The ultimate guide to route optimization

Logistics and supply chain management businesses constantly seek new strategies to leverage operations to scale.

Logistics and supply chain management businesses constantly seek new strategies to leverage operations to scale. In recent years, one of the most beneficial solutions for companies in this space has been route optimization tools enhanced by advanced algorithms and data analytics that streamline delivery operations across the board. 

If your business embraces route optimization, you'll unlock many benefits ranging from cost savings and operational efficiency to dramatically improved customer service experiences. It's the competitive edge you've been looking for in today's incredibly demanding marketplace. 








What is Route Optimization?


Route optimization is the process of carefully planning and optimizing every route taken by your trucks or vehicles. It considers many factors, such as traffic patterns, time windows, driver availability, and client locations, to employ sophisticated optimization models to determine the most efficient routes.  

In the upcoming years, it will be critical for transportation and logistics businesses to take advantage of route optimization tools and techniques to prevent inefficient routes that result in longer delivery times, increase operational costs, and decrease customer satisfaction.

How Route Optimization Works 

Full Optimization

Route optimization involves four key steps: data collection, constraint identification, route generation, and continuous monitoring and adjustment. Advanced software solutions play a crucial role here, leveraging complex algorithms to analyze collected data, account for constraints, and generate optimized routes in real-time to adapt to changing conditions when needed. 

If you want to understand the route optimization process, you’ll need to grasp the underlying mathematical models and optimization techniques. Each process begins with collecting and processing data – customer locations, vehicle capacities, time windows, traffic patterns, etc. This data is then processed through optimization algorithms that employ mathematical models to represent the problem as a series of equations and constraints.  

The algorithms then systematically explore solutions, evaluating different route combinations and identifying the ones that best satisfy the specified objectives. This exploration process is computationally intensive and often involves constant refinement to find further optimized, more promising solutions for superior results.  

Modern route optimization solutions leverage various techniques, like dynamic programming, that break down each problem into a series of smaller problems and combine solutions to determine an optimal solution. Then, real-time data integration and continuous monitoring enable you to adjust quickly and respond to external conditions like traffic delays or unexpected events.  

Companies using Route Optimization  

Route optimization’s transformative power is evident in several real-world success stories across a wide range of industries. Here are some case studies that illustrate how businesses have leveraged advanced optimization techniques to overcome their various operational challenges, reduce costs, and enhance customer service: 

Case Study #1 - Saia Incorporates RouteMax for Effective Route Planning

SAIA licenses HaulPLAN

With a network of over 6,000 power units and 20,000 trailers, Saia is one of the largest LTL carriers in the United States. In 2020, they decided to deploy RouteMax, a dynamic route optimization software designed to streamline and speed pickup and delivery operations

By facilitating quick and accurate route building, the software empowers Saia's inbound planners to consistently meet service commitments while minimizing operational expenses across all 169 terminals. Rohit Lal, Saia’s executive vice president and Chief Information officer, says that “[they] recognized quite early that these tools gave [them] the ability to be more efficient and more productive” (Learn more).

Case Study #2 - Southeastern Freight Lines 

SEFL Fleet

Southeastern Freight Lines is a regional less-than-truckload carrier operating 89 service centers in 13 states, Canada, and Puerto Rico. They have roll out Optym's route planning solution across its network to improve the productivity of their planners and assets. The solution was customized to accommodate SELF's operations and helped them minimizing the number of vehicles needed for delivery and the number of likes travelled by those.

Woody Lovelance, SELF Senior Vice President & CIO, says that “RouteMax’s dynamic route optimization capabilities and intuitive workflows are helping [their] planners create more efficient routes in less time. As [they] continue our collaborations with Optym, we anticipate even greater success of RouteMax at SEFL"(Learn more).

Case Study #3 – Slashing Daily Cost Saving Through Route Optimization


A leading transportation company wanted to reduce costs while maintaining service centers, but they were facing challenges to efficiently route shipments to avoid unnecessary rehandling at them. These rehandling continually added significant expenses and complexity to their operations.  

The company implemented Optym's HaulPlan tool, a sophisticated solution that simulates freight movement and identifies optimization opportunities. By analyzing the network data and applying advanced algorithms, HaulPlan provided insights into rerouting strategies to minimize rehandling costs.  

