Contrary to the title of this article, anyone who’s grappled with the complexity of fleet management in industries like food distribution, beverage wholesaling, or even third party logistics knows that the right technology isn’t just a combination of features. Logistics organizations are made of complex, interconnected processes that all impact one another—and they all come together to form a cohesive whole that’s designed to get the right delivery to the right customer at the right time.
Logistics software for fleet management ultimately needs to do the same thing: it needs to offer a cohesive whole that makes it easier for you to keep your customers happy while ensuring that costs are manageable. Sure, features like route optimization, reporting, and delivery tracking are critical to giving you the ability to do that, but they don’t tell the whole story. Instead, you need to see how the features interact, how they empower workflows, and how they boost your capabilities.
With that in mind, here are 4 things to look for in logistics software for fleet management:
1. Rapid Strategic Planning and Routing
It shouldn’t come as too much of a shock to hear that successful fleet management requires robust planning and routing features. But why does it matter if they’re fast? After all, when you’re generating plans a few times a year, doesn’t it pay to take the time to get things right? Well, yes and no. You don’t want to have to rush to get a plan out only to find that you can’t execute on it—but you also don’t want to wait around for a plan to be finalized while the business realities you’re planning around are changing every day.
Simply, the ability to create a delivery or sales territory plan within a matter of minutes, rather than days, doesn’t just speed up a single process—it impacts all your processes. It puts you in a position to accommodate customer needs more quickly and easily, get more out of your capacity, and keep your drivers, sellers, and other personnel happy. When you’re able to respond to changing needs quickly, you can find new efficiencies and actually execute on them from a week-to-week basis.
2. Integrated Territory Planning and Route Optimization
For too long, fleet management solutions have offered either territory planning or route planning, but never one cohesive solution that encompasses them both. This has been a huge shortcoming in legacy technology solutions—after all, these two processes are inextricably linked to one another from a practical perspective—and the result is that planners have had to deal with extra hurdles whenever it came to planning sales and delivery territories.
For instance, you might have to generate territory plans in one solution, manually export them and import them into a separate routing solution, and then try to build routes around those territories. When that’s inevitably unworkable, you have to go back to your territory planning solution and make adjustments. As you do this, you’re essentially flying blind. You have no way to see what impact your adjustments will have as you’re making them. Then you have to do the whole process again.
So when we suggest looking out for a solution that combines these two processes, we’re not really talking about features—we’re talking about capabilities. We’re talking about a world where instead of spending weeks or months creating workable territory plans and translating them into sales and delivery routes, you can manage the entire process end-to-end in a few minutes. This does a lot more than save time and money—it transforms the entire process into something more holistic, adaptable, and connected. When you can make that happen, you put yourself in a position to turn planning into a strategic advantage instead of a roadblock.
3. Sales, Merchandising, and Delivery Coordination
Okay, by now you’re probably starting to sense a theme in this article: software solutions that are designed to increase connectivity across the fleet management process have the potential to add value that goes above and beyond the power of just adding features or functionality. And this theme goes beyond just managing last mile deliveries per se. It can also include coordination between last mile delivery and functions like merchandising and sales.
Visibility between these different functions isn’t just nice to have—it’s crucial for creating a customer delivery experience that covers the entire customer lifecycle. Strong customer relationships are about a lot more than just showing up at the right place at the right time. It’s about following up with a visit from a sales rep at the right moment, e.g. after a delivery didn’t go quite as planned or when a new change might impact their route. It’s about ensuring that merchandisers are on-site at the right time to maximize the impact of the delivery personnel. When you’re able to provide holistic services like these, you can become frankly indispensable to your customers.
So what’s the key to making this a reality? It’s finding logistics software for fleet management that connects disparate functions by centralizing them within one solution. Sure, sales teams will still have their own software, but they’ll have access to the delivery tracking data they need to make the right decisions at the right—and they’ll even have access to routing capabilities that will enable them to make more stops per day if needed. The result is better customer service from end to end.
4. Strategic Visibility Across Your Logistics Software for Fleet Management
What’s the difference between plain-old visibility and strategic visibility? The crucial difference is that strategic visibility gives the right information at the right time to make the smartest possible fleet management decision. Where some solutions use “visibility” as a synonym for GPS tracking, the most impactful software solutions will offer a lot more than that: live delivery status updates, instant proof of delivery, real-time exception tracking and management, predictive ETAs, predictive costs, robust reporting after-the-fact, etc.
All of this helps you to put your deliveries in context in real time in a way that simply GPS tracking doesn’t. On the day of the delivery, this means that you can understand what’s happening out in the field and manage exceptions quickly and proactively.
At the same time, visibility needs to extend to before and after your deliveries. Visibility beforehand might include predictive insights about ETAs and costs, whereas post-delivery visibility encompasses reporting and KPIs that give you a clear, actionable overview of what happened with every truck, route, and delivery. This isn’t just a matter of contextualizing data, it’s also a matter of making it accessible—both in terms of providing high data velocity so that users are never looking at stale information and ensuring strong UX so that the right number jumps out at you rather than hiding behind multiple screens. This way, your planners and managers boost their capabilities across the board.
No single piece of software for fleet management is going to magically turn the last mile into something cheap and easy. At the same time, the right software can get you pretty close—provided it goes beyond merely offering features to provide a complete platform designed around smarter fleet and delivery management. If you can find something that creates holistic processes in place of disjointed ones, and that provides strategic visibility in areas that used to be opaque, then you can effectively set yourself on the route to success.