Visibility of delivery activity is a much-desired goal for most transport operations, and fleet management software adds a rich layer of information that provides exactly that. But did you know that this kind of visibility improves overall operational efficiency, adding real benefits to the bottom line? Here, we explain the process that will give you a better, clearer view of what’s going on once your drivers leave the DC, and how it can save you money.
It is a curious phenomenon that most companies accept a lack of visibility of their last-mile truck deliveries. They habitually demand super-detailed, accurate information about their finances, production and warehousing operations. In manufacturing, having enough insight into processes to shave a second off a production schedule here, or reduce the materials needed to build an item by a single screw there is highly prized. And yet, when it comes to fleet management operations, monitoring in detail what actually happens out on the road often comes low on the list of priorities.
Humans are expensive, trucks are expensive and fuel is expensive. The idea that you’re not making the most of those resources seems short-sighted, to say the least. In order to maximize utilization, visibility is key – and more easily achievable than you’d think.
The first step, using Fleet Management Software for route planning, optimizes the routes your fleet will take, and at the same time gives a clear view of who is going to be making deliveries, where and when. This type of visibility gives you important benefits. For example, when you are able to give a customer an accurate time of arrival, they can have people and equipment ready for the delivery, reducing delays, which in turn saves you time and money.
Another benefit to visibility at the planning stage is being able to calculate and control the number of hours individual drivers are being assigned – making sure they stay within the Hours of Service mandates now carefully monitored with mandatory Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs), and avoiding costly fines.
But the next step, route execution functionality, delivers a deeper level of visibility – one where you can see what actually happened once a driver left the DC. When paired with vehicle tracking technology that uses GPS positioning to monitor exact movements, you gain insight not only into where your trucks have been, but how efficient your real-world route execution was – true visibility of delivery operations.
You can then feed that information back into your planning process to achieve continual improvements to your routing going forward. This empowers you to constantly shave off seconds, minutes and even hours from your delivery schedule, which in turn means fewer trucks, less fuel, and real savings.
For example, often, route planners tend to over-compensate for drop times, building in a 15-minute time window at a particular drop-off point, say, when the actual time needed at that location might be eight minutes. With 20 drops a day, that valuable time really adds up. Being able to fine-tune your route according to execution data means you can stay very reliable while minimizing wasted time.
The activity reports gathered by fleet management software are based on hard data, and are therefore more actionable than anecdotal feedback from drivers. Armed with this accurate data, you can start to eliminate the slack that most planners feel the need to build into their route plans, just to be on the safe side.
Improved visibility of delivery operations allows you to provide better customer service and cut wasted time and miles, but another benefit comes from customers knowing that they’ll be measured by you, too. Improved visibility means your transportation operation is not being penalized as a result of inaccurate data.
In the past, a customer might have claimed you were late with deliveries and, in the absence of hard data, you might apologize and even take a financial hit. But it might well be that the delays were on the customer’s side, and you can point to hard statistics that show you hit the agreed delivery windows 95% of the time.
Now, you have a common, accurate measure that you can share with customers, often opening an opportunity to collaborate to make improvements.
Having visibility of the routes your drivers have actually taken rather than where the route plan said they should go can greatly improve your conversation with drivers too. At a time when driver retention is a pressing and ongoing issue, the ability to use reliable, valid data about delivery patterns and behaviors means you can have a more accurate feedback loop, leading to constructive conversations about performance.
You might find that a particular driver is regularly booking overtime. With better data, you have visibility into whether that driver is being delayed at a delivery location through no fault of his or her own, and can either re-schedule with the customer, or build the appropriate amount of time into the route plan going forward.
On the other hand, if drivers are constantly diverging from an efficient plan because they believe they have a better idea about routing, or are regularly driving 30 miles out of the way to their favorite lunch spot, you can figure that out too, and have a different kind of conversation.
Better visibility leads to increased predictability, and you’ll also find yourself scrambling less often to use expensive, third-party, spot-market services to fill in driver or truck shortages – another saving.
The crucial point is that, if you’re not capturing data about delivery activity, you can’t measure performance and you can’t improve it.
Still further, spectacular savings can come from having reliable data to model the effects of major business decisions before you commit to them. Imagine being able to ask any number of “what if” questions to determine the potential impact on cost and service. What if you:
Reliable data from route optimization software goes well beyond shaving a few minutes off of a delivery route. It can drive six- and seven-figure savings and actually help shape the future of your business.
Don’t let your last-mile delivery operations be the least efficient part of your business. Affordable, incredibly reliable systems are available to help you trim the fat by getting great visibility into every move.
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