Tracking out of route
Operations with both static and irregular routes can monitor drivers’ out-of-route miles easily by using technology that compares actual routes to planned routes.
By Aaron Huff
Fleet managers quickly can identify out-of-route vehicles and drivers with tools such as ALK’s Fleet Commander that combine data from vehicle tracking systems and routing software.
Studies have shown that 10 percent of driver miles are out of route, costing an average $1,360 in fuel costs per truck per year. Operations with both static and irregular routes can monitor drivers’ out-of-route miles quite easily with technology that compares actual routes to planned routes.
Foodliner –a 650-truck, Dubuque, Iowa-based carrier – created a “travel activity report” as part of its monthly fuel reporting system. The report compares the mileage variances between Foodliner’s fuel tax miles — the actual mileages captured and reported by its PeopleNet system — and the mileages from its dispatch and billing software system. Each terminal receives its own report of the variances between the two mileages: The variance equals out-of-route miles.
But for some carriers, knowing exactly how many out-of-route miles are acceptable is tricky: In Foodliner’s case, the company allows its drivers to take their trucks home. “Between 5 and 10 percent out of route is OK,” says Tim Stoeck, controller for Foodliner.
By integrating with GPS and mileage systems, most transportation management software systems have built-in tools to monitor out-of-route miles. Maddocks Systems’ TruckMate for Windows has an audit feature some customers use to compare differences between planned billing mileages and the actual miles from mobile communications positions stored in the system. Out-of-route miles can be displayed in graphs, for example, to compare percentage differences for each trip or driver, says Bob Maddocks, president of Maddocks Systems.
Software tools also can notify managers in near-real time when drivers go out of route. McLeod Software’s ETA/Out-of-Route – a module for its LoadMaster transportation management system – uses mobile communication positioning data to calculate actual mileage traveled from an origin to the remaining mileage in a trip, which it pulls from a mileage server. If it detects a certain percentage of variance in mileage, the tool sends an instant alert to a dispatcher or manager, says Robert Brothers, manager of business development for McLeod Software.
ALK Technologies’ Fleet Commander also alerts fleet managers to out-of-route situations in near-real time. The visualization and optimization tool integrates with existing truck management systems to extract data about specific vehicles, loads, driver IDs and intended routes. Fleet Commander compares a position history data – a “breadcrumb trail” – from mobile communications to a base route in PC Miler. The tool is capable of providing alerts the moment a truck goes out of route.
The system has built-in intelligence to help managers decide how to resolve the situation – perhaps by calculating a new route or assigning a new destination or load. Fleet Commander also shows available loads and trucks to help dispatchers efficiently maximize carrier resources, says Garry Drier, chief operating officer of ALK Technologies.
For fixed routes, PeopleNet Communications has a tool called Activity Standards to monitor drivers’ out-of-route miles without using a separate routing or software package. Activity Standards uses GPS mileages captured by the onboard computer between two landmarks, such as customer locations. The application uses trip miles that are gathered over time and averaged, and builds a learned standard for the “planned” miles between two points, says Brian McLaughlin, PeopleNet’s vice president of marketing.
Technology makes the capture and monitoring of all fuel-related information easy – especially when compared to the delicate process of getting drivers to change old habits and improve fuel efficiency. Given the high price of fuel, even the most stubborn drivers might see the need.
“At the end of the day, fuel economy is like any other problem. If you do not manage it, it doesn’t improve,” says Murry Fitzer, CEO of Florilli Transportation in West Liberty, Iowa.