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Thursday, 16. March 2023

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Transport planning for trucks - What does that mean and what is important?

In logistics, well thought-out and efficient transport planning determines the success or failure of a company. In this article we take a look at the fundamental topic of transport planning and in particular, at what is important in transport planning for trucks.

Transport planning – a definition

The generic term transport planning covers all processes and activities associated with the organization and optimization of transport. In short, the responsible planners determine in transport planning which goods are to reach their destination with which means of transport, and at what time and on which route.

In the area of road freight transport, gigh-quality transport planning for trucks is a critical success factor. Dispatchers must take into account countless factors, such as the available vehicles, their capacities, the weight and volume of the goods, optimal routes and distributions.

What are the objectives of transport planning?

The goal of good transport planning is to manage the upcoming transport tasks with the least possible use of personnel and materials. Those who use the available resources efficiently can reduce costs. This is essential, especially in times of massive price increases for energy, fuel, and wages. At the same time, smooth scheduling ensures higher customer satisfaction: with careful planning, all deliveries can be made promptly and waiting times are minimized.

Importance of transport planning in companies

Efficient and reliable transport planning is a decisive competitive advantage for many companies: By increasing your profitability through cost savings, you can withstand strong price pressure in international competition. At the same time, short delivery times ensure greater satisfaction among your customers. Last but not least, effective and high-functioning transport planning also means a better working atmosphere for drivers and dispatchers.

Route planning in transport planning for trucks

Route planning is an important sub-process of truck transport planning. Successful route planning means optimally distributing the different transports, deliveries and discharges to the individual trucks across the fleet. In doing so, it is important to take into account, for example, the capacities and routes, but also the different delivery times to the customers (that are often outside of the planners control).

Route planning is a complex task for dispatchers. They must bring all influencing factors together correctly and create the most efficient tours from this jigsaw of data. They must also communicate with the drivers and inform customers. Last but not least, they must react to changes and disruptions in the live transport process and (re-)optimize the tours.

In order to cope with these tasks, transport companies today rely on software that is specialised in the corresponding tasks. It takes a lot of work off the dispatchers’ shoulders, saves them time and supports them in their daily planning business. Nowadays, transport planning and route planning for trucks can be significantly optimized and accelerated with connected systems and intelligent algorithms.

Important planning factors for truck transports

There are many different factors and requirements to consider when planning transport. These can be divided into internal and external requirements.

Internal factors related to transport planning for trucks

The most important internal factors regarding truck transport planning are, of course, the available vehicles and personnel. Not all drivers are always able to drive all means of transport, for example because they lack the appropriate qualifications. At the same time, they must adhere to driving and working hours, and individual employees are on holiday or sick. Corporate goals and internal requirements, for example, environmental and sustainability goals or service standards, can also be factors in transport planning.

External requirement for transport planning for trucks

In addition to the internal factors, there are an even greater number of external influences and requirements. Companies must consider the following example aspects when planning transport:

  • Customer requirements: Compliance with delivery dates and specific delivery times
  • Legal regulations: Driving restrictions, transport regulations and Sundays and public holidays
  • Route characteristics: speed limits, underpasses with limited heights, or roads closed to trucks
  • Traffic situation: road works, road closures, accidents and traffic jams
  • Weather conditions: Snow and icy conditions have a decisive influence on road conditions

Those who do not schedule their own vehicles, but instead have their transports handled by external companies, are then also faced with the challenge of finding the right freight carrier. Here, too, there are now systems and functions to optimize the selection of carriers.

Optimize transport planning – transport more efficiently

On average, transport costs alone account for about one third of a company’s total logistics costs. Accordingly, savings in this area are often a big gain. There are a variety of ways in which efficient truck transport planning can reduce costs.

Improve route planning

All companies benefit from improved route planning, regardless of their size and the complexity of their transport planning. Today, time and fuel-saving tours can be integrated into the planning much better than in the past: The software systems are now precisely geared to this and are correspondingly sophisticated. With powerful scheduling software, planning can be automated to a large extent and the schedulers receive digital tools with which they can calculate reliably and optimize continuously.

Maximise utilization

Intelligent truck route planning ensures that companies fully utilize the capacities of their transport fleet. The larger the company, the more promising the savings that result from full utilization. In the best case, you can even take on more orders without having to expand your fleet. In smaller companies, improving utilization may be difficult because there is less room for manoeuvre.

Use connected systems

A high added value can also be created through the intelligent connection of the various digital systems in transport management. A good interplay of telematics solutions, GPS, digital speedometer and the transport control center for the dispatcher enables a precise and continuous data flow. The benefit: this also improves the flow’ of the transports. For example, it becomes possible to predict the estimated time of arrival (ETA) of the trucks far better than even a few years ago. This increases transparency in the supply chain enormously.

Current trends and developments in transport planning

Finally, we take a look at current trends in transport management. Transport planning is as old as freight transport itself. Nevertheless, it has changed fundamentally in recent decades due to increasing global networking and digitalization.

Digitalization and automation

The digitalization of transport planning enables the increasing networking and automation of formerly separate processes. For example, it is now possible to link online orders directly with route planning and therefore optimize them in real time.

Transport planning for trucks also benefits from fresh digital possibilities to improve communication. Solutions such as telematics and driver apps optimize the exchange between drivers and dispatchers. Automated notifications, online shipment tracking and an electronic delivery note will improve communication with customers and enhance the customer experience.

At the same time, digital transport planning enables a link with warehouse management and order picking and therefore ensures reliable notification and provision. Here, companies can use a connected arrival monitor in the warehouse, for example.

E-mobility in transport planning

The switch from traditional trucks to electrically powered vehicles ensures that other factors must be included in transport planning: Companies that rely on e-mobility to reduce CO2 emissions and protect the environment must include the range of the individual means of transport as well as the location of suitable charging stations in route planning.

At the same time, digitalized and software-supported transport planning for trucks also helps to cope with these challenges without having to accept losses in terms of punctuality, performance and transport volume.