Route planning systems

Route planning software (also known as job booking and dispatch software) can help you operate your fleet more efficiently, reducing costs and improving profitability and competitiveness.

About route planning software systems

Route planning and scheduling systems are software packages that generate the best routes and schedules for transport operations. As well as a digital map of the road network, these systems can also hold information on:

  • customer locations
  • delivery and collection windows
  • quantities and types of goods to be delivered or collected
  • vehicle availability and capacities
  • driver shift patterns.

With the more advanced systems, you can input customer orders into the system, which then generates the optimum routes for your deliveries. Most systems make use of telematics so that jobs can be assigned to a vehicle and displayed on in-cab displays or Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs).

Benefits of route planning systems

Many fleets that have implemented route planning software have reduced operating costs by as much as 20%, met increased demand with no increase in staff and improved customer service. Although system costs may seem high, the benefits can be considerable.

Computerised vehicle routing and scheduling can help you to:

  • make better use of your vehicles
  • reduce journey times
  • minimise mileage
  • save fuel
  • reduce operating costs
  • improve the reliability of delivery schedules
  • improve customer satisfaction. 

Types of route planning system.There are 2 main types of system available - journey planners, and vehicle routing and scheduling packages.

Journey planners

Journey planners use digital maps to calculate the best routes and estimated delivery times. By simply looking at your route and trying to avoid as many right hand turns across traffic flows can save fuel by eliminating waiting time.

You can review the orders and assemble them into routes and call points. You then enter your routes into the journey planner to calculate the time and distance of the whole journey. You can try different options until you find the best solution.

Vehicle routing and scheduling package

Vehicle routing and scheduling packages take a large number of customer orders and calculate the most effective way of meeting them. They can take into account road speed, load size, customer opening hours, driving hours and many other factors. Usually dispatch staff assess the routes suggested and make refinements based on their own experience.

Choosing the right system

Most route planning systems have modules selected on factors such as:

  • fleet size
  • number of users
  • number of depots
  • number of customers
  • number of calls to be routed.

Once you have a good idea of what you want, approach suppliers for advice and costs. Some factors to consider are:

  • Is the supplier right for you? These systems are not ‘fit and forget’ -There will be system upgrades, staff training and other ongoing support.
  • What support, training and development is available?
  • Do users need to be computer experts?
  • Is 24 hour support available if needed?
  • Is a manual provided?
  • Is there a project planning process to make sure your operations aren’t disrupted while the system is being set up and staff trained?
  • Does the supplier help you to fine tune the system? This can take weeks or even several months as the system is customised to your operation.
  • What sorts of management reports are available that will help you with quoting, budgeting and planning and managing your fuel efficiency data?
  • What staff resources are needed for implementation?