Holiday season logistics headlines continue to be dominated by one topic: e-commerce. That’s true this year, as well. Analysts are expecting something in the neighborhood of 14 percent increases in holiday shipping volumes at both UPS and FedEx during the November/December period. The cause: an expected increase in online sales volume, up 7 to 10 percent over 2015, according to the National Retail Federation’s forecast.
What that means for both FedEx and UPS is the four Mondays between Thanksgiving and Christmas should be their busiest shipping days because that’s when all the products ordered online over the preceding weekends will enter the shippers’ systems.
And it’s that unprecedented volume of items being shipped — both by retailers and by manufacturers and vendors who supply all of those retailers — that is making GPS-based and GPS-enabled trucking technology systems more critical than ever, especially for the short haul and private fleet.
Get the most from your GPS system
Both the high capital cost of buying more trucks and trailers and the long-term, chronic shortage of drivers make it impossible for transportation companies to simply flex up the size of their fleets and their number of drivers to handle the increased demand. So there’s now a premium being placed on the ability to get the maximum utility from both equipment and drivers.
And, truth be told, realizing those equipment and human efficiency increases is just as important for transportation companies during the rest of the year as it is during the Christmas selling and shipping season.
Yet, while tens and thousands of trucks on the road are equipped with at least some level of GPS-enabled tracking and management systems, tens of thousands more are not. And of those that are so equipped, it’s likely that a majority of them could be made much more efficient by significant upgrades in their GPS-based systems.
By now, pretty much everyone understands the basics of how GPS works, not everyone in the logistics and transportation industry has grasped how that technology can translate into lower costs and more revenue for their operations.
GPS solves a fundamental problem
It’s a conundrum that’s more than a century old, and one that’s been given a considerable amount of thought. The classical name is “The Travelling Salesman Problem.” In its simplest terms it’s this question: Given a list of specific locations, what’s shortest distance between each destination that allows for one visit to each spot and a return to the point of origin.
That’s a delivery route, right? But for the driver, there are real-time hurdles that the travelling salesman doesn’t have to face, and that’s where GPS-enabled technologies can make all the difference.
Thanks to things like traffic and weather, what looked like the fastest route in the morning, can suddenly become the opposite. Without GPS-enabled routing the driver is stuck either sitting through weather delays or in a traffic backup because of an accident or construction. With GPS, delays like those are easily navigable. But even beyond things like weather and traffic, drivers also have to consider things like a customer’s preferred time window and inventory needs. Again, with GPS-enabled routing, factoring in those concerns makes real-time adjustments possible, and that’s especially important this time of year when demands are high, but so are — with large crowds and inclement weather — possible delays.
It’s those crowds and that weather, many of us plot out our personal holiday shopping routes: this store, that store, one more stop, home. To do that, we rely on GPS apps on our phone or systems in our car to make those trips as efficient as possible. It keeps our holidays happy. Multiply the number of stops we make in a single trip by three or four or five, and you have the typical day for the short haul or private fleet driver. Doesn’t it make sense to give them the same benefits we have, especially at this time of year?
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