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The Best Route Planner Apps Have These 5 Features

Route planner apps are crucial parts of the last mile delivery ecosystem—-but they’re not all created equal. Different route planners will be designed for different use cases, and many of the routing solutions on the market are aimed at lightweight use cases that might not apply to big and bulky delivery organizations, food distributors, building suppliers companies, or third party logistics and transportation providers.route planner apps

This can make it difficult for businesses with more heavyweight routing needs to find the right solutions for them. A quick Google search might point you towards options that are great for food delivery services or even parcel deliveries, but lack the capabilities you need for more complex last mile logistics operations. 

What Should Modern Route Planner Apps Offer?

So how are you supposed to separate the contenders from the list of  route optimization software options you’re presented with? Start by seeking out routing solutions that offer these 5 capabilities: 

1. Support for Multiple Use Cases

Simply put, your routing engine needs to be able to do more than just find the shortest route for a given set of stops. This will depend on the type of deliveries your business runs, of course, but it might need to handle overnight routes for longer journeys while ensuring compliance with hours of service regulations. 

It might have to enable static route planning for your recurring customers while offering dynamic routing on top of that for new orders. Or it might need to support installations, pickups, returns, and haulaways—to say nothing of potential use cases like routing sales appointments or collection stops. 

In all likelihood, only one or two of those use cases will apply to you—so it might seem logical to seek out a specialized solution that only supports, say, sales routing. But truly robust route planner apps that can handle multiple use cases will provide better support. 

2. AI-Powered Predictive ETAs

When you’ve given the customer a time window for the delivery, even a relatively wide one, you need to be confident that you’re going to deliver at the right time. 

One way to make this happen is to add a lot of buffer between stops so that there’s no chance that the driver runs late—but this obviously has a huge tradeoff in terms of efficiency. You can’t maximize the number of stops per day (and thus minimize cost per delivery) if you’re paying drivers just to wait for the delivery window to come around. At the same time, an aggressive schedule increases the odds that your driver will miss the window entirely. 

The solution to this balancing act? Leveraging AI and machine learning to accurately predict delivery ETAs. If you can find a route planner app that offers this kind of functionality, you can get more out of your delivery capacity without sacrificing customer experience. 

3. Configurable Service Times

Dropping off a package might only take a moment, but delivering a pallet of soft drinks to a grocery store can be a lengthier process time-wise. If you’re delivering a dishwasher to an apartment building and you need to haul away the customer’s old dishwasher, that’s going to take even longer. 

If your routing treats all of these deliveries or services as if they take the same amount of time, then you’re setting yourself up for late deliveries (and early deliveries, which can be just as bad for some customers). For one or two stops on a route, this might not be a huge deal—but across a large number of stops across multiple routes, it can create chaos and uncertainty. 

Luckily, robust route optimization solutions should give you the ability to easily configure variable service times for different delivery and service types. By making this easy for planners to incorporate into their processes, the right route optimization software will make accurate routing and ETAs second nature. 

4. Equipment and Crew Matching

Google Maps has no idea what the right kind of truck is for a grain or fuel delivery (for that matter, it doesn’t know how fast a truck can travel compared to a car). Even solutions that can handle different vehicle types and provide routes that actually work for trucks might not be able to match the right personnel to the right job. 

But there are route optimization solutions that offer both of these capabilities. This means that at the planning stage, you can be sure that you have the right trucks and the right teams going out on the right routes—all while maintaining route efficiency. It’s the last part that’s particularly crucial: if you were starting with an optimized route and adjusting it by hand to get the right jobs onto the right trucks, the odds are that your route would become much less efficient by the time you had finished adjusting it. 

If your business involves multiple different equipment types and different services being performed by delivery crews, this kind of capability is a must. 

5. Skill-Based Routing

This falls into a similar category to the one above, but it takes on a financial aspect. Skill-based routing isn’t just about using the right personnel for the job—it’s about reserving your high-skilled (and thus more highly-paid) drivers and technicians for the jobs that really require them. 

When your route optimization software has this kind of routing built in, you can easily ensure that you’re assigning jobs in a way that’s cost-effective. After all, you don’t want to send a skilled technician out on an across the threshold delivery that could easily have been done by someone else, while skilled jobs pile up unscheduled. 

This kind of routing functionality helps you optimize costs and boost customer experience across the board if your business has drivers and technicians with multiple skill levels. Taken as a piece with the other features we’ve been discussing, it can form the basis of a real digital transformation of the entire last mile route optimization process.

After all, the best route planner apps aren’t just designed to streamline an individual workflow or speed up a particular part of the routing process. Rather, they’re meant to help you level up your capabilities and form the bedrock of smarter last mile workflows from end to end. With smarter, more connected, and more efficient route optimization capabilities in place, you tackle the whole last mile journey more efficiently from end to end. 

For instance, when you’re confident in your delivery ETAs, you can improve the delivery experience that you offer to customers—leveraging real-time delivery notifications and live delivery tracking to help ensure visibility into the delivery at every stage. When your deliveries are on track, customers will feel like you value their time and prioritize their needs. 

At the same time, when nearly everything is going right, your team can focus more easily on the things that aren’t. This enables you to manage by exception during the last mile delivery process, which can again help improve delivery outcomes, boost customer experience, and decrease delivery costs. 

There’s never been a better time than right now to seek out new route planner apps—the trick is just to find the right one for your use case. 

DispatchTrack offers the most powerful end-to-end suite of tools for last mile logistics operators. Dispatchers, drivers, customers and clients can access our app on any device to schedule, track, modify and verify your deliveries.

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