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Using Vehicle Routing Software Makes Going Greener a Lot Easier than You Might Think

More than 70% of all freight tonnage moved in the US goes on trucks, according to the American Trucking Association (ATA). Without trucks, America stops.

But there’s an environmental price to be paid. The ATA also estimates it takes 38 billion gallons of fuel annually to move all that freight, and for each gallon burned our air quality degrades and the threat of global warming worsens.

Businesses are recognizing an obligation to shrink their own carbon footprints and, as a result, are paying more attention to freight practices. For these companies, routing and scheduling software can be a powerful tool, not only to reduce the number of trucks and fuel emissions but to reduce fleet costs by as much as 10%–30%.

While there are many ways to dig deep into sustainability practices, when it comes to freight, fuel consumption is the element that really matters. If your fleet is burning less fuel, you’re reducing your carbon footprint. It really is that simple.

How vehicle routing software reduces fuel use and carbon emissions

Here are several ways routing software can reduce fuel consumption:

  • Plan more efficient routes. This is the number one way to reduce fuel consumption with routing software. Instead of rudimentary manual planning, routes are planned and executed using sophisticated algorithms configured specifically for the needs of your delivery operation. It’s a plain case of computers being more capable than humans at dealing with the almost infinite number of route options. The software is designed to reduce route time and, most often but not always, this will reduce miles and fuel costs.
  • Reduce delays and unnecessary idling. Increased accuracy of planning means you can be far more precise in arrival times at delivery destinations. When your fleet gains a reputation for consistently hitting agreed time windows, deliveries are processed faster. That means your drivers deliver quicker, can be on their way faster, and can fit more deliveries into a day. You save fuel because your trucks are not idling in line. Also, there’s a better chance that your driver will be able to deliver all loads as planned, avoiding the need to postpone deliveries to the next day or to outside carriers.
  • Monitor routes and address non-compliance. When you combine route planning with Route Execution, enabled by telematics, you can monitor actual routes taken against plan. This means you can identify habitual delays or diversions from plan, generating the opportunity to fix problems and increase efficiency (and reduce fuel usage) further.
  • Plan strategic changes. One of the less frequently considered upsides of vehicle routing software is the ability to use the tool to measure the benefits of strategic changes – before they are implemented. For instance, what would be the impact on delivery time, miles and fuel usage from the impact of tighter delivery windows or a different fleet mix? Routing software can model any number of “what if” scenarios to find great new ways to serve customers, while reducing fuel usage, time and money.

The pressure to embrace sustainable freight practices will only increase

Although this is not yet a major factor in the US, Europe and the UK have seen a huge rise in consumer demand for information about the sustainability efforts of the companies they buy from. In the UK, for example, a hot topic is “food miles” – the actual number of miles travelled by food from production to supermarket. UK supermarkets are having to think much more carefully about the “food miles” incurred by sourcing food in one location, transferring it to a DC far away, and then delivering it back to a location near the source. Many are addressing distribution inefficiencies by switching to a more regional distribution model, using smaller trucks.

There’s also more collaboration between competitors, who are combining loads to deliver the same volume of freight to common customers in fewer trucks. DHL recently opened a consolidation center outside Amsterdam, which they use as a showcase for what future may look like. Consolidation of inner-city deliveries got the royal seal of approval as far back as 2008, when the Crown Estate, which owns Regent Street in London, partnered with one single carrier, Clipper Logistics, to deliver stock to all retailers there. Using one, co-ordinated set of delivery vehicles to serve the famous shopping street has reduced vehicle movements to those stores by an estimated 85%. Most market indicators are that these trends will grow in the US, and it’s a good idea to be ahead of the curve when consumers demand to know what businesses are doing to reduce their carbon footprints.  Vehicle routing software can help.

Fewer trucks, nicer world

Reducing inefficiencies in truck routing means there are fewer trucks on the road, driving more direct routes. As a result, roads are less congested, the air is cleaner, and health risks are reduced.

Whether you’re interested in shrinking your carbon footprint, or simply saving a substantial amount in transportation costs, enhancing delivery route efficiency by implementing routing and scheduling software is a smart move.


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