Getting to theroute of the problem

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Don’t believe everything you read – an adage normally reserved for the susceptible readers of red tops and celebrity rags, but the same advice, it seems, should also be adhered to by truck drivers if they want to avoid (quite literally) being led up the garden path.

There have been a number of stories about HGV drivers getting stuck down narrow country lanes or up steep hills after following the instructions on their sat nav a little too stringently, causing untold damage to roads, countryside, surrounding buildings and the vehicle itself, not to mention disrupting residents and blocking access for other road users.

The problem has been attributed in part to foreign drivers not understanding instructions (so much so in some areas that pictorial signs have been erected warning drivers to ignore their sat navs) as well as the fact that manufacturers have so far focused primarily on the car market.

To help combat the problem, mapping agency Ordnance Survey has released “steep road” information to help sat nav providers route truck drivers more appropriately. The new data complements the existing information it published in 2006 on road weight, width and height limits, which it hopes will encourage sat nav manufacturers to release more products designed specifically for HGVs, helping to reduce the number of vehicles being sent down unsuitable roads.

Narrow lanes

Garmin has just launched the nüvi 465TF, a portable navigation device designed expressly to stop truck drivers from getting stuck down narrow village lanes and under low bridges. The system takes into account the vehicle’s dimensions and load restrictions before adjusting the route to best suit the truck’s profile using the available map data.

TomTom Work, the business subsidiary of TomTom, launched a navigation system for truck drivers at the end of 2008. More recently the company released TomTom GO 7000, which delivers real-time traffic information for commercial vehicle drivers, as well as reports about delays and alternative routes. At the same time TomTom Work released its WebFleet Dashboard, a reporting tool within the online fleet management application, TomTom WebFleet, which shows all analyses and trends in a single overview.

Thomas Schmidt, managing director of TomTom Work, says: “While the new TomTom GO 7000 makes professional navigation even more time and fuel efficient, the TomTom WebFleet Dashboard supports the management of fleets. Especially in times of economic difficulty, when costs have to be reduced and processes optimised, TomTom WebFleet Dashboard enables decisions to be made quickly, based on information that is displayed clearly and that can be quickly retrieved.”

Whether it’s improving efficiency, boosting productivity, tightening costs or optimising staff output, squeezing that little bit more out of what you have has never been so important.

Routeing software can help boost efficiency and create huge reductions in outgoings, says Optrak’s Tim Pigden. “Common vendor literature says savings of between five and 15 per cent can be achieved in transport and transport management costs, which is typically achieved by reducing the number of vehicles used and reducing the time spent planning. However, there is still a huge dichotomy between people who use routeing software and have seen proven benefits, next to those who don’t understand it, or don’t want to understand it, and therefore don’t use it.”

Fuchs Lubricants was able to reduce the time it spent planning by more than 85 per cent after investing in the Optrak vehicle routeing package. Richard Halhead, Fuchs’ managing director, says in addition, “we have improved all of our KPIs: on time or early delivery performance, cutting the pence per litre cost of each delivery, increasing the utilisation of vehicles and reducing mileage leading to a reduction in our carbon footprint.”

The company is also less reliant on one member of staff with specialist knowledge, so is able to cope better when employees are absent, as other members of the team can still create effective loading plans and routes.

Better planning can also create huge savings financially. William Salter, managing director of Paragon Software Systems, says: “The first prerequisite of an efficient transport operation is to ensure it is planned effectively. The routeing and scheduling optimisation systems required for this are well established and continually advancing in line with hardware performance improvements and industry demands. This helps companies plan efficient schedules that maximise fleet utilisation and minimise operating costs.”

After implementing Paragon’s transport optimisation system furniture manufacturer Dams International is saving £750,000 annually, through better management of its drivers, fitters and 140-strong fleet.

To boost its offering, DHL’s drinks logistics company Tradeteam chose to develop a transport management system in-house. Network manager Kevin Lawrence says: “By using the TMS, drivers have ease of mind when communicating with customers as they work with a clear summary of their daily activities and managers are able to drive efficiencies through knowledge gained from interpreting the information the system provides.”

Tradeteam has seen around a 21 per cent rise in efficiency levels since implementing the system, which in turn “has allowed service improvements and enhancements to be funded – differentiating us from our competitors,” says Lawrence.


When it comes to tackling inefficiencies Roger Marks, managing director of Aeromark, says a combination of technologies is best. “Routeing software helps managers and planners select the most effective routes. Scheduling applications ensure delivery sequences of delivery/collection locations are optimised. Sat nav helps to prevent drivers from wasting fuel by getting lost. Crucially, vehicle tracking shows where the driver has actually been and can help to analyse driver behaviour.”

However, while a combination of technologies may well be the optimum solution, if a company is not in a position to spend huge amounts on multiple new systems Marks suggests “a ‘must-have’, without any doubt, is a reliable, robust, vehicle tracking solution, because if you can’t measure you can’t manage”.

He says: “With the clear visibility of what is actually happening in the field, you can begin to ascertain where areas for potential improvement may lie in your business process. After the initial analysis, scheduling software can offer more efficient planning of deliveries and routes.”

Conversely, Paul Palmer, chief executive of DPS, insists: “What good is knowing where a vehicle is if you don’t know where it should be?” He reckons many companies get seduced by tracking as it is cheap, when in actual fact scheduling is more effective. “If you’ve got a good plan in place first then knowing where vehicles are is much more useful. You should begin by planning the most efficient route and then use tracking to help achieve that plan.”

Before making any hasty decisions, Chris Greenwood, CEO of MapMechanics, advises companies to have a clear idea of what they are ultimately trying to achieve, because “while all technology has a part to play, not all technology will be able to help everyone,” and making a mistake could end up being more costly. He adds that as a result of budgets being tighter, there has also been a move towards pay-as-you-go services.

A trend that hasn’t gone unnoticed by DPS’s Paul Palmer. He says: “There is still the traditional product which companies pay £15,000 – £20,000 for that we install and train up staff to use, but increasingly people don’t want that. Now, customers in general would prefer to have it hosted on the internet as they don’t have the cash flow to pay up front. Software as a Service is growing very fast.

“It is also particularly good for smaller companies, who traditionally couldn’t afford to pay up-front licence costs, but find it more cost effective over the web as they don’t need any other infrastructure. The web version of the software is taking routeing and scheduling into service areas that never thought they would need it.”


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