A few weeks ago, a press release from PostcodeAnywhere caught my attention. The company introduced a new routing solution for private fleets that uses real-world data from tens of thousands of customers driving with TomTom devices in the UK. This is the first routing solution that I am aware of that uses “real-world” average speed data.
Standard routing solutions input data—such as the number of trucks in a fleet, truck characteristics (e.g., truck height, weight capacity, cube-out capacity), and customer delivery points—into complex optimization algorithms to determine the “best” route plan for the fleet in terms of minimizing the miles traveled or the time it will take to complete the deliveries. Existing routing solutions are excellent at minimizing distance, but they are less effective at minimizing delivery time because they don’t contain “real-world” data—i.e., they lack data on the true average speed per hour traveled on particular sections of road, at different times of the day and week.
Some routing solutions allow users to modify route times. For example, if you know that delivering to a particular location, via a particular route, at a particular time of day will take longer than usual (such as rush hour on Tuesday mornings), you can modify the time parameters in the system. But this is a manual and time-consuming process. In contrast, PostcodeAnywhere’s software-as-a-service routing solution bases its fleet plans on road statistics, which include average speeds across five minute intervals, on any day of the week. The data on average speed on a section of road by time of day is updated quarterly.
I spoke to the company’s managing director (MD) and the lead developer of this product and learned that this solution is extremely affordable. The MD mentioned a payback period of months. I believe it based on the company’s pricing, which is a bit difficult to explain. The managing director also mentioned that there is good TomTom data available for North America. PostcodeAnywhere is looking for reseller partners in North America.
So, what is next in route planning? The PostcodeAnywhere average speed data is updated quarterly. Ideally, we will see this data updated more often. Further, this data is not just available from TomTom and other GPS device providers, but also from phone companies that are increasingly selling GPS-enabled cell phones. Therefore, I don’t expect PostcodeAnywhere to be the sole provider of this type of solution for very long.
There are also solution providers like Descartes Systems Group (an ARC client) that offer real-time route planning. If a truck gets stuck in traffic, a user can rerun the whole fleet plan for the day taking into account what is happening on the ground. Even better, however, will be the day when these solutions use real-time congestion data to re-plan routes and prevent trucks from getting stuck in traffic in the first place.