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6 min read.

The Fleet Manager's Guide to Route Planning for Trucks

Apr 24, 2024 5:44:14 PM

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In an economy powered by the trucking industry, truck route planning is an important factor when it comes to delivering goods quickly and efficiently. Businesses rely on consistent delivery times to keep current customers happy and attract new ones. But unpredictable road and traffic conditions, as well as regulatory requirements while driving commercial vehicles, are all challenges that need to be factored in when planning the most effective routes. In this blog, we will explain why truck routing should be a top priority for businesses and how to optimize route planning for trucks.

What is truck routing?

Unlike route planning for personal vehicles, truck routing requires additional considerations because of the various rules and regulations involved with operating commercial trucks on the road. It's not just about finding the shortest or fastest route; it's about navigating commercial vehicles safely and efficiently while saving time and minimizing operational costs. Commercial trucks come in various shapes and sizes, each with their own set of limitations and regulations. Vehicle weight, height, and axle limits must be considered to comply with transportation rules and regulations and avoid costly fines or penalties. Moving specialized or oversized equipment or transporting hazardous materials can also be challenging when it comes to route planning.

Commercial deliveries often operate on tight deadlines, requiring strict scheduling and coordination to meet customer demands. Delays can result in significant financial losses and potentially damage a company's reputation. Other factors like traffic congestion, road closures, and weather conditions also play a part in truck routing. Ignoring these variables can lead to inefficiencies, wasteful fuel consumption, and missed delivery windows. Having an effective routing plan in place is crucial for trucking companies to efficiently and safely deliver goods.

6 Benefits of Effective Route Planning for Trucks

An effective route planning strategy is important for company success. Here are some of the ways in which commercial truck routing can benefit your company:

1. Improve Customer Care

When it comes to running a business, providing excellent customer service is one of the most important factors for achieving success. In the transportation industry, making sure that each delivery arrives in good condition and on time is essential. By having an effective route planning strategy in place, you can maintain a high level of customer satisfaction and retention. This will not only keep your current customers happy, but it will also help attract new customers through referrals, which will increase sales.

2. Ensure Route Compliance

If you work in the transportation industry, then you most likely know about FMSCA rules and regulations that apply when operating commercial vehicles. Taking required breaks, adhering to drug and alcohol testing, and following vehicle safety standards are some of the rules drivers must follow while on the road. And with an effective route plan in place, drivers can easily follow these guidelines to avoid costly fines.

3. Help Cut Emissions

Truck route planning can also help with curbing emissions and greenhouse gases by reducing fuel consumption. Studies have shown that improving route efficiency can lead to less fuel consumption, with some estimates suggesting reductions of up to 20% for commercial fleets. For example, a report by the Environmental Defense Fund highlights how UPS's adoption of route optimization software led to a 10 million gallon reduction in fuel usage and a decrease of over 100,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually.

4. Calculate Transport Costs

Truck route planning can be used as a tool for calculating transport costs more accurately. Factors like fuel consumption, tolls, driver wages, and vehicle maintenance all factor in to transportation costs. With good route planning, operators can analyze these factors to create cost-efficient routes. Route planning can also allow for scenario analysis and "what-if" calculations, helping businesses evaluate the financial impact of different routing options. With strategic route planning, businesses can streamline their logistics operations and have greater financial efficiency when delivering goods.

5. Lower Fuel Costs

Your business can see a difference in fuel savings by using an efficient truck routing plan. A shorter route means less fuel is needed to transport goods. When planning commercial truck routing, it’s also important to create routes that are accessible to fuel stations nearby. Having a flexible fuel card program with access to various fuel stations is one way to make sure that drivers can easily and quickly refuel.

6. Improve Driver Safety

Most importantly, driver safety can be improved if you prioritize caution in planning and executing a route plan. Avoiding heavily congested areas, hazardous road conditions, and dangerous weather conditions, whenever possible, are ways to keep your drivers out of harm's way. By following these safety measures, your drivers can reduce the risk of traffic accidents and vehicle breakdowns. Having shorter routes, if possible, can also lower the chances of exhaustion on the road, which is one of the top causes of accidents among truckers.

