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Driving efficiency home for the holidays

Driving efficiency home for the holidays

Logistics managers can turn to technology to cope with the busiest period of the year says Sergio Barata, general manager EMEA, Telogis.

With the holidays just around the corner, people up and down the country start purchasing piles of food, beverages and presents for their friends and families. For fleet managers, this represents one of the most challenging periods on the calendar. 
Each year, we hear horror stories of traffic jams and huge queues of HGVs and LCVs snaking for miles outside of distribution centres. We hear about angry customers waiting for their parcels and how it has ruined the holiday. With so many elements to juggle, how can fleet operators keep on top of everything? Most importantly, how can they ensure their customers get all their presents in time?

With research showing that more than half of fleet executives still use manual systems for everyday fleet management tasks, it’s no surprise that many fleets are struggling to cope with the increased holiday workload. Technology is like Santa’s little helper for fleet and logistics managers, as it plays a vital role in helping to balance distribution centre schedules, driver timings and route traffic and ultimately keep everyone happy. For fleet operators who want to stay ahead of the competition, there’s no time to lose to adopt the latest tech.

Avoiding queues at customers or distribution centres
Long lines of vans and lorries parked outside depots and distribution centres can lead to angry locals – or even a visit from the police – and cause delays for anxious customers waiting for their packages. For fleet managers, it is vital to first look at their Service Level Agreements (SLAs) to establish what is expected of them, and then plan accordingly with the distribution centres in advance to map out the best timings for goods collection. With this information, fleets can use a tech platform such as Mobile Resource Management (MRM) to plot out the details to spend less time idling in an endless queue. This allows for smoother and less stressful journeys, as well as happier customers.

Avoiding traffic jams with smarter route planning
Even without the additional holiday traffic clogging up the roads, a study earlier this year found that congestion in the UK’s major cities has created a 20 per cent decline in average vehicle speeds, resulting in a whopping 324.3 billion miles of delays altogether – and this is costing our economy around £9bn. As a result, optimising routes to avoid traffic and achieve marginal gains is more important than ever. MRM provides managers with live analytics that allows them to plan out the best routes beforehand and establish which driver is best placed to arrive at the desired destination the soonest, as well as being able to manage time slot deliveries. The technology can then track the vehicle’s location once it’s out on the road, and even re-route the driver at a moment’s notice if road conditions suddenly change.

With real-time visibility over the status and location of each customer’s delivery, this not only means that drivers can take the most efficient routes, reducing idling and fuel consumption, but also that managers are able to respond quickly and knowledgably to customer questions if unexpected eventualities arise. This ensures that customer satisfaction will remain high even if unavoidable delays do occur.

Assisting in planning more effective schedules
Driver schedules can also be a real headache during the holiday season. Fleet and logistics managers constantly battle to make sure hours are allocated as efficiently as possible, and at the same time sending the best-placed drivers to various different locations. If not done properly, managers risk over-burdening some drivers, resulting in them clocking up hour after hour of overtime, while other drivers may remain under-utilised. Not only does unplanned overtime eat into margins, but drivers will become tired and overworked on top of all the stress of the busy holiday period. With the DVSA suggesting it will clamp down on driver fatigue by issuing fines or infringement notices retrospectively, it has never been more important to get scheduling right. Tech platforms can monitor and analyse driver performance, analysing when drivers start their shifts, how many stops they have made, and what time they have completed their deliveries, ensuring drivers are where they should be at all times.

With this information at their fingertips, companies can easily make sure both their customers and their employees are kept happy. This saves a lot of stress for fleet managers who can be assured that everything is all under control.

As everyone gears up for the holidays, no one wants to be spending the next couple of weeks anxiously wondering where their deliveries are, and certainly no company wants to be responsible for dampening the festive cheer. Fleet managers therefore must ensure that they are on top of their logistics as simply relying on outdated technology will no longer suffice. They need something that is mobile and is able to scale as the business requires. Those with the right technology supporting them will not only increase their chances of getting meeting customers’ heightened expectations, they can manage costs, increase revenue and have a happy and prosperous holiday period.

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