The solution proposed rerouting over 150 services to bypass a specific service center, shifting 72,000 pounds of freight daily. This move reduced terminal rehandling while maintaining service levels and ensuring a balanced approach to cost reduction and operational efficiency.  

The results were impressive: the company achieved a remarkable $2,000 daily cost savings and eliminated 1,300 linehaul miles from its network. This initiative demonstrated the power of route optimization for identifying and implementing cost-effective strategies while ensuring seamless service delivery.

Case Study #4 – Streamlining Route Planning


A regional less-than-truckload (LTL) carrier faced many difficulties in efficiently planning routes for its daily deliveries. Their time-consuming manual planning processes took hours to devise optimal routes and usually resulted in inefficiencies and suboptimal solutions.  

To address this problem, the carrier utilized Optym's RouteMax solution, a cutting-edge route optimization software designed specifically for LTL carriers. RouteMax uses advanced algorithms and real-time data to generate optimized routes, considering various constraints like time windows, vehicle capacities, and driver availability.  

When the carrier adopted RouteMax, it transformed its route planning process. The time it took to plan routes was reduced from hours to mere minutes, and  

the carrier achieved a 6 percent decrease in miles per stop, an 8 percent increase in stops per hour, and a 50 percent reduction in route planning time. These improvements led to substantial cost savings, improved productivity, and enhanced customer service.  

Both case studies show the tangible benefits your business could realize if you embrace route optimization solutions. Whether it’s reducing terminal rehandling costs or streamlining the route planning process, such routing strategies enable you to gain the competitive edge you need to improve your operations and drive long-term success and profitability.

Manual Route Optimization vs. Route Optimization Software  


Manual route planning and consumer-grade navigation apps like Google Maps and Waze provide basic routing capabilities but fall short regarding the complex demands of modern transportation and logistics operations. If your business strives for efficiency and cost savings, the limitations of these traditional approaches will become increasingly apparent.  

Limitations of Tools like Google Maps & Waze

The real problem with these tools isn't in their accessibility – it's that they're not designed to handle the complexities of commercial delivery operations. In fact, they're primarily designed with personal use in mind. As such, these apps lack the advanced Optimization features your business needs and fail to account for a range of critical factors.  

Additionally, these apps primarily focus on point-to-point navigation. They don't consider the intricacies of route optimization, making them unable to sequence multiple stops, handle load consolidation, or resource allocation. Thus, the routes they generate can sometimes lead to longer travel times, higher fuel consumption, and increased operational costs.

Disadvantages of Manual Route Optimization & Planning

Routes completely designed by human planners are time-consuming and prone to error. This manual route planning process requires planners to consider countless variables – delivery locations, traffic patterns, vehicle capacities, etc. – that can quickly become overwhelming. It's even more apparent the larger the scale of your operation.  

Some errors you’ll see most often include inefficient routing, increased costs, and dissatisfied customers due to missed delivery windows or delayed arrivals. These are entirely the result of human errors, as even the most experienced planners sometimes overlook critical factors, leading to suboptimal decisions.  

Manual planning also lacks scalability, making it challenging for businesses looking to adapt to growth or demand fluctuations. As your number of deliveries and constraints increases, the complexity of your route planning grows exponentially, rendering traditional manual methods both inefficient and unsustainable.

Technology’s Role in Route Optimization

As opposed to how manual planning and consumer-grade navigation apps handle route planning, dedicated route optimization software utilizes advanced technologies and algorithms to generate optimized routes tailored to the specific needs of delivery operations.  

Route optimization software can handle larger data sets that incorporate information from various sources, such as customer orders, vehicle specifications, driver schedules, real-time traffic conditions, and more. By processing all this data through sophisticated algorithms, the software generates routes that account for the most complex constraints and objectives to maximize asset utilization, minimize travel time, and adhere to delivery time windows.  

These software tools also employ advanced techniques like machine learning to refine and improve route plans continuously. This means it will explore numerous route permutations to identify the most efficient solutions that far exceed the capabilities of manual planning or consumer-grade navigation apps.

What is Route Optimization Software? 


Route optimization software is a modern and powerful technological solution designed to streamline the routing and scheduling of delivery operations. By leveraging advanced data analytics, the software can generate efficient routes based on vast amounts of information. Routing software enables businesses to maximize productivity, reduce costs, and improve the customer experience.  

