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10 tips when planning delivery routes

When you are planning delivery routes there are several factors that need to be taken into consideration so that the best delivery routes possible are planned.

Lorry cab sat nav route planning for deliveries

1.    Data

How accurate is your map data? Using the latest road maps and traffic flow data is critical when planning your delivery routes. Will the routing solution you use also take into consideration the time of day and the direction of travel along a certain road?
How often are your base maps updated and therefore how up-to-date are they? It is a vital consideration when ensuring that the delivery times you provide to your customers are accurate and that the best, most efficient delivery routes are planned.

2.    Account for stops on delivery routes

When planning your delivery routes, where you stop and for how long will need to be a consideration and adequate rest should be accounted for. Availability of suitable parking is especially important for urban deliveries.  Walking distance from the vehicle needs to be kept to a minimum to reduce the time taken for the delivery, but equally, sufficient time also needs to be allowed for, when calculating the delivery plan for the type of delivery that will be taking place, e.g. allowing 5 minutes for a two man delivery of a sofa and two armchairs is not good planning. You may also need to consider whether the delivery is to a property on a floor higher than the first floor or whether the goods packaging also needs to be removed and returned, a service offered by some retailers.

Read more about Multi Drop Route Planning

3.    Use the most appropriate transport

Both the size of the vehicle and the type of engine may need to be considered when planning your delivery routes. A large delivery vehicle in a dense urban residential zone with narrow streets and many parked cars or even a tight, narrow country lane will be unsuitable.
Clean Air Zones (CAZ’s) are also starting to spring up around the UK alongside congestion and emission zones, so choosing the best delivery vehicles to enter these zones will minimise the associated charges and become increasingly important as the tolls increase.

Read More about UK Clean Air Zones

4.    Where are your depots?

Are you making all your deliveries from one location or warehouse? Or do you have multiple locations from which you deliver? This will make a difference as to how you cover various areas of the country, especially for the areas in between the depots. With multiple depots you will need to decide from which location to make the delivery, so are you choosing the best location to deliver from?
If you are considering buying an additional depot knowing the difference it will make to your capacity and delivery route efficiency is critical before it’s purchased and could make the difference over which location you choose for the new depot. Having a routing solution where you can trial new depot locations in a “sand box” scenario is incredibly useful.

5.    Track your vehicles

Tracking your vehicles in real time enables live updates and ETA’s (estimated time of arrival) to be provided to your customers, either from the office or via a delivery app / texting system. Tracking the route your vehicles are actually travelling also enables you to assess planned routes against actual routes to determine why it wasn’t possible to make that last delivery of the day. Was it because your vehicle took too many “alternative routes” for other deliveries during the day instead of sticking to the recommended routes?
Tracking also enables the easy re-routing of vehicles should congestion or traffic accidents become apparent, knowing precisely where your vehicle is makes it easier to plan and suggest alternative routes.

6.    What delivery options will you offer?

Are you offering your customers what they really want or just what you think they want? In recent years we have seen increased demand fornext day delivery, with some consumer goods now even aiming for same day delivery, but not everyone wants that. When given the opportunity to select a delivery day of their own choosing, with a narrow delivery window time, many consumers will select a lower cost 3-5 day option, but s at a delivery time that is more convenient on a day and time they know they will be at home. This will result in fewer purchases being abandoned at the checkout stage and  lead to them being completed on the day of viewing and delivery booked for later in the week, rather than consumers delaying orders until the day before they are required and in fact being forgotten about or purchased elsewhere.
Allowing customers to select the delivery days and times that suit them, not only provides a better customer service, but can also allow more time for picking, loading and delivering the goods. However, you can only offer this kind of service if you have an automated scheduling solution that continually optimises your deliveries and considers each order as it is placed. This method results in your fleet never being over committed as delivery slots are only offered to the consumer if they are available. This also allows for certainly delivery slots to be incentivised and perhaps offered at a reduced rate. If there is another planned delivery on the same day in a similar location it will be less expensive to deliver both items in sequence. Some retailers are now offering this as their “green” environmental delivery option.

7.    Consider all your orders together

By considering all the current deliveries in your system it is possible to identify potential deliveries that could be brought forward a day or two and delivered quicker – if the customer agrees. These deliveries can then be delivered alongside others in the same area, saving on fuel and avoiding visiting the same area on two different days.
Considering all the deliveries in your system can also work the other way, by allowing a delivery to move back a day it can be possible to make the latter day more efficient. Some retailers, as mentioned above, are offering this as their “green” or “environmental” option, with consumers selecting the option to, “deliver my goods when another delivery is in my area.”
This optimisation of deliveries can only be done if the optimisation process is real-time and continuous – not many scheduling and routing software solutions can do this. The ability to recalculate all deliveries as each individual order is taken requires clever algorithms and significant computing power. 

8.    Postcodes

When planning your delivery routes, it is best not to assign deliveries by postcode areas. In the UK a postcode typically accounts for 15 properties but can be anywhere between 1 and 100 properties. In urban areas these properties will most likely be very close together, while rural properties could be much further apart but still covered by one postcode. Planning your delivery routes by post code might therefore mean some drivers covering much greater distances and being unable to complete their day’s deliveries. Or even worse the driver breaking drivers’ hours regulations to make all the deliveries.
Selecting a routing software solution that takes into account the exact location of a property and the accurate travel time between deliveries will ensure a fairer workload between drivers and that the allocated deliveries for each driver will be possible in the allocated time and within drivers’ hours rules.

9.    Data 

While data has already been mentioned, point number 1, it is important enough to mention again, for the collection of your data as you make deliveries will enable you to compare days and deliveries. This in turn will enable you to adjust your parameters for the future. Look for delays in the system and work out where and why they happen, then allow or adjust for these issues in the future, this will result in a more accurate delivery process.

10.    Choose the best software

You should consider all the points 1-9 when selecting your delivery route planning software. Will your software take into account and solve all the above factors and still provide optimised delivery routes in a short space of time? Can it cope with multiple stops for deliveries and collections? And will it help reduce the miles you travel, increase delivery density and easily allow you to add on additional solutions such as Telematics for monitoring driver behaviour or offer digital Proof of Delivery to reduce the paper and ink required, while enabling customer ETA notification texts to be sent? Will it enable you to maximise your delivery capacity whilst maintaining full compliance with drivers’ hours legislation?

If you’d like to take a look at the Descartes solution for planning delivery routes and compliance management then contact us today to discuss your delivery route problems and how we can help you solve them?

Read more about Route optimisation