Why Effective Truck Route Planning Must Consider Driver Availability

This article appeared in Logistics Brief.

Most truck route planning technology focuses exclusively on routing the truck, completely ignoring the person behind the wheel.

While data on actual hours driven is gathered by in-cab telematics systems, until now there has been no simple way to import this data into truck route planning software. Consequently, many such software programs fall to account for actual individual driver availability during the route planning process, forcing the dispatch office to reconfigure plans to reflect the actual resources available.

These changes often undo the benefits of the original plans, which are designed to reduce fleet operating cost 10-30 percent. Plans that do not factor in the actual availability of individual drivers can easily cost fleet operators hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

To address this problem, Paragon and Geotab have collaborated to create a custom interface between Paragon’s truck route planning system and Geotab’s telematics system that allows users to import ELD data directly into Paragon with a simple mouse click. This integegration, announced December 9, addresses a critical missing piece in the delivery route planning puzzle: People.

Going forward, fleet operators will be able to easily compare drivers’ legally available hours with actual hours driven, reducing the risk of hours of service (HOS) violations. Critically, it also means that transportation planners can use the up-to-date availability of each individual driver during the planning process.

What’s still happening today

Today, companies continue to construct route plans without knowledge of driver availability. Unlike trucks, which can operate 24/7, drivers can’t. They get sick, take vacations and, importantly, are restricted by Hours of Service (HOS) limits. When route plans fail to take into account available hours and drivers and their schedules must scramble to reconfigure these plans to work with the actual resources available. These changes add miles and costs to the original plan.

The ParagonGeotab integration addresses this huge profit drain by making the process of importing ELD data into Paragon incredibly simple. Users simply select a drop-down menu item to trigger the import. Currently, the Paragon-Geotab partnership is the only way for U.S. fleet operators to easily incorporate ELD data into route planning software.

The overall goal here is simple, but powerful; take data that is already in multiple places – within the software, within ELD devices, and in dispatchers’ heads – and put it all in ONE place. That way, you can achieve what we call “resource-level planning” that takes account of all your critical resources, including drivers.

Halt The Unraveling!

ELD data is a critical determinant of driver availability, especially since drivers’ actual hours don’t necessarily mirror what was in the original plan. But other factors also impact driver availability. Advanced route planning software, like Paragon, can capture driver-specific data like vacations, doctor’s appointments, preferred shift patterns and special CDL endorsements to ensure the resources are available to support planned routes.

This holistic approach benefits everyone on the fleet operations team:

  • Dispatchers develop confidence that the plan will work in the “real world,” and therefore avoid the early-morning scramble of re-allocating routes. Instead, they can focus on their core task of getting drivers out the door and staying on schedule.
  • Route planners avoid the frustration of seeing their carefully crafted plans unravel the minute the truck leaves the yard.
  • Drivers appreciate consistently fair, accurate route plans that get them home at the scheduled time.

The use of truck route planning software with resource-level planning can also have a galvanizing effect within an organization. Two functions that work in silos, often at odds – route planning and dispatch – can function more harmoniously together because they are now working from one version of the truth.

By reducing truck delivery time and miles across the board, truck route planning software can realistically reduce fleet operating costs 10–30 percent – savings that go straight to the bottom line. But if route plans continue to ignore your most important and expensive resource – your drivers – that software investment will be largely wasted.

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