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How to Control Delivery Costs with Effective Last Mile Tracking

Technology is advancing so quickly that our language to describe and explain it accurately is struggling to keep pace. As an example, we're still only using one term—last mile tracking—to represent two entirely different processes.

last mile tracking

In this post, we’ll discuss the two distinct things that we mean by last mile carrier tracking. First: tracking deliveries internally to ensure that everything is running smoothly. And second: tracking deliveries as a customer.

Both are of paramount importance to successful deliveries in the modern era of volatile demand and supply chain disruption. But each one has its distinct implications and challenges. 

Last Mile Carrier Tracking from the Customer's Perspective

Consumers have more information than ever before to help them make choices with regard to their purchases. Increasingly, consumers approach deliveries the same way. Companies need to provide a stellar delivery experience that will resonate with customers and keep them coming back.

Lyft, DoorDash, and Uber changed the entire game, and consumer expectations will never be the same. They now expect clear communication and real-time information funneled to them about orders.

Typically, they want to track packages in real time. They want to see a truck icon on a map showing them exactly where the driver is. And they want a delivery ETA updated in real time.

Ideally, they can do this simply by entering a tracking number into a widget on your site. From there, you can give access to a dedicated customer order tracking portal. You can also offer access via email or other delivery communications.

They also want to be able to communicate with their fulfillment service providers and have the opportunity to rate their experience. And these expectations aren't exclusive to eCommerce and brick-and-mortar retail buyers. Everyone from end consumers to other businesses is going to have expectations that are similar.

Real-time last mile tracking for customers provides the ultimate delivery visibility, plus a sense of control they've come to expect. Any operation that provides scheduled deliveries can reap the rewards of giving recipients last mile tracking in this way.

For starters, here are a few core requirements for empowering customers to track their goods across the last mile delivery process:

  1. SMS and email notification the morning of delivery (and even the day before the delivery date)
  2. Capability to easily communicate with the driver
  3. Delivery tracking functionality for real-time ETAs via a dedicated customer portal
  4. Opportunity to rate the delivery and follow up if needed. 

As technology gets more and more connected, businesses will need to follow suit. This means making visibility for customers a priority across the board.

Last Mile Tracking Internally

The other side of the last mile carrier tracking coin is this: tracking internally. In this rapidly evolving technology landscape, it takes more than improving customer-facing tools and services to stay competitive. Organizations need to take inventory of their internal operations to avoid= blind spots in their supply chain. This is especially important during the last mile.

The most important catalyst for lasting success, according to professional logistics operators, is visibility. Internal track and trace capabilities are critical here. These components can help with building a supply chain that can improve customer experience and exceed customer expectations.

Visibility into last mile operations requires a wide range of technological and methodological improvements to your supply chain:

  • Order tracking once goods are on your trucks
  • A digital dashboard with real-time tracking of deliveries and service units
  • Chain of custody and proof of delivery tools (ideally integrated via mobile app)
  • A way to measure and understand customer satisfaction

This is a matter of more than just having excellent visibility. Last mile carrier tracking improves speed and increases profit margins by increasing efficiency. Ultimately, by gaining a full view of the last mile in this way, you can level up the service customers receive.

Here are a few other benefits of effective last mile tracking: 

1. Improved Driver Safety

Drivers are sometimes too focused on getting to their destination as fast as possible, forgetting to adhere to safe driving practices. Some drivers might over-speed or brake hard while others are prone to idling unnecessarily, resulting in business losses. 

A fleet management solution can help eliminate these unsafe driving behaviors by enabling fleet managers and dispatchers to view drivers' locations and activities. Fleet managers can correct drivers' unsafe practices immediately, identify drivers who frequently engage in unsafe driving practices, and create specially crafted training plans for them.

Improving drivers' safety helps fleets lower insurance costs and settlement fees while reducing total downtime for vehicles.

2. Streamlined Communication

The right fleet vehicle tracking solution improves the communication between managers and drivers. It eliminates the need for managers and dispatchers to call drivers to ask for their location and status by enabling them to easily view drivers' locations on the map.

