Everyone from the executive suite to the fleet manager can appreciate the benefits of advanced route optimization software – lower transportation costs, more predictable delivery windows and better utilization of assets, to name a few. But can the same be said for truck drivers? Attracting and retaining younger drivers to replace retiring baby boomers is more critical than ever. Yet most truck drivers say they value quality of life over pay increases, and complain that long hours on the road away from family and friends make the job unattractive. Adopting automated route optimization software can actually be used as a recruitment and retention tool too, increasing driver satisfaction and making it more likely young talent will get behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler.
With a route planned via dynamic route optimization software, the sequence of deliveries automatically makes the best use of the driver’s time. All too often, drivers receive instructions from the transport office that they believe, rightly or wrong, won’t suit traffic conditions, delivery windows, or congestion at the point of delivery. With knowledge gained from actually being out on the road, drivers regularly feel they’ll do a better job than the dispatcher, and re-order their drops or pick-ups to work out “in the real world.” But route planning and scheduling is not the skill drivers are paid for, and there’s no reason they should be performing this complex task. Route optimization software takes away the strain of worrying about juggling deliveries.
Advanced route optimization software factors in the times when loading or unloading facilities are actually open and functional, and sends drivers to those points at the right time. It can also send timely, proactive messages where assistance is needed, such as placing cones outside a retail outlet in a busy, urban location, greatly minimizing wasted time and hassle. If a driver is repeatedly kept waiting at a specific customer location then the customer services team can deal with this on behalf of the driver, removing his or her need to sit and wait for an unloading bay to be ready.
Route optimization software takes multiple factors into account – pre-arranged delivery windows, drop-off hours, traffic conditions, road restrictions, and even one-time concerns such as sporting events. Route plans are more realistic and achievable, so drivers aren’t stressing about making an appointment in time, or encountering closed delivery entry gates, or crowds of fans blocking the road. Being able to trust that they’ll be where they’re supposed to be, exactly when they’re supposed to be there, also makes it far more likely that drivers will end their shifts on time, meaning they can make the appointments most important to them – at home with their families.
It’s not just companies dispatching drivers that will be fined and penalized under the new Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate; drivers are liable too. Because route optimization software automatically calculates how many hours a driver has already done, and assigns routes that will keep him or her within the limits, drivers can rest assured they’re compliant with HoS regulations. Even better, route optimized schedules mean drivers can maximize the hours they work according to the limits, increasing their earning power.
Advanced route optimization software can also take into account personalized factors, such as a driver needing to start or finish at particular times, or never work on a Friday. It also allows for a driver to be assigned his or her favorite truck, and ensure the truck is matched to their level of skill or license restrictions. Or, if a driver has a favorite lunch spot, or has some other personal consideration, the schedule can be tailored to make sure their specific needs or restrictions are catered to – as long as it fits with an efficient route plan.
It’s not uncommon for us to hear of younger drivers or drivers with a shorter track record at a particular firm complaining that they get the routes left over when dispatchers have favored other, older, drivers; or sometimes just more vocal drivers! Sometimes, the favoritism may be unintended, and simply the result of a driver asking to stick to the routes they already know. Advanced route optimization software makes it easier for a dispatcher to incorporate new drivers fairly, while treating established ones right at the same time. It also allows dispatchers to arrange for new drivers to work alongside seasoned drivers when teams are required, helping spread decades of road know-how to the new generation.
Improved routing and scheduling efficiency improves every function of your distribution operation, including driver satisfaction. With the driver shortage pinching all over, keeping your existing drivers happy, as well as actively drawing in new ones, is vital to successful operations going forward, and the future of your business. You can’t make a profit or grow if you can’t deliver the goods you sell!
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