning exactly when things turn out differently afterwards anyway? The answer is simple: because it is worth it – for everyone involved. And it doesn’t really take any extra effort either. The following 4 reasons explain why.

1. Ensure feasibility

The first requirement that every tour plan should fulfil is that it should be implementable. This means that the planned tours can be run without violating laws and regulations and in compliance with the delivery or collection dates agreed with the customers. Sounds obvious – but it is not. Because in order to fulfil this requirement, a lot of precise data is needed, e.g. with regard to

  • Freight space capacities and permissible total weight of each vehicle
  • weight and volume of the consignments to be transported
  • Distances and driving times, taking truck restrictions into account
  • Duration of the journey to the next loading point
  • Duration of loading and unloading depending on location and consignment volume
  • Time account balances of the drivers with regard to driving and working times
  • Dangerous goods qualifications of the drivers
  • and much more.

The more of these data are not included in the planning precisely, but only roughly as a rule of thumb, the greater the risk that tour plans are created that cannot be implemented, i.e. that violate physical or legal rules. The consequence: tours have to be changed in the loading phase due to over-planning, cannot be completed due to the threat of driving time violations, customer deadlines are exceeded, new deliveries have to be made and considerable error costs are incurred.

Bild: iStock (gorodenkoff)

2. Use resources optimally

Now it can be argued that a reasonably experienced dispatcher – often with the help of traditional freight forwarding software – usually creates feasible route plans, even though the data listed above are not taken into account precisely, but only by rule of thumb. This is often the case. However, the feasibility is bought at a high price through the use of buffers.

Buffers are the enemy of any resource optimisation.

Whenever we humans are in the situation of having to plan under uncertain framework conditions, we resort to the aid of the safety buffer. In the context of route planning, this applies above all to scheduling, where we fall back on empirical values and, for example, provide the drivers’ operating times with more or less generous buffers. This is also a sensible procedure when the data situation is uncertain. However, it has the major disadvantage that a good utilisation of driver and vehicle resources is at best random, but in no case regular and reliable. This approach therefore leaves potential and expensive resources unused.

In order to optimally utilise resources, we have to go to the limits. This is not only the case in transport logistics, but in many areas of life. And to get to the limits, we need the most precise data and the most precise planning possible. The more precise the data and the planning, the closer we can get to the optimal capacity utilisation. Can we therefore do without buffers completely? That would not make sense because of the spontaneously occurring disruptions. But the decisive thing is: we can work with significantly lower buffers, are therefore closer to the optimum and save a lot of money.

3. Inform customers correctly about the time of arrival

In addition to optimal resource utilisation and the lowest possible transport costs, customer satisfaction also plays a major role in transport logistics. In this context, it is becoming increasingly important to inform the customer in advance of the most precise and reliable arrival time of the truck. This is also referred to as Estimated Time of Arrival or ETA for short. What Amazon etc. have been doing for a long time in the B2C business is increasingly becoming a customer requirement in B2B as well.

While private customers can often live with the information on which day a shipment will be delivered, the requirements of industry and commerce for ETA accuracy are usually much higher. In many cases, hourly forecasts are expected so that subsequent processes can be timed precisely and waiting times can be avoided.

Precise ETA forecasts require precise route planning.

Precise ETA forecasts can of course only be made on the basis of precise route planning. If, on the other hand, you only work with rough estimates in your planning, your ETA calculation is inevitably fraught with so much uncertainty that you cannot even risk passing on this information to your customer.

Bild: iStock (ipopba)

4. With the right set-up, precise planning does not lead to extra work

Precise route planning was difficult to implement a few years ago, because much of the required data was not available and traditional software systems were also not capable of planning routes accurately. This has changed in the meantime:

  • There are professional maps and routing engines that calculate reliable journey times, taking truck restrictions into account.
  • Current tacho systems can transfer the driver’s driving time data directly from the truck’s digital tacho to the route planning system.
  • Modern dispatching systems can plan precisely and automatically incorporate the necessary driving time breaks and approach times into the route plan.

Of course, there is still the additional effort for the dispatcher to enter the data on vehicle characteristics, driver qualifications or loading and unloading times in the system. But this recording is a one-time effort. Dispatching and tour planning itself is even significantly simplified and accelerated with the right system.

A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.

George Smith Patton

And to all those who doubt whether they are able to provide precise data on all topics, please note: improving precision in route planning is a continuous process. With each additional step, you reduce your planning buffer, improve your resource utilisation and secure the feasibility of your plans even better. The crucial thing is that you get going.

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Precise route planning makes sense and is worthwhile. It prevents expensive planning errors and annoyed customers. It enables optimal utilisation of driver and vehicle resources. And it enables reliable ETA forecasts and the provision of calculated arrival times to inform customers in advance.

And because the necessary algorithms and systems are in place, there is no longer any reason to plan over the big thumb today.