In this way, the right solution also allows office-based teams to relay and assign high-priority jobs to drivers on the roads. It enables enterprises to add new destinations to drivers' routes quickly, and send alerts to drivers quickly and seamlessly. When deliveries need to be rescheduled at the last minute, you can do it without the inefficiency of trying to reach the driver by phone. 

3. Reduced Fuel and Operating Costs

Fuel expenses are some of the largest expenses of any fleet. To manage operating costs, you need to achieve the highest fuel economy possible across all vehicles. Tracking drivers and vehicles in real-time empowers fleet managers to identify drivers' behaviors that cause the fuel expense to go up unnecessarily. Identifying drivers who over-speed, take longer routes, or leave the engine running during long idling will go a long way in reducing fuel expenses.

Likewise, tracking solutions for fleets help ensure accuracy regarding the number of driving hours or distance traveled by each driver. This can speed up things like driver settlements and even fuel tax payments, as you no longer have to wait for drivers to complete forms and turn them in—instead, managers receive drivers' work-related information directly via an automated system.

Route optimization guide

4. Improved Asset Health and Security

Vehicle maintenance is another of the most expensive aspects of fleet operations. Engine repairs and regular oil changes can add up quickly. With GPS fleet tracking, managers can now identify which vehicles are costing what in terms of maintenance as well as monitor the overall costs of maintenance. The system can also alert managers when vehicles haven’t been sent for their routine maintenance—in order to avoid bigger maintenance-related problems down the road.

By the same token, a GPS tracking system enables fleets to eliminate non-work-related trips. Thanks to geo-fencing and engine hours alerts, you can now check in real-time whether your company's vehicles are going outside allowable areas or are being used beyond drivers’ regular shifts. This can also help minimize the risk of theft.

5. Increased Driver Motivation

The trucking industry has been grappling with the driver retention problem for many years now. Luckily, GPS fleet tracking system helps keep drivers motivated as they won't feel that they are left alone on the road. As part of a larger attempt at end-to-end last mile optimization, the right fleet tracking helps ensure that drivers are given the tools to take the shortest distances between stops, communicate with customers to avoid failed deliveries, and capture robust proof of delivery in order to get paid more quickly and accurately. 

The right solution also helps drivers become more conscious of their work patterns and driving behaviors. If needed, they can then work with managers to set up coaching or training plans that will enable them to improve performance. 

6. More Environmentally-Friendly Practices

Consumers are more discerning these days, and many tend to patronize companies with sustainable and environmentally-friendly practices. Luckily, tracking fleets helps businesses ensure that drivers are always following the optimal (i.e. shortest) routes and avoiding wasteful idling as much as possible. Making sure that drivers follow their route plans minimizes fuel consumption, which helps businesses engage in more environmentally friendly practices.

7. Increased Customer Satisfaction

Businesses must prioritize speed and reliability in response to customers' and clients' demands for great delivery experiences. It's a highly competitive business environment these days, and tracking vehicles is one way to ensure that companies can transport goods as quickly and as accurately as possible.

Tracking and real-time time last mile visibility can be hugely helpful in this area. Not only does tracking the status and location of each truck and order give you the ability to generate accurate ETAs over the course of the day (which you can then communicate to customers to help ensure they’re around to receive deliveries), it also gives you the ability to spot potential late deliveries and other delivery exceptions at a glance. Once you’ve spotted these exceptions, you can work proactively to make things right with the customer and provide personalized, elevated service. This has the potential to reduce customer churn, which can have a big impact on your business in the long run. 

8. Improved Productivity

Fleet managers can maximize drivers' productivity by tracking them in real-time. A robust GPS tracking solution—paired with end-to-end trucking software functionality—helps fleet managers and dispatchers inform drivers of their schedule and assignment for the day and minimize drivers' idling time. It also reduces drivers' time spent taking calls and messages from their managers. Basically, when the entire operation is running more smoothly, drivers can get more done in a day. 

Simply put, you can never go wrong by investing in the right GPS fleet tracking solution. Real-time tracking boosts fleet managementefficiency, reduces operating costs, improves driver safety, increases customer satisfaction, and more. All these benefits ultimately result in better profitability for your business.

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