At its core, route optimization software automates the more complex aspects of route planning by accounting for myriad factors that are nearly impossible to manage manually. By integrating data from various sources, the software can create routes that are guaranteed to minimize travel time, fuel consumption, and other operational costs.

Key Features & Functionalities

LT_Path Stops


Automatic Route Planning: The software uses advanced algorithms that enable automatically generated, optimized routes considering every possible factor.


Real-Time Tracking and Updates: Through GPS and telematics systems integration, route optimization software tracks vehicle locations and adjusts routes dynamically in response to changing conditions.
LT_Select Option


Constraint Handling: The software accommodates constraints like driver schedules, regulatory requirements, vehicle capacities, and more. This ensures any route generated is both feasible and compliant.
LT_UI Graph


Analytics & Reporting: The robust analytics and reporting capabilities included in route optimization software provide insights into route performance, cost savings, and areas for improvement to enable more data-driven decision-making.

Benefits of Route Optimization Software

Route Optimization

If your business implements route optimization software, you’ll unlock some key advantages: 

LT_ClockAccurate ETAs

Today’s customers expect timely and reliable deliveries. With a route planner app, you’ll improve Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) accuracy by factoring in real-time data like traffic patterns, weather conditions, and other unexpected events. By delivering precisely according to the ETA, your business will improve its on-time delivery performance and generate higher customer satisfaction scores.

LT_Money BagCost Savings

Route optimization software drives significant cost savings across various facets of your delivery operations:  

  1. Fuel Efficiency: With optimized routes, your vehicles will travel shorter distances, reducing fuel consumption and associated costs. This benefit is even more significant for businesses with large fleets and extensive delivery networks.  
  2. Labor Cost Reduction: Optimized routes translate into fewer hours for drivers and less frequent overtime pay, substantially reducing labor costs. Efficient routing also reduces the need for additional personnel, contributing to cost savings.  
  3. Truck/Vehicle Maintenance Savings: Shorter distances traveled and reduced idle time mean less wear and tear on your vehicles, lowering your maintenance and repair costs over time.

LT_Paper Plane SendOperational Efficiency

If your business utilizes a quality route planner app, it’ll play a pivotal role in streamlining your operations and maximizing efficiency in these ways: 

  1. Optimized Scheduling: Advanced algorithms generate routes that ensure efficient resource utilization and timely deliveries, shortening travel distances and enhancing the way you schedule jobs.  
  2. Reduced Travel Time and Distance: With optimized routing, drivers travel fewer miles while being able to complete more stops per route and improve their overall performance on the road.  
  3. Increased Productivity: With more efficient routing, your drivers and the rest of your business will boost overall productivity, enabling you to achieve more with your existing resources. 

LT_Ribbon CheckAdditional Benefits

We’ve covered cost savings, customer satisfaction, and operational efficiency, but how else can route optimization software offer you advantages that contribute to business success? 

  1. Scalability: As your delivery volumes increase and your business grows, route optimization software can seamlessly accommodate your expansion and ensure efficient operations at scale.
  2. Flexibility: Dynamic adjustments in real-time, or “dynamic route optimization,” accounts for unforeseen events like road closures or last-minute order changes. This capability ensures short- and long-term agility and responsiveness.
  3. Decision Support: The valuable insights and analytics provided by route optimization solutions enable data-driven decision-making. You'll identify bottlenecks and optimize your resource allocation to continuously improve your delivery operations.
  4. Competitive Advantage: Leveraging route optimization software allows your business to outperform your rivals in terms of service quality, reliability, and overall efficiency.  

How To Choose the Right Route Optimization Software? 


There are many route-planning apps on the market, but selecting the right one for your business can take time and effort. Making the right choice is crucial if you want to ensure the software aligns with your specific needs, seamlessly integrates within your existing software ecosystem, and supports your long-term growth objectives. 

