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Dispatch Management Software: Six Features for Increased Fleet Efficiency

Goodbye spreadsheets, hello digital dispatch management software and the new era of smarter fleet management operations

Updated: August 28, 2023 11 mins read Published: August 02, 2022

Fleet management today is a clash of old and new.

In one corner, we have market leaders preparing for the future of semi-autonomous electric trucks and predictive route management. In the other corner, we have companies still relying on phones, spreadsheets, and papers for dispatch management, truck scheduling, and driver communication.

The question is which side of history you’d like to be on.

What is dispatch software?

Transportation dispatch management software automates truck routing and scheduling by providing convenient interfaces and real-time analytics for effective route building, real-time vehicle tracking, and proactive driver performance management.

Dispatching software is part of the rapidly growing fleet management software market.

The fleet management software market was worth $20.73 billion in 2022 and is set to reach $67.38 billion by 2029. This signifies consistently strong demand for digital solutions among transportation companies.

Fortune Business Insights

A 2021 survey of UK fleet managers found that:

  • 60% are still using multiple online spreadsheets for dispatch management. 10% make do with pen and paper.
  • 50% of die-hard spreadsheet users admit that this setup prevents them from doing other important fleet management tasks.
  • 63% also admit to having missed fleet deadlines and 37% agree that spreadsheets leave room for other mistakes.

Even though simple tools are often the best, this may no longer be the case for fleet management. Especially as wider changes are set to occur in the industry: imminent fleet electrification, platooning of connected vehicles, and predictive fleet maintenance, among other trends.

Commoditized access to cloud-based fleet management software paired with emerging technologies (location intelligence, big data analytics, AI) promises to take dispatch management to the next level.

How dispatch management systems add value to fleet operations

Think about your phone now and ten years ago.

The latest smartphones are as powerful as laptops. They let you do a lot of cool stuff — navigate around town, instantly scan images, pay for goods, and even get some work done on the go.

A phone from ten years ago now feels closer to a calculator than an actual smartphone.

The same rings true for fleet management. Legacy dispatching programs (not to mention spreadsheets) don’t come close to the location-aware, analytics-driven dispatch and scheduling software available today.

A digital dispatching system is more than a convenient interface for doing fleet tasks the old way. Modern systems rely on vehicle telematics data to supply dispatchers with real-time information about:

  • Truck locations and cruising speeds
  • Average route travel speeds
  • Current road conditions
  • Estimated vehicle ETAs
  • Driver behaviors
  • Cargo transportation conditions

Using this data, fleet managers can develop dynamic schedules to maximize asset usage, plus adjust schedules in real time.

Also, dispatch tools can automate redundant tasks. For example, they can automatically generate regular routes and schedules based on historical records, codified rules, or real-time information. Such a degree of automation reduces the volume of human errors and increases overall workforce productivity, both among managers and drivers.

An hour of idle time is the equivalent of 25 miles (40 kilometers) of driving. By composing better schedules and adjusting for cancellations in real time, you can plan better driver shifts and prevent overwork.

Apart from improving your operations today, advanced dispatch management software prepares your business for coming market changes and opens access to new profit pools.

Service more complex freight journeys

Global supply chains have grown longer and now feature more legs in the freight journey on average.

Dispatch Management Software: Six Features for Increased Fleet Efficiency

Source: Deloitte – Transportation Management System Compass

Reliance on ground transport is only set to increase due to growing air fuel costs and frequent port congestion. As of mid-2022, import containers sat for 12 days on average in The Port of Los Angeles — one of the main gateways to the US market.

To navigate rising costs and delays, manufacturers switch to on-the-ground logistics (when possible) or adopt a multimodal approach to freight, mixing several transport modes at once.

For fleet managers, this means more business. But to get selected among other transportation providers, you must be able to support such multimodal journeys. Advanced route dispatching software comes in handy here. The latest tools come with premade or custom integrations with other software, allowing you to plug into the transportation ecosystem and receive real-time status updates with shipping API integrations.

Revenue diversification via freight marketplaces

Digital freight marketplaces securely connect shippers with third-party carriers. Joining such platforms can help you acquire new customers at a low cost.

However, to ensure proper integration and a high level of service, you’ll need to have a robust route scheduling process. Otherwise, you risk getting booted by the marketplace pretty fast.

Alternatively, you can take over extra legs in the freight journey by providing your clients with shipping options via partners (aka create a private marketplace). Once again, a digital routing system will help ensure that all necessary data is exchanged between participants automatically and that no scheduling errors occur during handover.

Learn more about digital freight marketplaces

Read more

More effective last-mile deliveries

Dispatch Management Software: Six Features for Increased Fleet Efficiency

The last-mile delivery market is going strong thanks to the rise of ecommerce. Yet rapid sector growth comes at a cost: 90% of consumers believe that parcel deliveries must fit into their hectic lifestyles. That puts tremendous pressure on retailers, who, in turn, nudge their shipping partners to make faster delivery happen.

