Improving Fleet Optimization
By Joseph Evangelist
Executive Vice President, Transervice
As originally appeared in FleetOwner Magazine’s IdeaXchange

In a perfect world, all fleet managers would have perfectly optimized fleets. But in the real world, it can be extremely challenging to achieve that perfect optimization for a variety of reasons.

That said, I believe there is room for most fleets to improve their optimization percentage if they analyze each component. Begin by reviewing your current optimization record, looking at every day of the week and week of the month. Once you determine the one or more factors that are keeping you from achieving the optimization level you desire, you’re ready to find solutions for the problem.

Your optimization analysis starts with looking at the amount and types of freight you are delivering, the delivery frequency and delivery windows. Working with the customers and delivery points to determine flexibility in that area is key. The way the freight is loaded and unloaded can play a factor. Is it palletized? Shrink-wrapped? Floor loaded? Next take a look at how long it takes to move product from point “A” — the place where the driver picks up the load — to point “B” — the delivery destination. You can use average road speed for this calculation.

Other data you will need: Once the driver is at the delivery location, how long does the stop take? Is it a 15-minute or 30-minute stop or longer? Does the driver have “diminishing” loads, meaning is he dropping off a portion of the load at multiple stops? If so, is the truck loaded in such a way that when one load is delivered, the next load is in front? Is there a way to sequence orders to make the driver more efficient?  Are load evaluation surveys done on a regular basis?  In many cases, the warehouse / loaders have little sensitivity for the challenges the drivers face at the delivery points.

Evaluating customers’ order cycles can also provide significant opportunities. Are you making 10 stops one day, eight the next and nine the day after that? Working with your customers to better understand and analyze exactly how many stops they have and what they are doing on a per-location-basis will help identify if there are opportunities for consolidation. Are there other contributing factors to be considered? For example, if your customer is in the bakery business, you are going to have to pick up racks, a standard delivery system for baked goods. Or if your customer is a retailer, you may have to pick up empty totes, and so on. This could not only contribute to the delivery time but could also impact back haul opportunities.

Even the size of the trailer should be examined. We recently worked with a customer to redesign the specification of their trailers to provide additional interior trailer height. Working with the trailer manufacturer to increase interior trailer height an extra two inches made it possible to increase their stacks from eight cases to nine. If you think about the depth of a trailer, you have cases stacked in rows from floor to ceiling. That means one extra case from front-to-back and from side-to-side in each row. That’s a lot of additional cases per trailer load, thereby reducing the transportation cost per delivered case.

What about the drivers? How many are there? What are their eligible Hours of Service? What is their proficiency and comfort level with certain types of vehicles?  Do you avail them to advanced delivery software to allow the delivery point to be prepared for the delivery, thereby making it more efficient?

At first glance, it may seem like a lot of information to process and it could take some time to run an optimization analysis on your fleet. But in the long run, if done correctly, it can yield big gains.  These same principles apply whether we are working with our lease customers (their drivers) or our Dedicated Carriage customers (our drivers).

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