This article is your guide to building a custom vehicle routing software
When getting an Uber ride, you don’t care how they plan your route. You always know it’s the most optimal one because, well, it’s Uber. But when it comes to your business, there are no Uber guys to leave dynamic route optimization to. It’s you who needs to handle all the planning, calculating, and predicting to make the most of your daily fleet operations.
While it may take you many sleepless days to manually plan multi-stop routes for multiple vehicles, custom routing software can do it in a jiffy. If you think this might benefit your business, let Acropolium walk you through the matter.
We’ve crammed our collective expertise into this article to help logistics businesses save miles and money on every trip.
Here’s what you will learn as you make your way to the bottom line:
- Why switching to route planning software is a smart business decision
- What route optimization trends you may want to keep up with
- Which software features can make a route planner even more valuable
- Steps of delivery route planning software development
- How to make your routing system scalable
With a solid track record of custom routing solutions for logistics companies, Acropolium knows a thing or two about dynamic route optimization. And we definitely know there’s no use reinventing the wheel. Every solid routing system should be based on time-tested mapping services like Google Maps or Bing Maps.
Like Oleksii Glib, Founder at Acropolium, said, “You can’t compete with Google or Microsoft when it comes to a mapping system. And if you can’t compete, just take it and turn it to your advantage.”
So, let’s cut to the chase.
The effects of a dynamic route scheduling system on logistics processes
For businesses, route optimization isn’t only about getting to destinations as quickly as possible. It’s also about serving more customers through assigning more orders to drivers and making more deliveries.
In other words, optimizing delivery routes can help you expand your operational capacities and:
- Get more done with fewer miles covered. Whether you’re setting up a single-depot one-way trip or scheduling a raft of pickups, routing software can be a lifesaver. Add it to your delivery strategy, and your drivers have all it takes to go the shortest routes.
- Handle last-minute changes proactively. When your drivers are unavailable on a route, new jobs and orders may tie you up in knots. Routing software has your back as you respond to last-minute changes. It can recalculate distances considering new locations and fleet availability to perfect your delivery strategy during busy hours.
- Spend less on fuel and maintenance. With almost $3 for a gallon of gas in the US, no business wants to tank up more often than necessary. With truck stop routing and scheduling, you can make sure you are not pouring money down the exhaust pipe. Shorter routes always mean less fuel and less vehicle wear and tear.
- Collect fleet-related insights. A delivery route optimization solution is where traffic data, what-if cases, and trip details converge. It can be integrated with your fleet management system so that you can plan your daily operations based on historical data and customer visit patterns.
- Avoid traffic jams. Even though you can’t predict accidents, you can fine-tune your routes as they happen. This way, you can avoid the worst of the traffic jams and get to your customers at the right time while minimizing late deliveries.
Vehicle routing software is a cost-cutting solution for retail and FMCG companies, logistics businesses, and taxi services. It helps you save on every dollar you invest in your fleet while making your customer service second to none. Accurate ETAs and timely deliveries can now become your company’s pride and joy.
These business benefits are associated with solving vehicle routing problems (VRPs). To describe them without overly technical terms, VRPs require you to set up the best routes for your vehicles to serve customers within given limitations. Baffled? Let’s consider real-life cases with major VRPs to make it clearer.
Traveling salesman problem (TSP)
The TSP is at the core of every vehicle routing problem. With the TSP, fleet managers face the challenge of finding the best route for a vehicle that needs to serve customers at multiple locations and travel back to the depot. A simple example of the TSP is when a San Francisco-based FMCG company needs to deliver its goods to San Jose, Santa Rosa, Fresno, and Sacramento. It’s going to use only one vehicle for a one-day trip that ends in San Francisco.
Capacitated vehicle routing problem (CVRP)
The CVRP refers to how vehicles can pick up as many items at multiple locations as possible without going overboard with their load capacities. This problem is about saving costs on unnecessary trips. A capacitated vehicle routing problem example may be a carrier that needs to deliver 500 pallets to different warehouses. The pallets are stored in 20 locations all over the city, while each truck’s capacity is limited to 15 pallets.
VRP with pickups and deliveries
This problem has to do with the shortest route to pick something up at one location and drop it off at the other. The VRP may involve multiple vehicles and multiple locations, but not depots. For instance, a taxi service needs to pick up passengers upon their request and drop them off at destinations that are unknown until a ride starts. Within this VRP, a company should map out the most optimal route and assign it to the closest driver who is available when a customer requests a ride.
Vehicle routing problem with time windows (VRPTW)
Imagine that you need to deliver some goods to Mrs. Anderson between 7 am and 8 am, a package to Mr. Smith between 10 am and 11 am, and a few boxes to Mr. Williams before 5 pm. Then add 20 more deliveries that you’ve planned to make this day. These are VRPTW challenges that often pose a knotty problem to couriers.
VRP with resource constraints
This problem covers challenges other than vehicle availability, loading capacity, or time windows that are only tied to your fleet. It also factors in resource limitations at the depot that may interfere with your business operations.
