Making the best use of your resources is the key to minimizing your expenses as a fleet manager. That’s why we worry so much about things like fuel economy — a truck that isn’t getting the maximum gas mileage is costing the company money. Gas credit cards enable you to closely monitor your vehicles’ fuel economy, ensuring that problems don’t go unnoticed — at least not for very long!
But fleet fuel management is just one piece of the puzzle. There are many other ways to minimize your expenses. Well-planned routes are another way for you to guarantee that you are making the most out of your resources.
Think of routing as similar to planning out the errands you are going to run on a Saturday afternoon or on the way home from work — just on a larger scale. Careful routing means looking at what stops you need to make, and combining stops that are close to one another or can be done on the way to another. This makes the best use of your drivers’ time, as well as their fuel.
Routing isn’t easy, though, and requires someone who is able to see the big picture. Here are a few things to consider when planning your drivers’ routes:
- Location - This is the first and most obvious thing to look at. When you have deliveries to make close to one another, or one that can be made on the way to another, it makes sense to make only one trip. Same thing goes if you have five or even ten deliveries to make that can be combined, although now planning the route becomes a bit more challenging.
- Delivery time - What time does the delivery need to arrive? If you have a delivery that has to be there in the morning, and another that won’t be ready until afternoon, you won’t be able to combine them. That’s okay — you won’t be able to merge routes every time.
- Available space on the truck - Sometimes there just isn’t enough room on the truck. A large delivery probably won’t be able to be combined with other stops, except for maybe one or two small deliveries. Also, consider where things are to be loaded on the truck, and make sure that a later delivery isn’t blocking access to an earlier one.
- Hours of Service regulations - These regulations limit how long a driver can be behind the wheel each day. If you are planning short-term routes, you will need to make sure that you don’t put a driver on any route that will take him over his hours for the day. Send another driver, or split up the route.
- Special client needs - Sometimes clients have special needs that prohibit you from combining routes. For instance, a client might request a certain driver, or the nature of their delivery might require a certain truck.
Part of the reality of routing is finding a way to make separate deliveries mesh, despite all of these variables. Think of it like a giant puzzle. Although it does require someone who is good at seeing the big picture and at finding ways to put the puzzle pieces together so that they fit, careful routing is a skill that will ensure you make the best use of the resources available to you.