Factors to Consider

When you’re ready to evaluate a route planner app, consider these factors: 
  1. Business Size & Industry: The scope and complexity of your delivery options, coupled with the specific industry you're in, should seriously influence your software requirements. Software designed for small businesses won't scale effectively for a larger enterprise, while industry-specific solutions may offer more custom-tailored features and functionalities. 
  2. Specific Needs & Requirements: Identify what’s unique to your business – the number of vehicles, delivery locations, scheduling particulars, etc. This should help you narrow down your options to software that effectively addresses your specific use case. 
  3. Integration with Existing Systems: Evaluate every software's ability to integrate well with your existing software systems. If you have an enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform, a transportation management system (TMS), or a warehouse management system (WMS), you want to be sure your new software will synchronize without issue.  
  4. Scalability & Growth Potential: Be sure your route optimization software can scale according to your business growth and delivery volumes. Solutions should accommodate future expansion without compromising performance or needing costly upgrades. 

Evaluation Criteria

If you’ve found potential software options that may align with your business needs, evaluate them based on these criteria:

  1. Features & Functionality: Stress-test the software's capabilities regarding automatic route planning, real-time tracking, constraint handling, and analytics. Ensure the software has the features and functionalities you need to optimize your delivery operations effectively.
  2. Ease of Use: Any worthwhile software should have a user-friendly interface and intuitive navigation. You should also consider the implementation process, including any training or support the vendor provides.  
  3. Vendor Support & Reliability: Peek into the vendor's reputation, customer service offerings, and ongoing support. Prompt issue resolution means minimal downtime and can ensure seamless operations.
  4. Cost & Pricing Models: Assess the software's upfront and recurring costs and pricing model. Is it a perpetual license or subscription-based? Ensure the solution fits within your budget while guaranteeing long-term value for your investment. 

Challenges for Route Optimization Software 


As we’ve seen thus far, route planning software offers numerous benefits. However, implementing and leveraging it successfully can present certain challenges that businesses must be prepared to address: 

Solving Pickup & Delivery Planning

One of the biggest challenges in route optimization revolves around the complexity of pickup and delivery operations, particularly in the LTL industry. These operations involve a range of intricate workflows, such as shipment planning, wave planning, driver assignments, and more, each with its own set of constraints and objectives.  

The need for dynamic route optimization to accommodate real-time changes adds even further layers of complexity. LTL companies need effective route optimization solutions to handle these nuances and ensure their routes minimize travel time and distance while also accounting for the unique requirements of their pickup and delivery operations. 

Change Management & User Adoption

Any time you implement new technology, you'll run into resistance from stakeholders. Route optimization software is no exception. Overcoming this resistance to ensure user adoption can be challenging, as it involves changing long-standing established processes and workflows.  

You'll need to ensure your change management strategies are practical and include comprehensive training programs to ensure everyone in your operation understands the capabilities and benefits of the new software. Addressing concerns and misconceptions about the latest software's impact on job security and workloads goes a long way toward alleviating resistance and fostering a culture that embraces technology for efficiency and growth.  

These challenges may seem daunting initially, but they're surmountable with proper planning, execution, and a commitment to continuous improvement. Address your data quality issues, ensure seamless integration, and implement change management strategies to help your business overcome these obstacles. That way, you'll fully utilize the powers of route optimization software to drive operational excellence and sustained profitability.

Cost Savings Associated with Route Optimization 


Route optimization offers some proven ways for delivery operations to slash their costs. Savings appear in several significant ways: 

LT_Path StopsFuel Efficiency: With optimized routes prioritizing shorter distances and minimized unnecessary engine idling times, you’ll see a direct minimization of fuel expenses. Fuel costs are a tremendous expense for any fleet-based business, so even a minor percentage reduction translates into significant savings.

LT_Money BagLabor Cost Reduction: When your drivers can complete more deliveries within their regular shift hours, you'll cut down on overtime and the need to hire extra drivers. This means lower overall labor costs, typically one of the most significant expenditures for delivery-oriented enterprises. Plus, your drivers will be happier with less stressful workloads, which can boost driver retention 

LT_Gear WrenchVehicle Maintenance Savings: The less your vehicles travel, the less wear and tear they’ll endure. This translates directly into lower maintenance costs and longer vehicle lifespans. With optimized routes, you’ll defer expensive replacements and repairs and extend the value of your fleet investment.  

LT_Folder StructureOperational Efficiencies: Streamlining your routes streamlines everything else! You can expect less administrative overhead, decreased costly delays, and reduced risks of missed deliveries incurring penalties. If you eliminate these inefficiencies, your operation will run smoother as you better use resources to increase overall delivery capacity.

