It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time when drivers would stop and roll down their windows to ask strangers for directions. Of course, those days are gone now—as smartphones and mobile applications offer drivers a more convenient way to navigate.
However, simple navigation apps like Google Maps and Waze leave users wanting more. If you’re serious about last mile deliveries, you really need a dedicated route planning app that’s designed with the needs of logistics operations in mind. In this article, we will tackle how route planning apps work and the benefits they offer.
Understanding How Route Planning Apps Work
Simply put, the goal of a route planning app is to find the most optimal route from point A to point B. This may sound easy, but once you begin to add in multiple stops with different requirements and divide those stops into multiple different routes, the complexity can mount quite quickly.
Google Maps is one great example of a basic route planner. Drivers who are driving through a city for the first time, running errands, or visiting a friend can use Google Maps to get a list of several options on how to get to the end destination. Drivers then get detailed directions and routes so they can spend less time on the road.
This type of functionality offers convenience to ordinary drivers, but for delivery drivers it’s only the tip of the iceberg. If you want to lower your shipping-related expenses such as fuel bills, increase productivity, and meet increasing consumers’ demand for fast and on-time deliveries, you need something that can help you create routes with a large number of different stops—all while accounting for the factors that impact drive time and routing differences between trucks and cars. By the same token, these simpler tools won’t enable you to factor in things like customer tier priorities and customers’ desired time windows when routing—meaning they’re not enough for true last mile optimization.
The Benefits of Route Planning Apps
As we hinted at above, smart route optimization offers great value to businesses and consumers alike. Below are some of the main benefits of a route planning app.
1. More Optimal Routes
If you’re only routing a few trucks, and time windows aren’t a major factor in delivery, it is possible to find relatively short routes by hand—though it may take a bit of time. However, businesses that aren't using cloud-based, AI-powered routing applications for their route planning generally can’t find the optimal routes for an entire fleet in a timely manner. On the other hand, businesses that utilize a route planning app can cut through the complexity by using advanced algorithms to find the quickest and most cost-effective routes. Even when there are a ton of complex factors at play, the right app can still find routes that optimize routes for distance and other factors.
2. Faster Route Planning
Relying on manual route planning and navigation apps means spending so much time just finding the possible best routes. And despite all the time spent, manual routes won't be the fastest nor most economical.
In contrast, a smart truck route planner provides the quickest and most cost-effective routes for drivers in less than a minute. The solution makes complex calculations, factoring in multiple variables affecting delivery times—all within seconds. This can save your business hours of effort, which can be used for other high-value assignments.
It's not just the human route planners and fleet managers that get to save time. Likewise, drivers will no longer have to claim their paper-based route assignments and input each delivery address in navigation apps like Google Maps. Instead, drivers will only need to consult their mobile apps to know where their destinations are and how to get there.
3. Increased Productivity
Route planning apps ensure that drivers’ routes are efficient in terms of time spent on the road and miles traveled, allowing drivers to deliver to more stops within their shift. The right app also ensures that drivers spend less time responding to last-minute changes and allows businesses to be more efficient with their deliveries. Their mobile app acts as a one-stop-shop for the entire delivery route, effectively streamlining the process from the driver’s perspective.
4. Reduced Travel Time and Mileage
Optimizing routes will also help companies cut down overall drive times as well as miles traveled. Naturally, reducing drivers' miles translates to considerable cost savings.
For one thing, businesses get to lower their fuel costs, resulting in higher overall cost savings since fuel bills account for a large chunk of a given fleet's expense. Route optimization also enables companies to cut down on vehicle maintenance costs, since less time spent on the road also translates to a reduced need for vehicle maintenance.
Spending less time on the roads also reduces accidents, which in turn helps companies lower their insurance premiums and vehicle downtime.
5. Minimized Customer Service Calls
Manual route planning is inefficient and error-prone. The traditional way of planning can’t compete with the computing powers of the routing apps. Unfortunately, its inefficiency results in inaccurate ETAs and, ultimately, more irate customers.
Luckily, a routing app can offer accurate ETAs based on a whole host of complex factors. Plus, a more advanced route optimization solution might also include features to provide customers with real-time alerts, informing them of possible delays in delivery. Providing customers with accurate ETAs and real-time alerts reduces the calls and inquiries received by the customer service team—as well as outbound calls for things like scheduling deliveries and communicating delivery information—all of which can reduce costly phone time by a considerable margin.
Navigation apps are casual drivers' best friends. But for last mile delivery fleets and drivers, a basic route planner like the free ones available on the internet cannot address the many challenges in fleet management. On the other hand, a sophisticated route planning app can help businesses and fleet operators increase their productivity, improve driver safety, reduce overall costs, and ultimately increase profitability. It’s just a matter of finding the right solution that meets your company’s needs.