Editor’s note: Written by Krishna Khandelwal, chief business officer at Locus, a logistics software company. This is one in a series of periodic guest columns by industry thought leaders.
The driver shortage ranked No. 1 yet again in the American Transportation Research Institute’s 2020 survey of the most critical issues facing the trucking industry.
It’s only gotten worse over the past year as the Covid-19 pandemic has hit the workforce and created an e-commerce boom that has only increased trucking demand. Adding to an already significant shortfall, the sector lost more than 150,000 drivers between July and October alone in 2020, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
The driver shortage is largely the result of older drivers retiring and younger people not entering the field due to low wages and concerns that self-driving vehicles will eventually make the role obsolete. The shortage has huge implications for the supply chain, including shipping delays, higher inventory carrying costs and even shortages in stores.
To succeed in the increasingly competitive logistics sector, fleet operators need a way to attract and retain drivers while also responding to increased demand and higher customer expectations. Better wages — and trucking companies are starting to respond by raising pay – mileage rates and improved treatment can help keep drivers on board. Route planning software lets companies implement these changes, plus operate more efficiently to improve customer satisfaction.
With data that enables performance-based incentives and features that allow preference-based routing, more accurate task assignments and productivity improvements, fleets can achieve a competitive advantage by solving the driver shortage. Here are seven ways advanced route planning software can keep drivers happy while also enabling significant operational improvements.
Reduce unwanted overtime
Drivers often have to spend extra time on the road in addition to their scheduled work hours, and that can lead to attrition. It’s stressful for drivers to deal with an overwhelming number of deliveries, which can lead to dissatisfaction due to the impact on their personal time.
Routing software that factors in start time and end time for delivery runs can reassure drivers that the company respects their personal time and work-life balance. The right routing software can also help fleet managers by factoring in the driver’s level of expertise and accommodating rest and meal breaks as required.
Factor hours of service into route recommendations
Many drivers are working 12 hours a day in the U.S. to meet the demand caused by the pandemic and make up for driver shortfalls. As delivery orders increase, some fleet companies address the overage by dividing driver shifts among existing crews, but that can lead to driver burnout.
Planning delivery routes with software can help drivers finish their delivery assignments within the allotted shift hours. Optimizing driver worktime can improve earnings through performance-based incentives while reducing the pressure to work after fixed shift hours are completed.
Cut delays at customer locations
When drivers spend too much time at a customer location, the delay can snowball, causing further late or failed deliveries down the line and potentially increasing reverse logistics costs. Routing software can address delays by factoring in the time drivers spend loading and unloading deliveries.
Software can also proactively request assistance when needed for unloading heavy goods and allow customers to track deliveries in real time, so the customer is prepared to receive the delivery. Advanced preparation by customers can also reduce delays.
Reduce time stuck in traffic
Getting stuck in traffic congestion is a major cause of missed deliveries and delays. Time spent sitting in traffic also causes driver stress and increases fuel consumption. Route planning software can help drivers avoid congestion and plan more cost-efficient travel. It can provide assistance in real time, taking into account factors like vehicle maintenance and repairs, roadwork, accidents and other situations.
Spend less time on the road
The best route is usually the shortest one, and fleet managers spend a lot of time planning so that drivers spend less time on the road. It’s a safety concern first and foremost. Avoiding longer routes not only keeps drivers safer, but it also reduces repairs, liability costs (including insurance) and the potential for an accident. While driver training is important, route planning software that reduces time spent on the road is also critical.
Improve driver productivity
It’s critical to monitor driver performance to identify training opportunities, reward the most efficient drivers and enhance retention. Route planning software makes it simple to track and measure performance, identifying when drivers deviate from planned routes, miss deliveries, exceed allotted break times, etc.
With software that monitors key performance indicators (KPIs) like expected time of arrival targets and first-attempt delivery rates, etc., fleet managers can identify high performance drivers for rewards that provide incentives to other drivers to improve their scores. The company can also offer training to those whose scores indicate room for improvement.
Provide up-to-date maps
When drivers use outdated navigation tools, they can miss opportunities to shorten routes and spend more time on deliveries. The latest information on delivery entries at large institutions like hospitals and other sprawling sites that have specific drop-off locations is critical for efficiency. Up-to-date maps can reduce driver frustration, improve delivery time and increase customer satisfaction.
The driver shortage has enormous implications across the supply chain and a negative effect on driver morale. High demand puts pressure on drivers to work longer hours, increasing stress. And it can have a negative impact on customer satisfaction.
To address all of these implications, fleets will need a way to improve driver satisfaction by providing tools that enable safe and efficient deliveries and give drivers an opportunity to earn extra incentive cash while maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Advanced route planning software can help fleets attract and retain drivers so that the company can compete effectively.
Route planning software can also help fleets manage increasingly complex delivery constraints, like time preferences, through optimized routes, improving customer relationships. In this way, advanced software can help fleets solve the driver shortage and improve customer satisfaction at the same time.
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