Calculating Your ROI

The potential for cost savings is huge, but the specific return on investment (ROI) for route optimization differs between businesses. To understand the savings impact, you'll have to take into account how many vehicles you have, how complex your deliveries are, and how efficient you currently are. Fortunately, many software vendors provide ROI calculators or will consult with you to project potential savings based on your company's specific data.  

Remember: route optimization isn't just about finding the shortest possible route. It's about triggering a ripple effect of cost reductions throughout your organization to boost your bottom line directly. It's a smart investment. 

Route Optimization Helps the Environment 


The business world is more environmentally conscious than ever. That's why every industry has begun prioritizing sustainability initiatives to protect the environment and reap the rewards from them. The transportation sector—especially the trucking industry—is known to contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. This is yet another area where route optimization can be a powerful tool, as it helps businesses demonstrably reduce their environmental impacts and contribute to a cleaner future. 

Optimizing for Efficiency and Emissions Reduction

Traditional delivery route planning has been inefficient for a long time, leading to unnecessary travel distances, excessive idling, and increased fuel consumption. These factors directly contribute to rising emissions levels and environmental pollution. With route optimization software employing sophisticated algorithms to plan delivery routes meticulously, it prioritizes essential factors like: 

LT_Path StopsFewer miles traveled: A quality route planner app strategically maps the most efficient routes to reduce the total miles driven by your delivery vehicles significantly. You'll generate lower emissions and benefit from a smaller carbon footprint. 

LT_ClockReduced idle times: All those unnecessary stops and wait times are a thing of the past. You’ll curb your engine idling time and reduce the associated release of harmful pollutants. 

LT_Package ThreeConsolidated loads: Your routing software will intelligently group deliveries and maximize truck capacity, reducing the number of vehicles required to complete every assignment. This equates to fewer emissions in the short term and overall.  

Additional Business Benefits from Environmental Efforts

Beyond the benefits of lowering fuel costs and improving the overall efficiency of your fleet, you'll also foster a positive brand image. Adhering to eco-friendly efforts strengthens your reputation for environmental responsibility, which can potentially attract environmentally conscious consumers and stakeholders. 

As environmental regulations become more robust yearly, route optimization enables your business to comply with stricter emission standards and avoid costly penalties proactively. Your company can operate with greater confidence and transparency by reducing your environmental impact.

Route Optimization FAQ 


What is route management?

Route optimization involves planning the best possible route for deliveries or service calls, considering countless factors like distance, traffic, delivery time windows, etc. It's about finding the most efficient route while considering driver schedules, available hours, legal requirements, and more – not just figuring out the shortest distance between point A and point B. 

What are the most significant challenges in implementing route optimization software?

Every new technology requires some effort to implement successfully, but route optimization software is designed with user-friendliness in mind. Some key considerations include: 

  1. Data Quality: Prepare clean, accurate data (customer addresses, vehicle specifications, etc.) before implementation. 
  2. Change Management: Make sure your drivers and stakeholders understand the benefits of the software and how it works. Consider a phased rollout coupled with robust training resources. 
  3. Vendor Support: Find a vendor that offers excellent implementation support and training to ensure a smoother transition. 

How do I calculate my ROI for my specific situation?

Results will vary between organizations, but here’s a straightforward way to gauge your potential savings: 

  1. Start with Simple Metrics: Even if you don’t have a ton of complex data on hand from the start, you can reasonably estimate your fuel savings and overtime reductions. 
  2. Utilize Vendor Calculators: Find out if your software vendor offers ROI calculators tailored to their solutions. 
  3. Consultations: A reputable vendor will work closely with you to help you project savings based on your business’s unique data.

What is the best route planner app?

Optym’s cutting-edge optimization solutions, including HaulPlan and RouteMax, automate and streamline the complexities of your delivery operations from the ground up. Our goal is to help you simplify every operation step with leading AI tools that allow you seamlessly manage loads, assign drivers, increase pickup and delivery efficiency, and create dramatically better routes.  

For more information on how your organization can improve operational efficiency and reduce costs through high-quality route optimization software, schedule a call with a member of the Optym team today.

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