How do truck route planners work?

Truck route planning software makes tackling the responsibility of truck routing much easier today. These tools provide free commercial truck route directions by leveraging advanced algorithms and real-time data to calculate the best travel routes. Users input their starting point, destination, and any additional waypoints or constraints, like vehicle specifications or time windows for deliveries. The software then generates online directions for truckers, considering factors to determine the most efficient route. Drivers can customize routes based on preferences or specific requirements and get detailed driving directions for trucks, traffic updates, and estimated arrival times. With intuitive interfaces and user-friendly features, online route planner tools offer a hassle-free solution for commercial truck routing.

A common issue that truck drivers experience is finding routes that are close to gas stations. Even though it’s important to have safe and efficient routes, having access to fuel stations is another factor to consider when optimizing routes. Many truck route planning software platforms provide details of where the closest gas stations are located. Having convenient access with a fuel card that offers several stations to choose from makes refueling easier.

Tips for Commercial Truck Routing

  • Consider vehicle specifications: Consider the characteristics of your trucks, such as size, weight, height, and any other restrictions. Always make sure that the selected routes are suitable for your vehicles to avoid obstacles or restrictions along the way.
  • Prioritize safety: Choose routes that prioritize safety, avoiding hazardous road conditions, high-crime areas, or poorly maintained roads whenever possible. Safety should always be a top priority in truck route mapping.
  • Optimize for efficiency: Aim for routes that improve efficiency by lowering mileage, reducing fuel consumption, and maximizing delivery times. Use route optimization software to identify the most efficient paths based on factors like traffic patterns, road conditions, and delivery schedules.
  • Consider traffic conditions: Stay updated on real-time traffic conditions and consider using this information for your route planning. Avoid congested areas or plan routes that circumvent traffic hotspots to reduce delays and keep up with quick deliveries.
  • Plan for rest stops and breaks: Make sure to factor in rest stops and breaks for drivers along truck routes to adhere to trucking regulations regarding driving hours and rest periods. Check to see if rest stops are along your truck routes to facilitate your drivers’ breaks and comply with regulations.
  • Consider delivery requirements: Take into account time constraints, customer preferences, and delivery priorities. It's crucial that the chosen routes are in sync with these factors to exceed customer expectations and reduce any potential disruptions.
  • Review and update regularly: Regularly review and update your truck route mapping to account for changes in road conditions, traffic patterns, or delivery priorities. Keep your routes flexible and adaptable to optimize efficiency and address any emerging challenges.
  • Implement fleet fuel management: Consider implementing a fleet fuel management program. Some fleet cards offer drivers access to an extensive network of fueling stations, including discount sites, major retail brands, and independent truck stops, depending on the card product. With more locations to choose from, the more convenient it will be for drivers to refuel so they can complete their routes quickly and efficiently.

Top Fleet Fuel Solutions from P-Fleet

Now that you know what route planning for trucks entails, you can develop an effective strategy for your company. When it comes to managing fleet fueling, consider using P-Fleet's trucking fuel cards for your operations. The best fuel cards offer features like driver spending limits, downloadable reports, and transparent pricing without extra fees. P-Fleet's fleet cards are trusted by business owners nationwide who value fair pricing, top-rated customer service, and the flexibility to fuel at thousands of gas stations and truck stops across the U.S. Contact us today to discover how P-Fleet can help your company.

Read The Fleet Manager's Guide to Trucking Logistics →

Kira Odlozil

Written by Kira Odlozil

Based in San Diego, CA, Kira Odlozil is the Digital Content Coordinator at P-Fleet. She writes about fuel management, the trucking industry and business-related topics. When Kira isn’t writing, she’s cooking up new recipes, doing yoga, traveling or all of the above.