How Load Optimization Can Impact Sustainability Efforts

Jul 15, 2022

Load optimization is a crucial part of your organization’s shipping and distribution operations — in more ways than one. Not only does it affect the bottom line of your operations, but effective load optimization also has a positive impact on overall fleet fuel usage and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Diesel fuel emits 10,180 grams of carbon dioxide/gallon, according to the EPA. The average cargo truck gets 5.29 miles per gallon while the average car gets 25 MPG. Therefore, semis emit a greater amount of GHG than passenger cars. Limiting or eliminating semi-truck trips can improve fuel conservation, and has a positive sustainability impact overall.

What Is Load Optimization?

Load optimization involves making the most of the space available in a vehicle and transporting as many items as possible in a single trip. The ultimate goal of this process is to limit the number of trips taken and miles driven by the vehicles in your fleet. This requires the assistance of software to maximize loads on each truck, calculate the most efficient route between destinations, and improve fuel economy.

Load optimization also takes safety into account. The truck’s center of gravity needs to remain balanced, and the load can’t exceed its maximum capacity. Also, heavy loads may reduce fuel economy, negating the benefits of making fewer trips.

Proper load optimization can bring benefits to transportation companies and drivers.

  • Companies pay for fewer work hours: Drivers will spend less time on the road. Also, though it could take longer to load, fewer trucks have to get loaded in the long run.
  • Drivers spend less time on the road: Driving is time-intensive, requiring up to 11 hours of driving straight. Regulations require a 10-hour rest after each 11-hour session, so drivers could spend up to 14 hours per 24-hour period on the road. This workload could repeat for seven to eight days before a longer mandated rest. Load optimization limits the number of these long-haul trips.
  • Reduce lead time for clients: More cargo in a truck can mean faster deliveries. The increased speed can reduce lead time, which is an ongoing goal for construction and industrial companies. Also, fewer trips may allow the trucking company to lower shipping charges for customers.
  • Fuel and maintenance costs could be lower: Fewer trips can lower the overall annual fuel budget and reduce vehicle wear. They may need to limit maintenance needs like oil changes.

Fewer trips also mean lower GHG emissions. The company will not produce as much pollution and will have a more eco-friendly operation overall.

How Can Load Optimization Benefit Sustainability?

Load optimization has two primary components: truck capacity and route planning. Fleets can maximize sustainability and minimize fuel consumption by streamlining operations in both these areas.

More Efficient Delivery Routes

Load optimization can help drivers avoid situations where they travel with less than a full load. Less-than-truckload (LTL) trips utilize almost the same amount of fuel as full-truckload (FTL) journeys. Drivers spend the same number of hours on the road and emit the same amount of GHGs. However, they deliver less cargo.

Load optimization requires careful route mapping. FTL trips may be more efficient, but only if they limit the overall miles driven. If planners do not choose the best route, especially in a journey with multiple deliveries, they could add unnecessary miles onto the trip, negating any gains from load optimization.

Trucks with in-cab telematics can collect data and transmit it in near real-time. Fleet managers can use this information to further improve efficiency by defining inefficient driver habits and looking at the truck’s location about the weather, traffic, or other delay-making situations. They can then adjust the route to avoid these problems.

Increased Delivery Capacity

Increased delivery capacity is the other benefit of load planning. Ultimately, fleets can eliminate LTL trips. In the long term, they will deliver the same amount of freight with fewer overall trips, limiting fuel use and emissions.

How To Choose the Best Solution for Load Optimization

Effective route planning and load optimization require software to calculate all the factors involved in selecting the best routes and the trucks to use for specific deliveries.

In most instances, all-in-one fleet management software is the most effective choice because it accounts for every aspect of trucking operations, from route planning and loading to fuel efficiency and driver performance. You can also select software with features like real-time routing information to help adjustments during the trip.

Real-time data collection from electronic logging devices (ELDs) can help pinpoint inefficiencies and allow quick corrections. For instance, real-time driving coaching features allow dispatchers to help truckers correct habits like rapid acceleration and hard braking that use more fuel than necessary.

Here are three steps to find the most effective solution for load optimization and overall fleet management

Determine Your Needs

Load planning processes can be very different depending on the types of cargo truck companies haul and the locations of their clients. For instance, it is easier to optimize loads for raw materials or similarly-sized items than cargo coming in many different weights, shapes, and sizes.

The size of the fleet also matters. Load optimization and route planning can be more complex for large fleets than for smaller ones with only a few trucks.

The locations of clients also matter. Route planning is simpler if customers are in the same region or located in cities along the same route. However, if clients are spread out across the country, more sophisticated route planning and load optimization tools are necessary.

Regardless of the level of sophistication planning software has, all fleets can benefit from ELDs providing data and offering real-time location and performance insights.

Ask for Advice

Word-of-mouth recommendations can offer insights into which load optimization tools are effective. Fleet managers can ask peers at other trucking companies which software they use, and which features it has.

While you shouldn’t base a decision on these recommendations alone, they do offer insights into the pros and cons of specific software systems and how they perform in real-world settings.

Prioritize Drivers’ Needs

Driver happiness is an essential aspect of fleet management. In 2022, the industry had 78,000 fewer drivers than it needed and predictions suggest the shortage become more severe in the coming years. Companies need to retain drivers, especially if they are reliable.

One of the best ways to keep good drivers behind the wheel is to create an organized operation that does not require an excessive number of trips. Load optimization plays a major role in creating a streamlined, driver-friendly environment.

Companies can also use remote technology to support existing drivers with coaching, route planning, and real-time advice to ensure they complete deliveries without confusion or stress.

Time to move forward with managed technology

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