The economic need for keeping the trucking industry functioning seamlessly has helped build a robust system that is impervious to inclement conditions like snow or hurricane. Today, stakeholders in the trucking industry plan their operations well in advance of upcoming disruptive weather events, with technology playing a crucial role in providing algorithm-driven insights to strategize better.
Freight movement involves different segments like planning, routing and execution teams to work in tandem, helping realize efficient end-to-end logistics operations. FreightWaves spoke with Optym executives Kory Harb, the director of solutions for the linehaul space, and Raguram Venkatesan, the director of trucking solutions for the pickup and delivery space, to understand how fleets react to weather-related disruptions.
Harb explained that when faced with a hurricane and associated road closures, carriers would identify potentially impacted terminals for their networks and use software to create contingency plans for loading around or away from the affected terminals.
“In this way, they can minimize disruptions to service in the most cost-effective and safest way possible,” he said.
For routing, drivers are informed beforehand and are assigned routes going through other parts of the city based on areas that are impacted by a hurricane.
“Route-optimization software like Optym’s RouteMAX could help here via map-based interfaces where planners can identify impacted areas. Being a dynamic map, the impacted regions are updated to create efficient and practical routes meeting all the operational constraints,” said Venkatesan.
By superimposing real-time weather data on top of operational data, fleet managers and dispatchers can glean valuable insights that help them adapt quickly to disruption.
“Traditional routing softwares and legacy systems do not provide the level of detail that’s needed and so they resort to manually sifting through weather sites and driver feedback to make routing decisions on the fly,” said Venkatesan.
In the context of linehaul operations planning, Harb pointed out that Optym’s clients used its services to identify direct loads that need to reach the affected hubs — and skip loads. This allows for reduced freight handling and is an efficient way to clear freight backed up by the weather.
“Our network and optimization tools allow carriers to quickly reroute freight if needed and also see the impact on cost and service for different decisions,” said Harb. “This gives carriers information on how freight will be serviced with different routing options and can take into account that a service center is out of operation for a given period to properly model hurricane and other inclement weather behavior.”
In technology’s absence, planning would be a hassle during the hurricane season as it is worked out via spreadsheets and repetitive calls to drivers for gauging real-time conditions.
On the contrary, route-optimization software is natively integrated with third-party weather data providers, which alert planners of impacted customers and automatically excludes them from the plan. Planners can also send bulk messages to fleet drivers on the road with safety instructions. Mobile interfaces can provide visual cues on what is in store for drivers to make informed decisions.
“By adopting such technology, carriers can save time by planning for disruptions ahead of time and have contingency plans in place, while having visibility over costs incurred due to last-minute changes to plan. Such proactive measures and real-time alerts also improve driver safety,” said Venkatesan.