But few can provide a sufficiently high customer experience. Levels of customer satisfaction with parcel delivery companies decline sharply as order volumes grow. A 2020 survey found that British consumers are sharply dissatisfied with the delivery of parcels within the promised time slot and with the time taken for delivery.

Better dispatch tools can help logistics companies better meet decreasing delivery timeframes and deliver a superior customer experience. That’s an easy path to winning more business in the last-mile segment.

Access to the profitable cross-border parcel market

Cross-border commerce is set to reach $1 trillion in merchandise turnover by 2030, up from the current value of $300 billion according to McKinsey estimates. The same report suggests that 60% of shipments will be intercontinental, meaning more involvement from air and sea shippers. Yet most retailers will also need ground logistics for last-mile domestic deliveries as well as for cross-border shipments from neighboring countries.

Some cross-border merchants also practice the direct injection model. In this model, multiple orders get freighted in bulk to the destination country. Then they’re transferred to domestic couriers as individual packages. That’s another revenue stream well worth exploring.

Transition to electric fleets

Progressive fleet electrification will bring sweeping changes to the industry, especially around route planning and truck schedule management. Managers will need to build dispatch schedules around e-vehicle charging times and create routes based on models’ driving ranges. That’s not the type of dispatch management you could do with a spreadsheet.

We recently helped one of our clients develop an EV trip planner application. To build dynamic and realistic routes, we leveraged vehicle data to ensure high accuracy. Then we implemented controls for preventing no-return scenarios where the driver could get stuck miles away from the nearest charging station. Similar protections can (and should!) be implemented during dispatch software development for commercial electric fleets.

Learn more about operating EV charging infrastructure

Read more

Must-have dispatch management software features to drive sizable efficiency gains

Dispatch Management Software: Six Features for Increased Fleet Efficiency

Though many fleet managers are reluctant to adopt dispatch programs, those who do are happy with the outcomes.

64% of managers found using fleet management technology “very” and “extremely” beneficial to their business. 86% witness ROI within a year or less, and just under half (44%) experience this within six months or less.

2022 Fleet Technology Trends Report by Verizon

However, the key to strong ROI is right-sizing the technology to your needs, rather than just adopting a solution for the sake of upgrading.

If you plan to pursue dispatch software development, here are six core features worth considering.

Fleet management software development

Bring your fleet operations to a new era of efficiency and cost savings

Learn more

Real-time vehicle tracking

To plot better schedules and routes, you need to understand how your vehicles are moving. That’s why the latest dispatch tracking software relies on location-based services (LBS).

These technologies include:

  • GPS connectivity
  • Bluetooth beacons
  • RFID technology
  • Cellular tower triangulation
  • Fleet telematics

There are different ways to track truck movements: using an onboard telematics unit, using a driver mobile app, or by combining the two options. What’s the same is the outcome: Managers can track vehicle movements in real time and adjust schedules accordingly.

For example, if a vehicle is stuck in heavy traffic and runs late, you can instantly update the driver’s subsequent schedule and reassign other deliveries to an idle truck. At the same time, you can proactively inform customers about delivery statuses to manage their expectations.

Intellias recently helped a European mobility service provider develop a truck fleet management platform with real-time tracking and tracing features. Using an onboard GPS-connected telematics unit, we helped the client collect truck data on location, idle time, fuel consumption, and driver performance. Then we leveraged this data for better planning and cost optimization.

Additionally, we supplied drivers with real-time information on freight orders from multiple forwarders. Using this data, drivers can choose to pick up extra cargo en route or jump on another order next to their offloading location. Dispatchers, in turn, received a new set of UX-friendly tools for route planning, aimed at optimizing fleet engagement.

Post-adoption, the company reported significant benefits in terms of easier route creation, higher employee engagement, and improved operational efficiency.

Dynamic route planning and optimization

As the name implies, dispatch systems software is a collection of modules for different use cases. Route planning software is the second most important component.

Such tools help to standardize and automate vehicle scheduling for regularly serviced routes based on existing rules. Plus, they generate optimal routing for one-off or non-standard journeys.

Robust route planning and optimization software:

  • Generates optimal routes based on predefined rules
  • Suggests detours and optimizations based on current road conditions
  • Notifies about scheduling conflicts
  • Updates drivers on their set plans
  • Provides data on ETAs and fuel consumption
  • Alerts about delays and other operational mishaps en route
  • Has geofencing capabilities to notify of route diversion
  • Provides analytics on driver performance
  • Integrates with popular navigation apps drivers can use

Modern systems leverage mapping data and real-time road intelligence data (such as traffic or weather APIs) to build multi-stop routes. Combined with fleet telematics and LBS, route optimization systems can dynamically adjust a driver’s route based on new information — extra orders, poor road conditions, heavy traffic, last-moment cancelations, etc.

