It’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming that technological solutions will act as cure-alls—e.g. that rolling out fleet routing software will instantly ensure that every drop-off is using the most optimal routes. Sure, a route planning tool might be highly valuable and work wonders for fleet operators—but success can’t always be taken for granted.
One of the biggest pitfalls when it comes to choosing the right software? Making sure you’re adopting a solution that will actually support your drivers. The right solution enables companies to use their drivers' experience and knowledge to make the most out of the technology—while solutions that give less careful consideration to driver needs might fail to yield the expected ROI.
In this article, we’ll go over some of the best practices for successfully implementing new delivery route planner solutions in a way that works for drivers and other stakeholders alike.
Fleet Routing Software Best Practices
Gain Drivers' Trust
An advanced fleet routing solution can find routes that utilize resources efficiently and minimize miles. When information from in-cab electronic logging devices (ELDs), telematics, or electronic proof of delivery (POD) systems is added to the mix, fleet operators and managers can even compare the original route plans against the actual routes drivers have taken. Depending on how much these two differ, fleet managers can discuss with drivers if it is necessary to change route plans or if the driver needs to follow route instructions more carefully.
But even the sleekest combination of telematics and fleet routing software won't be of much help if the drivers aren’t going to use the solution properly. To drivers, the ELDs and telematics systems can feel like surveillance tools—which is why businesses have to show drivers the benefits of this technology to ensure buy-in.
Sadly, many fleet managers don't realize the value of gathering drivers’ feedback and often fear getting complaints when they ask drivers for their inputs. This then creates an "us versus them" mentality among drivers and dispatchers which can be disruptive to successful operations.
To ensure a successful deployment of route optimization software, fleet operators and managers must create a culture where drivers are made to feel that their opinions matter to the management. This can start with including driver input in the selection process, and it can open pathways to communicating with drivers that telematics solutions, route optimization systems, etc. can make their lives easier and help them do their jobs more effectively.
Emphasize That Drivers are Part of the Solution
Companies must emphasize to drivers that they also play a crucial role in achieving business goals by embracing and properly using fleet routing software.
The best way for companies to ensure that drivers use the technology well is, simply to incentivize it. Incentives can be in the form of money like giving top-performing drivers a bonus or the best driver of the month award. To make this possible, you might need to start keeping driver performance scorecards that rank drivers based on who is over and underperforming. The scorecards can use key performance indicators (KPIs) such as on-time delivery performance metrics or safety indicators like harsh brain or speeding. The scoreboard can be placed in a visible location and each driver has his or her scorecard.
Keeping track of metrics including drivers' KPIs and sharing them is crucial in transportation management. Regardless of whether the company decides to make the scoreboard accessible to all or not, drivers should know how they are performing based on the KPIs decided by the management. Of course, this functionality is only possible with solutions that are easy to use, easy to integrate, and built to create a constant flow of data between drivers and dispatchers.
Listen to Driver Input
Constantly asking drivers for feedback is important. Some companies make the mistake of asking drivers for their feedback on the first few weeks of implementing a new optimized route planning solution and stop when the teams seem to have adapted well to the new technology.
To see why, let’s look at an example: a shipper may officially have delivery hours that start after 9:00 am but the driver, based on experience, knows that the business’ carriers often arrive at 7:00 am. Communicating this knowledge allows the route planning team to either alter route plans or include additional stops closer to the shippers' store to reduce miles driven by the driver. If you’re not providing a path for open, two-way communication on the day of delivery, you stand to lose out on this knowledge. The result? Preventable disruptions and delays.
Simply put, fleets will have better results when they’re able to gather drivers' feedback and incorporate that feedback into plans. Plus, asking drivers for their inputs constantly makes them feel valued, which also helps reduce driver attrition.
Ensure Drivers Follow Planned Routes
Despite companies' efforts to make drivers feel more involved in the rollout of the fleet routing solution, some drivers may decide to rely on their "real-world knowledge" rather than follow the route plans generated by the delivery route planner app. As you can imagine, this sometimes causes issues.
For this type of hurdle, it’s important to prioritize visibility. If you can’t compare planned and actual routes, you can’t even identify these situations. Once you’ve identified areas where drivers might not be following the planned routes, conducting a driver performance debriefing session is important. The session should not be confrontational—instead, it should be conversational and collaborative. The goal is for managers to know why the driver deviates from the planned routes. Debriefing sessions help identify the source of the drivers' non-compliance and also gather useful information that can be incorporated during the planning stage next time.
In the end, having open communication with drivers is crucial to making the most out of the route planning solutions. Companies must conduct frequent driver meetings to solicit drivers' feedback and reinforce the crucial role of route optimization in meeting the business goals. At the same time, it’s important to have the right technology. Make sure you’re seeking out an application that really makes life easy for drivers. This might mean an incredibly easy-to-use mobile app, the ability to collect proof of delivery easily (including pictures and video that prove that they did their jobs correctly), and turn-by-turn instructions that are actually efficient.