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Why Your Route Planning Software Must Offer Resource Management Functionality

One of the challenges for transport planning teams working to make the most of route planning software is making sure the plans they produce don’t unravel out in the “real” world.

Route plans need to consider hundreds of parameters, including customer’s required delivery time windows, average road speed and vehicle restrictions at each delivery location. Data is fed into the routing software via a system such as an Order Management System (OMS) feeding all the up-to-date order data into the routing engine, whether routes are fixed or dynamic. All the while, planners are seeking to produce route plans that deliver the most efficient use of the resources to hand.

But many route planning processes (and most route planning software programs) fail to consider what is arguably the most critical component of all – actual driver availability, incorporated at the planning phase. The best way to avoid this is using a tool with the ability to feed in the availability of each driver at the planning stage, based on hours of service (HoS) restrictions, vacation data and shift patterns.

Fleet managers of all sizes face the double challenge of a driver shortage and the newly mandated use of electronic logging devices (ELDs) to track and limit drivers’ hours of service (HoS).  Making the best use of available drivers is central to developing a solid routing plan, and if you can do this right off the bat then life becomes a lot easier.

Actual, individual driver availability

It’s all too common for dispatchers to re-jig route plans before drivers leave the depot, because the plans they receive are not based on accurate driver availability. If route planning software includes resource management capabilities, actual driver availability can be considered from the get-go. It means planners can have greater confidence that the plans they produce are feasible, diminishing the risk that route plans will unravel when they are handed to the dispatch staff.

With resource management functionality deployed, planners share an accurate, efficient and achievable plan with dispatch that already takes into account driver availability on an individual level. That not only makes operations more efficient, as plans don’t have to be changed, and the dispatch team can focus on getting drivers out the door on time. It also enhances the relationship between planning and dispatch, because dispatchers trust the plans they are given, and planners avoid the frustrations of seeing their carefully-crafted plans get altered.

More advanced route planning software, such as Paragon’s, includes resource management functionality in its delivery route planning software, which allows fleet operators to receive up-to-date information about drivers’ vacations, medical appointments, shift patterns and hours worked, automatically factoring all of this in to route plans. The software can also take account of individual driver preferences such as shift times, break times and avoiding overnight assignments so the driver can get home at night, all the while aiming for maximum efficiency across the transport operation.

Add in route execution, which allows you to track drivers’ actual routes and HoS, and you can combine detailed driver availability, rosters and estimated hours with “real” driver-hour data to improve the efficiency of route planning going forward.

Incorporates driver skills, too

Additionally, resource management functionality builds on the required skills functionality already included in Paragon’s routing and scheduling software. For example, transport planners responsible for creating plans for service engineers are now able to create their own list of driver skills, such as qualified gas fitter or carpenter. The route planning software will then ensure that calls are allocated exclusively to drivers with the right skills, maximizing usage of those drivers.

Using resource management functionality in routing software allows transport operators to:

  • Stay informed of vacation entitlement and approval, avoiding too many drivers taking vacation at the same time.
  • Automatically generate advanced shift schedules to provide forward visibility and control.
  • Comply with HoS limits at an individual driver level.
  • Track individual driver hours accumulated to avoid overtime.

Now the planning team can automatically produce a fully-resourced schedule, based on realistic allocation of drivers, which can then be handed over to the dispatch staff to operate and execute.

Since software with resource-level planning produces more reliably executable plans by taking careful account of driver preferences and availability, it reduces last-minute scrambles at the dispatch level. It essentially removes the need for human intervention, which can cause stress and friction. Drivers leave on time, knowing they have a route plan they can follow, thereby enhancing driver satisfaction, too. A good result all around.

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