What to Consider When Optimizing your Delivery Route
Once you have produced and properly packaged your goods, you must then decide upon a delivery route. When planning delivery routes, you want your shipment(s) to arrive at their intended locations as quickly and as cost effectively as possible. This process is generally called route optimization.
Route optimization, however, is more than just calculating the distance from point A to point B. It also entails accounting for variables such as time sensitivity, vehicle capacity, driver schedules, and issues that could cause unexpected delays. So, to create the most optimal delivery route, you must consider a wide variety of issues. The following article will discuss the most important factors to consider when optimizing your delivery route.
One of the most basic factors to consider when setting a delivery route is distance. The type of planning involved for short-haul deliveries is different from long-hauls.
Short-haul deliveries often occur within one metropolitan area or a 250-km radius. These drivers are often locally based, and most will work standard 8-“10 hours shifts, meaning that they will take fewer breaks. Short-haul delivery vehicles are also typically smaller (vans or box trucks).
Long-haul deliveries require drivers to go more than 400 km to their destinations. Long-haul drivers will often work for days at a time, and they will require longer breaks for resting while on the road. These deliveries often utilize large vehicles, such as tractor-trailers.
The size and capacity of your vehicle can also impact how you optimize your delivery route. Couriers use a variety of sprinter vans, box trucks, and tractor-trailers to move goods, but the type of vehicle that you choose should fit the size of the order and the distance that it must travel.
Large, long-haul shipments generally use tractor-trailers due to their size. A 16-meter trailer can hold a large number of goods, eliminating the need for multiple shipments across long distances. The cabs of these vehicles also provide amenities like beds for long-haul drivers.
Likewise, the size of your delivery vehicles can also directly impact the types of routes you can take. Semis or box trucks may be limited to certain highways and main roads, whereas smaller vehicles, such as sprinter vans, can navigate smaller streets more efficiently. So, if you are planning short-haul deliveries in a heavily congested city, then you may want to utilize smaller vehicles that are permitted on side streets.
When optimizing your delivery route, you must also account for deliveries that are time-sensitive. Time-sensitive deliveries generally fall into two categories. Some time-sensitive deliveries must occur during a specific window of time previously agreed upon by the courier and the client, whereas others may involve transporting products that could expire if left in transit for too long.
Couriers and recipients often negotiate delivery windows to ensure that proper personnel is available to process a shipment. For example, deliveries to a particular store may have to occur at specific hours in the morning so that staff is available to unload goods. You would therefore want to coordinate your route so that your shipment arrives during those hours.
Likewise, if you are delivering time-sensitive goods such as refrigerated products, you must ensure that your route is as direct as possible to avoid potential spoilage. This may involve backtracking to some extent to ensure that spoilage-prone goods arrive at their destinations as quickly as possible.
Your routing should also include downtime for delivery stops and necessary breaks. This will ensure that subsequent deliveries remain on schedule even when drivers have to pause to complete deliveries or take necessary breaks to ensure good performance.
Short-haul routes will typically involve multiple quick stops for deliveries and breaks. For small deliveries, you should allocate roughly 15 minutes per stop to ensure that the driver can take the package(s) to the proper location and collect signatures as needed. Drivers will also need short breaks for refueling, meals, and personal needs.
Long-haul routes often require fewer delivery stops, but you will need to allocate more time for unloading these larger deliveries. Clearing a semi-trailer can take an hour or more depending on how efficiently it can be offloaded. Likewise, long-haul drivers must also take longer breaks to rest to ensure that they can safely arrive at their destinations.
You must also always leave drivers with enough time to manage unexpected incidents such as traffic accidents and inclement weather. These are factors outside of the drivers’ control that could delay scheduled deliveries.
While many of these types of delays cannot be predicted, they can be anticipated to some extent. For example, if you are planning a cross-country delivery in the United States during the winter, you must always anticipate inclement weather and plan accordingly. This may entail choosing a longer route that avoids areas prone to winter storms. Likewise, if you are coordinating short-haul deliveries within a heavily congested city, then you should avoid peak traffic times and factor in potential delays.
When unexpected delays do arise, you should first coordinate with your driver to seek alternate routes. Short-haul drivers, for instance, may utilize side roads to avoid highway congestion. Likewise, long-haul drivers may choose a less direct route to avoid a snowstorm on a highway.
Once you have determined an alternative, you must then inform your client of any delay-“even if it is simply an hour or two. This will ensure that your client is prepared for a late arrival, maintaining good customer relations.
Data and Experience
Finally, you should always utilize your company’s data and real-world experience to create the most optimal delivery routes for your drivers. Examining your company’s delivery data will show where chokepoints and delays often occur, enabling you to avoid those areas if possible.
For short-haul routes, you should take local knowledge of roads and buildings into account. Deliveries to a certain building, for instance, may be notorious for causing delays due to the structure’s confusing layout. Therefore, if you have a delivery scheduled there, you should give the driver more time to complete it based on prior experience.
Similarly, long-haul drivers can provide a wealth of knowledge about routing and certain places to avoid. Suppose that you are planning a delivery from Kansas City to Los Angeles in December. I-70 is the fastest and most direct route, but its mountainous terrain can be difficult to navigate in winter, causing delays. An experienced trucker may suggest taking a longer route that is less subject to winter storms and potential closures.
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