Consumers are demanding deliveries faster than ever. Not only that, but consumers are also demanding a promised day and time. This begs the question, what overall challenges is this demand causing fleets?
The first challenge is cost.
“Fleets need to implement new technology to meet on-time delivery in the form of a route planning software. This is additional costs for the fleet to meet the changing market and their customer’s needs,” said Morgan Minster, marketing manager at Wireless Links. “A fleet that won’t adapt will face a competitive disadvantage and will see lower customer satisfaction and reliability compared to its competitors who will implement new technologies and work ethics.”
Dr. Ashim Bose, chief data & AI officer for Omnitracs, agreed.
“The rising demand for faster deliveries is causing logistical challenges and raising costs for fleets, and it’s unlikely that these expectations will subside. According to a recent survey that Omnitracs conducted, 65% of U.S. consumers revealed that they would be willing to pay more for faster, more reliable deliveries. This new demand is causing more over-the-road companies to enter the last mile space, creating competition in an already crowded space,” Dr. Bose shared.
Another challenge is related to cost: the need to add drivers.
“As consumers are demanding faster deliveries, a fleet will have to have more available drivers on hand to supply the on-time deliveries. This is a challenge. Due to COVID-19, there is great demand for drivers, and now fleets are experiencing driver shortages throughout the country. So, having to hire more drivers is an added cost to fleets, and it is not necessarily added revenue in the short term. In the long term, it can affect your business growth by increasing the number of orders as on-time deliveries are met,” Minster added.
The labor shortage is a big challenge.
“Fleets must optimize the work for their drivers on staff to make up for a lack in experience and training. As employees leave the market, they take with them a knowledge bank – specifically in skilled trades, such as our customers in field services and construction,” said Nick Richardi, senior product manager for Zonar.
Additionally, fleet managers need to provide as many tools as possible to help employees overcome the knowledge gap.
“Technology should help address routing and optimization to account for unexpected traffic jams, or construction on the road, so the drivers are not strictly following a point‐to‐point route in which they might get lost or lose valuable time in delivery,” said Nick Richardi, senior product manager for Zonar.
Richardi added that technology could help ensure full visibility into fleet capacities, including both vehicle capacities for fuel per trip and drivers’ hours of service.
Added Pressure: Delivery Windows
Many consumers began scheduling delivery windows for items such as groceries, medicine, and beverages during the pandemic.
“Temperature-controlled items need to be prioritized to limit any spoilage of the products, which means drivers need to identify the quickest and most effective delivery routes. With proper technology like route optimization and intelligent navigation in place, fleets can easily determine how to get perishable products to their destination quickly and avoid any unforeseen challenges,” said Dr. Bose of Omnitracs.
Richardi of Zonar shared that “perishable delivery windows are based on regulatory or contractual requirements. If a driver does not deliver a prepackaged meal within the window allotted, the meal delivery service refunds the customer, so the goods are delivered without generating any revenue.”
He added that last-mile deliveries make up about 50% of all supply chain costs.
“Fleets must factor in the cost of training as well as the cost of failure involved when perishable items are not delivered within the timeframe,” Richardi said.
Tech to the On-Time Rescue
The most logical technology to look at helping fleet on-time delivery commitments is a route optimization software integrated with fleet management.
“Route planning helps fleet on-time delivery commitments as it plans delivery routes, assigns the jobs or loads to the routes, and optimizes the order of the stops within the route. When drivers follow a predictive schedule, they can focus on doing their job rather than spending their time on traffic jams, route mistakes, or planning out the day’s route on their own,” said Minster of Wireless Links.
Additionally, a good route planning software will have the ability to share with the customer the ETA’s, thus increasing customer satisfaction.
“It won’t necessarily have 100% on-time delivery, but the visibility with an ETA, along with the driver’s real-time location, provides reliability and satisfaction,” Minster added.
Technologies that assist with route optimization, route execution, intelligent navigation, and proactive alert messaging are critical to helping fleets meet delivery times.
“Optimization solutions allow drivers to make deliveries in the fastest, most efficient way. Alert messaging allows drivers to keep customers informed on delivery times, ensuring correct expectations are set. These solutions are invaluable to meeting tight delivery times, and they create more transparency and open communication between fleet managers, drivers, and customers,” said Dr. Bose of Omnitracs.
Additional tech considerations for on‐time delivery are fuel/battery route capacity planning and automatic vehicle-based starting location.
“Drivers need to understand their vehicle’s capabilities to service the route; this is particularly important as electric vehicles are adopted more and more,” said Richardi of Zonar.
Richardi shared that most route optimization tools and app‐based solutions based on a starting location.
“However, if technicians take their vehicle home at night, which many do, the route will still require the driver to go to the starting yard before driving to their first delivery stop. Instead, fleet managers should use telematics solutions to pinpoint the location of the vehicle and optimize the route from its physical location with greater accuracy and efficiency,” he added.
Also, to help simplify the driver shortage issue, fleet managers could consider monitoring drivers with telematics control units rather than training each new driver on app‐based routing solutions.
“With this approach, all routing is done on the backend, and fleet managers can text drivers the information needed for their next stop. Drivers can then use their preferred GPS mapping application for directions,” Richardi said.
Not All Solutions are Tech
Fleets should consider implementing applicable customer service and training.
“Drivers should be engaged with customers on their routes by ringing doorbells, leaving packages right side up etc. Fleet managers can also offer regular customer surveys for feedback on delivery satisfaction. This approach can help delivery teams gather valuable data while also holding drivers accountable for each delivery on the route,” said
Richardi of Zonar. “It’s easy to hide behind the wheel and drop packages off without much thought to these customer service queues. But these small actions are important to modify driver behavior so they ‘go the extra mile’ with customer service.”
Consider driver bonuses.
“Providing bonuses to drivers based on deliveries. This will entice drivers to complete more tasks during working hours,” suggested Minster of Wireless Links.
Additionally, when looking at perishable delivery routing, extensive planning is key to success.
“If a driver has perishable items on the route, this does not mean that those items should necessarily be delivered first. The transportation directors need to optimize the route to fill in delivery of non‐perishable items while still ensuring all perishables are delivered within the window,” said Richardi of Zonar.
And don’t forget about something as simple as maintaining open communication with drivers and teams.
“Prioritize wellness and training for last-mile drivers, which will ensure they can make these deliveries effectively and safely. Reducing driver pressure and improving driver experience will ultimately improve customer experience as well,” said Dr. Bose of Omnitracs.
A Green Future
In addition to faster delivery times, a recent consumer research study from Omnitracs found that 2020 brought a heightened awareness of the environment and sustainability. The study showed 40% of consumers want to see more eco-friendly delivery options, such as electric trucks.
“As fleets embrace more last-mile innovations, they should consider eco-friendly practices and technology as well,” said Dr. Bose of Omnitracs.