Optimize Routes To Save On Fuel Costs

Today's routing systems help fleets of any size save money on fuel.

Experts like James Stevenson, executive vice president for Appian Logistics Software Inc., explain that companies really don't know what a driver is doing from the time he leaves the route until he gets back. "There's no real back-end to see how he performed against the routing plan-the complete solution lies in not just optimizing the plan, but also in having accountability to it."

This is where companies like Peoplenet, Chaska, MN, come in. Utilizing its onboard, fleet tracking management system, companies can stay informed about how a driver is adhering to a routing plan.

"We'll actually track the location of the entire trip and send data back to a routing system like Appian's. The fleet can then run reports," says Brian McLaughlin, chief operating officer for Peoplenet. "The big thing we're able to do is tell a company that one of its trucks ran ‘X' percent out of route, vs. a plan."

Optimizing Trucks

"You want to control fuel consumption however you can," says UPS' Brandt. She points out that fuel consumption can not only be lessened by running fewer miles, but also by minimizing the number of trucks a company has on the road.

Green Leaf Produce, a San Francisco client of TDI's recently had ESRI's ARCLogistics solution installed in its offices.

"The company had five trucks running to San Jose every day because all its customers wanted to be delivered to before 8 a.m.," says TDI's Handler. "Well, we were able to talk to a few customers who said they didn't really need to be delivered before 8 a.m. and, after we rerouted for Green Leaf, it was able to do the San Jose routes with only four trucks."

Thanks to the routing software, Green Leaf is now able to get 20 percent more stops done in the same eight hours and it's able to get more produce on each truck. Eliminating vehicles however, is easier when a company has a larger fleet. If a fleet consists of four trucks, one going east, one west, the others north and south, it's not so easy to eliminate trucks as it is for a fleet of 10 vehicles servicing a downtime metropolitan area.

Fuel Routing

A number of routing software programs offer fuel optimization in conjunction with routing, which allows companies to obtain the location of every fueling station in the country, along with up-to-date fuel prices.

"So if you were to take a trip from New York to LA and you had 100 gallons in the tank, but the capacity was 300 gallons, the program would figure out where the best places to stop for fuel were on the route in order to minimize cost," explains Prophesy Transportation's Ashburn.

This takes the decision of where to re-fuel away from the driver, which he usually bases on where the truck is and instead allows companies to decide where the most economical place to fuel up is.

One Size Fits All

Fortunately, fleets of any size can see some measure of fuel savings through the use of routing systems. The level of savings depends on the size of the fleet, however.

"We'll deal with a 10 truck fleet or a 5,000 truck fleet," says Peoplenet's McLaughlin. "Less than 10, however, doesn't make a lot of sense. These companies can still look at optimizing routes though. What we would do is work with a small fleet through its leasing company, perhaps offer it a telematic solution that is built into its lease."

Other than that, McLaughlin suggests fleets of that size might instead use a cell phone with a GPS system on it. "They're going to be able to get miles traveled at least."

Chris Jones, executive vice president of solutions and services for The Descartes Systems Group Inc., Waterloo, Ontario, agrees. "With something as simple as GPS tracking you can get a five percent reduction in miles run just by seeing what the drivers are doing with the routes you've created."

Several companies, including Descartes and UPS, are also offering routing solutions as Software as a Service (SaaS) models, which makes the programs easier for small companies to afford, since they are available through websites hosted by the providers themselves.

"All a company needs to have is a browser," says Descartes' Jones. "We'll send it the mobile apps and it's good to go-it can make plans, track its drivers and report its actuals in that integrated environment."

"Any size fleet, from one to 20,000 can get access to fuel optimization programs," says Qualcomm's Ellis.

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