Here’s an example. You send your vehicle to pick up pallets at the depot, but it can’t be loaded until the truck that is currently being loaded departs. This is because the workers are busy loading the first truck. To cap it off, a limited number of loading spots may be another constraint.
The good news is that route schedule optimization software can tackle all these vehicle routing problems. It analyzes the constraints that get in your way and automatically provides efficient solutions to bypass them. Based on a route optimization algorithm, the software calculates distances, looks at limitations and factors in the number of locations to be visited.
What’s next? Your vehicles hit the roads with the most cost-effective plans in place.
What will the route optimization software market be like in 2021-2025?
The route optimization market is a magnet for investors and companies looking to upgrade their transportation processes. In 2023, its size is projected to surpass the $5 billion mark, more than $2 billion up from 2018. Fast-forward to 2025: the market is expected to grow at an even more blistering pace.
Such an earth-shattering growth rate is backed by the increased availability of logistics route optimization software. You can now find a vendor, like Acropolium, to create a custom routing solution for your company and fine-tune it for your business.
The market is no longer in its infancy. It keeps up with the latest technological trends as food delivery companies, carriers, and other players seek to adopt:
- Cloud solutions for speedier deployment, scalability, and reduced software implementation costs
- Real-time routing based on ever-changing traffic and weather conditions
- Eco-friendlier transportation processes for reduced mileage and vehicle emissions
- The blockchain technology that will help freight managers, dispatchers, and drivers share cargo-related data
Custom routing solutions are expected to become more popular than off-the-shelf software in 2021-2025. That’s not to say Route4Me or Verizon Connect will trail behind tailor-made systems in terms of functionality. They will still be there to help you optimize your routes.
What the customization trend does mean is that enterprises set their sights on flexibility. A tailor-made delivery route optimization solution can be integrated with your company’s existing fleet management systems and unique processes. Plus, it can scale whenever needed to handle more jobs and trip schedules.
The flexibility of a custom vehicle route management system also has to do with the features you want it to have. You don’t need to settle for what some provider has included in its off-the-shelf software. Instead, you can choose what options are important for your operations.
Read also: All about dispatch software development.
Which route optimization software features should you bet on?
Routing software that can only set up routes ahead of time is like a fleet management system that only shows how many vehicles you have. Maybe you can make it work for you, but it’s not fun.
However, you don’t have to rough it.
You want routing software to take your transportation management up a notch with value-added features. Here are some of them.
For your fleet managers
It’s impossible to plan all routes early in the morning without ever modifying them throughout the day. Chances are, you will receive new orders that will require some re-routing for your vehicles to visit all locations on time.
That is why you need to be able to make real-time route changes with your software. This feature can also include live driver tracking so that your fleet managers can assign new jobs to nearby drivers.
Weather, traffic, and other roadside conditions often take their toll on deliveries and ETAs. But routing software can now diminish this impact.
Make sure your software is capable of dynamic logistics route planning, and your routes will always be adapted to what’s happening on the roads. It can automatically process what-if scenarios and handle all the unexpected things thrown at it.
Integrating machine learning into your routing software is a smart move to maximize your transportation operations. AI technology is a worthy addition as it can analyze weather data and fleet performance metrics. You can then use these insights to optimize new routes and schedules.
You can also enhance route optimization with AI when predicting ETAs and processing various constraints. These constraints may include roads under construction, customs check-in times, location-specific transit restrictions, level crossing closures, and so on.
If you service the same areas over and over again, this feature will help you do it better. When it’s included in your routing system, you can set the geographical boundaries of your territories, add customers’ addresses, and distribute jobs among your drivers more effectively.
A territory management option works well with routing software for monitoring purposes. It serves as a visual aid in identifying when your trucks enter or leave certain areas.
Vehicle condition check
Even if you’ve found the best route, a poorly maintained truck will unlikely follow it the way you’ve planned. So it makes sense to monitor your fleet condition and assign routes to those vehicles that can handle them well.
This feature will help you spot trucks “in poor health” and schedule timely repairs and maintenance.
Cargo type monitoring
If you’re a transportation company, you’d better include this feature in your routing software.
Different load types require different routes and speeds. Transporting dry cargo isn’t the same as transporting perishables from a delivery perspective. This is another routing problem with additional constraints, and monitoring what load your trucks carry can help you solve it.
For your drivers
Navigation map integration makes sure your drivers stick to the routes you’ve planned. Directions help them spend less time figuring out how to avoid U-turns and reverse maneuvers and more time making deliveries.
Directions can come with speed limits, distances between locations, and specific trip details. All these will help your drivers get the job done faster.
Hours-of-service (HOS) tracking
Consider including this feature in your routing app if you still don’t have a system for hours-of-service tracking. Your drivers can use it to log the time they start their behind-the-wheel day and receive reminders of when they should take a break.
HOS tracking is equally important for your fleet managers and drivers. That’s because it helps you meet local HOS regulations and ensure the safety of your workers and fleet.
