If you’re a truck driver or manage a fleet of trucks, then you need to understand the importance of finding the right truck route when making deliveries and drop-offs.

Find out more about truck route planning and how your business can benefit from it.

What is route planning?

Route planning involves finding the most optimal routes by assessing maps and finding the quickest way to get from point A to point B.

The aim is to know exactly which way you’re traveling before you start your engine and which way you’ll get there with the hope of spending less time on the road. In professional cases, route planning also involves assessing which roads might be obstructed due to traffic congestion or roadworks.

However, planning a truck route requires more in-depth and complex planning with a robust set of tools. Also often referred to as commercial driving, truck routing is a dynamic industry that runs across the country on a grand scale every day, so it needs seamless operational management.

Why is route planning important for truck drivers and fleets?

Route planning is beneficial for every driver but is especially important for commercial fleets. Ultimately, route planning cuts down transportation, fuel, and vehicle maintenance costs. It also helps increase revenue by increasing efficiency and productivity.

As you’d expect, the main benefit of route planning is improved time management and efficiency. Drivers spend less time on the road thanks to finding the most convenient routes, meaning you can improve the efficiency of your fleet and better manage the well-being of your drivers.

Route planners are especially beneficial to fleet managers, as they allow you to meet your customers’ needs more efficiently and within the agreed-upon timelines. This ultimately leads to less time spent on support calls and an improvement in your customer retention rates.

Of course, route planners cut down on time spent manually assessing and inputting routes. For example, if you manage a fleet of trucks, a robust truck route software will use advanced tools and data points to analyze every aspect of the road, from the length, speed limits, traffic, and more. The software means fleet managers no longer need to spend hours assessing maps themselves, where there’s also a risk of human error.

Truck route planning also saves you money over time. You won’t need to spend as much on the admin time it would usually take to plan routes manually. You’ll save money on fuel by planning your routes to help drivers avoid congested areas, so they won’t spend as much time sitting in traffic. You’ll also spend less on general vehicle maintenance, as vehicles will maintain their condition for longer by spending less time on the road.

Is commercial route planning different from consumer route planning?

Yes. Consumer route planning means getting from one destination to the next by following the simplest and fastest route.

Consumer route planning and commercial route planning may share a common goal of getting a driver to a destination, but the economic importance dramatically differs. When conducting commercial route planning, you must also consider timescales, vehicle sizes, vehicle capacity, driver capacity, roadworks, conditions of the road, and, in the case of truck drivers, each road’s height and width constraints.

Truck drivers won’t stop by any regular gas station for a break like a consumer driver would. Instead, they have scheduled breaks at designated stops where they must spend a specific amount of time to take a break. The average driver doesn’t have to adhere to these mandatory breaks. And basic software like Google Maps, which only allows 10 stops per journey, doesn’t have the capacity to plan a route like the software required for truck route planning.

Top tips for truck route planning as a fleet manager

As a fleet manager, you want to find ways to manage and monitor your vehicles and drivers that are seamless and leave little scope for error. That’s why the best tip for route planning as a fleet manager is to introduce robust truck route planning software.

Fleet managers should never use routing platforms like Google Maps and Waze for truck route planning. These types of route planners are designed for the average consumer driver to find directions easily. Google Maps can only schedule 10 stops and Waze is only built for one stop per journey. This isn’t ideal for fleet managers, as you’ll more than likely need to plan multi-stop long-haul routes to meet your business needs.

The fleet manager will have to manually input a limited number of stops, and the route won’t necessarily show where there’s heavy traffic or other problems on the road like adverse weather. Not only that, these route planners are only built for cars and smaller vehicles, meaning they don’t support truck routes. You won’t be able to assess the widths of roads or low bridges and bypasses, which could cause truck drivers along the way.

With all this in mind, the best tip for fleet managers is to find a versatile truck route software that considers every important aspect of truck route planning and more. This would usually include real-time fleet asset tracking to get live updates on where your trucks are, how fast they are traveling, and whether there are any upcoming obstructions. The software will also assess which roads are safe for trucks to travel down, directing drivers that way instead of going down roads built for cars and smaller vehicles.

Fleet managers are also responsible for ensuring their drivers take the required breaks as declared by the FMCSA. The rules for break times are:

  • Drivers must have at least one 30-minute break when driving for more than eight hours.
  • Drivers must not drive for more than 11 hours during a 14-hour time window.
  • Drivers must not drive more than 60 hours within a seven-day time window.

Truck route planning can be streamlined to include these break schedules. The planner will monitor how long a driver has been on the road and let them know where they can safely take their allocated break.

Top tips for route planning as a truck driver

Truck drivers rarely need to make the big decisions, as their fleet managers decide most things for them by using truck route software. However, as the driver, you still have a set of responsibilities.

All truck drivers should make sure they are prepared with the journey ahead before turning on the engine. If your fleet uses the appropriate truck route software, then your direction, stops, and break times will already be planned. Make sure you spend some time checking your assigned scheduled route, so you get a good feel of what’s to come.

It helps to look ahead and find out where all the essential stop-off points are. These include repair shops and service stations that have restrooms. You should also check where you’ll be able to buy food along the way, but we’d also recommend taking non-perishable items if you can’t pick up other food.

We’d also recommend taking extra supplies like spare clothes and a first aid box. Even if you’re not scheduled to stop-off somewhere overnight to spread out a long-haul journey, it helps to be prepared should you break down or get stuck somewhere unexpected.

One of the best tips for truck route planning is to monitor the changing weather conditions. Download and refer to a variety of weather apps so you can get a good idea of what types of weather you might be driving through. If it looks as though there will be high winds, heavy rain, snow, ice, or even flooding, then you’ll either need to re-route or postpone your journey. Be sure to check the weather for each area you’ll be driving through, including your starting and ending points.

It’s vital for truck drivers to be aware of the vehicle condition before starting a journey of any length. Not only does it better ensure the safety of the truck driver, but all other drivers they’ll be sharing the road with along the way. Make sure the vehicle isn’t overdue for its service and that it has enough fuel for you to at least drive it to one of your designated service stations. If you break down due to not having enough fuel or because something is wrong with the vehicle then deliveries will inevitably be delayed.

Truck drivers should also maintain appropriate communication with the necessary points of call. This includes your fleet manager so they can assess your progress and those who you’re delivering to so they know when to expect your arrival.

Why use Motive as your route planning software?

Motive has specialized in fleet management for many years and has in-depth experience with truck fleets. For truck routes, it’s a reliable and feature-rich route planning software.

Fleet managers and truck drivers alike can benefit from the Motive GPS tracking solution. The technology gives fleet managers a full view of the whereabouts of their vehicles, detailing which direction drivers are heading and how fast they’re getting there, as well as obstructions that drivers may come up against. The Motive gps solution comes with built-in route optimization so you can easily plan truck routes that assess time scales and truck capacities on roads.

The Motive fleet management software can also help you with vehicle utilization, helping you track where your vehicles are or aren’t utilized to their full capacity.

Drivers will be deterred from excessive vehicle idling to maintain the vehicle’s engine life, and fuel consumption will be reduced by spending less time sitting in traffic. The software will monitor vehicle utilization and give personalized coaching to encourage changes in driver behavior where necessary. You’ll even receive detailed utilization reports that assess irregular fuel consumption.

Request a free demo today to learn more how Motive can ramp up the efficiency and productivity of your fleet.