Delivery needs are changing and the traditional, larger delivery trucks just don’t work for rural deliveries and those to homes and smaller businesses. Consumers want product brought right to their front door, and quickly.   -  Photo: Ab Ovo North America, Inc.

Delivery needs are changing and the traditional, larger delivery trucks just don’t work for rural deliveries and those to homes and smaller businesses. Consumers want product brought right to their front door, and quickly. 

Photo: Ab Ovo North America, Inc.

The last-mile portion of the delivery process is not challenge-free. 

“Last-mile delivery fleets face a variety of challenges including dispatching on time, finding the most direct route, navigating in unfamiliar areas or urban traffic, entering the customer location, following the correct delivery instructions, and unloading and exiting the facility. Drivers can face problems at every step of the delivery process, and having as much information and detail as possible is crucial to last-mile delivery success,” said Kevin Aries, global leader, product success at Verizon Connect.

There are several challenges unrelated to the current pandemic as well. 

“Some of the top challenges last-mile fleets face that are unrelated to COVID-19 include inefficiencies, having unreliable points of interest (POI) info, inaccurate estimated time of arrival (ETAs), and real-time turn-by-turn navigation. Coverage for rural parts of the world is also a challenge to be aware of,” said Elizabeth Ong, senior manager of product marketing at TomTom.

Here are some of the top challenges currently facing last-mile delivery fleets related to routing. 

1. Improper Routing Solutions

There are quite a few routing solutions in the market, but they are far from the expectations of the dispatcher and driver. 

“The challenge fleets face is the driver has a completely different perspective compared to the route technology solutions have provided,” said Krishna Vattipalli, CEO of Fleet Enable. “Fleet managers require the routing to be dynamic and have the flexibility to react to real-time events. This goes beyond traffic.”

2. Driver Shortages 

Driver shortages present a significant challenge in today’s market, meaning top-quality fleet maintenance is essential to ensuring qualified drivers keep driving for their fleets. 

“The driver shortage was already present before it became headline news – the pandemic exacerbated the problem. Additionally, drivers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) are even more difficult to hire. Some companies have even begun to change their equipment based on the CDL driver shortage, retiring older model fleets and replacing them with ones that do not require a CDL driver,” said Ryan Wilkinson, chief technology officer at IntelliShift. 

Some of the toughest challenges are related to driver hiring and retention, insurance costs, and claim prevention. 

“Finding quality employees is already a challenge. It is critical to give them tools to make their job easier and safer. Telematics and camera systems can help to improve driver behaviors, protect a fleet’s investments and reduce the insurance burden through claim reduction, but the use of these technologies can sometimes complicate your relationship with the drivers if not used correctly.

Drivers have to see these technologies as beneficial and not as an impediment or barrier,” said Raj Bajaj,  VP, Webfleet Solutions International at Bridgestone Mobility Solutions.

3. Increasing Cost of Service

Costs are not going down for fleets, and there is no expectation for that trend to let up. 

“A top challenge all last-mile fleets face today is the cost of service is increasing — driver pay, fuel costs, the costs of utilities, etc. This would have occurred regardless of COVID-19, but in some areas, these costs have been exacerbated by labor issues, natural resource shortages, and extreme weather events,” said Andrew Nowell, sales manager at Trimble MAPS.

4. Managing Customer Expectations 

Managing customer expectations is something that goes hand-in-hand with supply chain issues.

“With customers adjusting to working from home, we’ve seen a growth in the number of requests for delivery visibility, such as real-time estimated times of arrival locations and, essentially, daily and hourly status updates on planned deliveries,” said Wilkinson of IntelliShift. 

5. Delivery Time Expectations 

Consumers in more rural or remote areas are now comfortable with online ordering. Same-day shipping offerings to these more widely-spread geographies — paired with consumers’ expectations of quick shipping — have altered routes, likely permanently, for last-mile operators, according to Nowell of Trimble MAPS.

“Same-day delivery has traditionally been limited to short distances (city to city), but in recent years this reach has had to stretch, pushing planned urban routes further out of town. This has a planning, execution, and service-level impact as well as an impact on costs,” Nowell added. 

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