Proof of delivery (POD)
Collecting PODs and customers’ signatures shouldn’t be a headache. With this feature, your drivers can get proof of delivery using API-based routing apps and submit them at the tap of a button. If you’re a delivery company or a courier, a POD option is a must.
Read also: Uber API integration best practices.
Routing software components and development steps
When you think of a routing system, chances are you’re thinking of visual interfaces, maps, and dashboards. This is the frontend. But building a transportation optimization software solution takes more than just interaction-ready screens.
What looks so easy to use on the frontend, be it an app for your drivers or a web-based system for your fleet managers, is usually complicated on the backend. For starters, it rests on a mapping and route optimization algorithm that calculates distances and analyzes all possible routes to solve VRPs.
Databases and servers make the backend complete. They store, handle, and retrieve information about your routes and trips to serve it over the frontend. You and your drivers can then interact with this information in your user interfaces.
When all these components are neatly wired together, your routing system is bound to be a success. To add it all up, the software vendor you choose will:
- Define what VRPs your business needs to overcome Because every business has its own constraints, you should communicate clearly with your vendor to describe yours. They will then advise you on the features to embed in your custom delivery truck routing software solution to tackle the VRPs you face.
- Bundle all software components together The second step is to design the frontend and connect it to the backend. If you outsource it, your vendor will build a custom vehicle route optimization software system from A to Z. What a relief for your team!
- Deploy your routing software Once every line of code is spotless, your software is rolled out. It’s integrated into your existing fleet management systems and paired with all proprietary and third-party solutions you use. After routing software deployment is over, your drivers and fleet managers can test the waters.
- Refine it as per your feedback If you’d like to add, improve, or remove some features from your routing system, let your vendor know. Route optimization APIs can be upgraded on the go, so you don’t have to pause your business.
- Ensure solid support behind your software When you hire a vendor to develop a custom VRP software solution for you, you don’t have to maintain it. So, you can focus on setting up routes and cutting your overhead. Meanwhile, your vendor does the debugging and server upgrades as you use your newly crafted software.
However, ongoing maintenance alone doesn’t make your routing software scalable and cost-effective. It must also have the right technology combination.
What makes routing software grow with your business?
One of the most frustrating things about routing is when your software doesn’t hold up once you get more jobs to do and customers to serve. Unless its technical side is built to be scalable, you can forget about optimized driving directions and VRP workarounds when your company grows.
Fleet routing software scalability isn’t something you can choose to have or not. It’s a must for every business that may ever want to expand its fleet, break into new territories, or otherwise increase its delivery capabilities. And here’s what can make your multi-drop routing system scalable:
- Resilient architecture. Get your vendor to create flexible software architecture. It should make your routing system high-performing while only using as many resources as its current functions require.
- A well-thought-out technology stack. Many tech stacks are possible when you develop truck delivery planning software. For some businesses, AngularJS and Oracle DB will do the trick, whereas others can benefit from Apache Cassandra. You’d better let your vendor hand-pick a combination of technologies so that your software holds up for your business needs.
- A cloud platform. Instead of running your software on physical servers, get it deployed on virtual machines. Cloud platforms are never starved for resources, meaning you can scale up or down whenever it makes sense to do so. Your routing software can be deployed in any cloud environment, according to your preferences.
You don’t need a scalable dispatch management and routing system… if you’re never going to grow your business. But if you’re looking for expansion opportunities, ride the tailwind of technology with Acropolium.
Read also: How to speed up your software time to market.
Acropolium and route optimization software
You want to set up better routes — Acropolium strives to give you what it takes to do that. We’re not just another vendor to sell you ready-made software with features you will never use. What we do is create custom routing solutions based on proven mapping services from Google or Microsoft. We build them for the VRPs you need to dodge, with functionality that can complement your operations.
We started in 2003 and have been developing route optimization, logistics, and supply chain management systems ever since. You can often see Acropolium propelling big data software projects for transportation companies to tackle their VRPs (e.g., time windows or weather constraints). And they all have one thing in common: their fleet managers can now use flexible, scalable, and customized routing software.
The bottom line
Would you rather choose the route in which your vehicles need to cover 1,000 miles to visit 10 locations or the 800-mile one for the same locations? This is what route optimization is about. And if you don’t feel like writing down every turn and stop, you can’t go without custom routing software.
Custom software can be designed to address any vehicle routing problem. Whether you’re making deliveries within time windows or trying to fit cargo within your vehicles’ capacity constraints, it can automatically plan the best routes with these constraints in mind.
A routing system can be used to show directions, track the whereabouts of your vehicles, and log how many hours your drivers spend behind the wheel. Not only that, but it can also include add-on features to prevent your overhead from trampling upon your business.
At Acropolium, we are 100% sure custom routing software based on top-rated mapping services is a money-saver for any company that owns a vehicle fleet. If you think so too, contact us to have a word with our experts about your project. We will be glad to develop a dynamic vehicle route planning software for all your VRPs and scalability needs!