Learn more about how route optimization improves ETA accuracy

Read more

Customized dispatching

Modern freight dispatch software must accommodate the multitude of routes you are servicing. These include:

  • Standard end-to-end or multi-stop routes
  • On-demand routes pegged to specific time slots
  • Multimodal routes, assuming changes in transport mode or carrier

Hence, your dispatch tool must be capable of generating different dispatch scenarios and testing them for viability (to prevent overbooking or time slot overlaps). Also, if your fleet has different truck models, you must account for model-specific restrictions. For example, avoid dispatching larger trucks to areas with limited access hours.

Another competitive feature to consider? Adding a complementary mobile app for bay workers that would allow them to scan incoming containers and get information about the next legs of the journey and delivery statuses. Doing so can speed up on-the-ground and warehouse operations and ensure faster processing of time-sensitive items.

Also, a smarter dispatching system can help you access new market verticals. For example, you can deploy on-demand Mobility as a Service (MaaS) offerings, where you allow partners to rent your assets on demand.

Check out our case study on developing a smart truck routing platform

Read more

Driver performance and analytics

High efficiency is impossible to achieve if you can’t measure your workforce performance. Also, better insights into drivers’ behavior can help you achieve higher engagement. Truck driver shortages are acute globally. The European market is short some 100,000 HGV drivers. The British Road Haulage Association (RHA) says the UK needs an extra 100,000 qualified drivers.

Because of this intense pressure, the capacity has been stretched thin and then you start having delays and you have a slowdown. All of this creates a domino effect, which makes the shortage of drivers even more salient than before [the pandemic].

Jean-Paul Rodrigue, Transportation expert, Hofstra University

One of the reasons behind truck driver shortages is a high rate of burnout. Long-haul drivers are tired of unpredictable schedules. Few have control over their routes, and they are dispatched whenever cargo needs to be shipped. Last-mile drivers feel swamped with the rising volume of incoming parcels and back-to-back delivery slots.

If anything is to happen — a flat tire, an accident, a lengthy traffic jam — truck drivers are often left to their own devices. Or worse — they receive the brunt of both employer and end-customer dissatisfaction.

Better analytics is crucial to improving truck drivers’ well-being and on-the-job performance. Such solutions can help you collect first-hand intelligence on:

  • Adherence to road rules
  • On-time arrivals/schedule adherence
  • Average delivery time
  • Average delivery distance
  • Average traveli speed
  • Road safety compliance
  • Service level rating

Based on these details, you can extrapolate whether your schedules are realistic and understand why delays occur: due to drivers’ performance or because of other factors beyond drivers’ control.

For instance, long waiting times at bays might be caused by your on-the-ground team or due to traffic jams. But a demanding schedule may then force a driver to skip breaks or violate speed limits. Big data analytics solutions can help you know for sure.

Fuel management dashboard

Fleet electrification is upon us, but gasoline-powered vehicles won’t be completely phased out for another decade or two. Given that fuel accounts for 24% of total fleet costs on average, that’s an area worth optimizing.

Using vehicle telematics and expense reports, you can have your dispatch management software calculate fuel costs for:

  • Specific/frequent routes
  • Different vehicle models
  • Different truck loads

Then you can correlate average fuel consumption with driver performance. For example, you can estimate how consumption changes because of weather conditions or aggressive driving.

Your fuel analytics dashboard can also be augmented with advanced analytics capabilities to help you devise more economic routes without sacrificing delivery speeds.

Learn more about developing high-performance fuel management systems

Read more

Real-time alerting

Keeping your team and drivers in sync is what great dispatch management software does. Provide your drivers with a mobile app to receive:

  • Updates on order cancellations or last-minute changes
  • Real-time traffic and weather information
  • Notifications to schedule a break
  • Updates on available nearby pick-ups

On the other end, you can improve your customer service by providing customers with:

  • Delivery window reservations
  • Pre-delivery notifications
  • Delivery statuses with ETAs
  • Shipment conditions (for cold chain logistics)

You can leverage real-time visibility into your operations to build better communication with your customers and ensure their trust. Also, by being transparent about delivery terms, conditions, and SLAs, you keep your employees protected from false allegations or negative customer feedback.

Final thoughts

Supply chains remain under stress that is unlikely to abate any time soon. Rising fuel prices also strain transport operations worldwide (with no drop in fuel costs in sight).

Controlling such high-level factors is hard, but you can achieve greater operational resilience by focusing on the micro-issues first — better truck scheduling, proactive route optimization, and workforce performance improvements.

By resolving internal operational issues, you can achieve operational savings and even unlock new revenue generation models by joining freight marketplaces or adding extra on-demand mobility services.

Contact Intellias to discuss the new opportunities custom dispatch software development can bring to your business.

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