How Route Optimization Software contributes to Sustainable Transport

Posted by Nathalie Göbel on 07/06/2022

Route optimization software contributes to sustainable transport

The ball has started to roll. After years of talking about the importance of innovative solutions for sustainable transport, we are at a tipping point. More and more transporters are opting for alternative fuels, strategic hub locations, supply chain collaborations, and innovative technologies including route optimization software, to reduce their impact on the environment. In this blog post we’ll zoom in on the latter and how its use has a positive effect on our planet.

1. Optimal Load Factor

Optimizing the usage of available logistics resources, such as vehicles, has a major positive impact on energy consumption and CO2 emissions per transport task. Research by Eurostat shows that approximately one fifth of total road transport in the EU is carried out by empty vehicles. Combined with the low load factor of 'filled' trucks, on average only 47% of the total load factor is used. This leaves a lot of room for improvement.

To tackle this inefficiency, carriers can rely on route optimization software. The software optimizes the routes, thereby increasing the load factor so that fewer vehicles are needed and the total cost of the planning decreases.

So how does this work? It is actually quite simple. Thanks to route optimization software you have the possibility to easily combine different transport flows, taking into account complex planning rules and restrictions. For example, combining deliveries and collections in the same route. The route optimization software takes into account the evolution of load factor throughout the journey, so that both order types can be planned in the most efficient way. Accordingly, the software will not schedule a collection at the start of the journey when the vehicle is still full. In the same way, this software can also combine orders from different transport departments, leading to interesting synergies.

2. Less Time Spent in Traffic

A vehicle releases less emissions at 120 km/h than it does when stuck in a traffic jam. Avoiding traffic jams is therefore the most sustainable option. In addition, traffic jams are extremely expensive. According to the Belgian Mobility Dashboard, a tool recently launched by the FEB and Febiac, traffic jams cost the transport sector around 1.5 billion euros in 2021, due to lost time and extra fuel consumption.

When using high-quality route optimization software with integrated traffic data, the time lost in traffic will be minimized over the entire planning. More specifically, the software will not simply add “slack time” for traffic, but optimize based on historical traffic patterns leading to a more desirable plan. The result? Less time spent in traffic jams and a drastic reduction in unnecessary CO2 emissions.

3. Fewer Kilometers Driven

When using route optimization software, essentially you are asking the following: “How do I divide my orders over my vehicles in such a way that the total distance driven is as short as possible?” In applied mathematics, this is known as a Vehicle Routing Problem or VRP. To date, this is one of the most challenging algorithmic problems due to the fact that the number of possible combinations quickly runs into the billions. This makes it virtually impossible for the human brain to weigh up all alternative combinations in search of the most cost-efficient, sustainable solution.

Fortunately, today there are high-quality technological solutions that can quickly present a feasible plan in which the kilometers and therefore also CO2 emissions are minimized. For example, route optimization software uses powerful algorithms that perform thousands of calculations per second to approach the minimum as closely as possible.

4. Flexibility and Adaptability to Anticipated Future Needs

Sustainable transport requires a flexible approach in which route optimization software can play a significant role, as it allows you to clearly map out important and complex transitions to e.g. new regulatory frameworks or a greener fleet. Consequently you are able to compare hypothetical scenarios to ensure the best decisions are made and the company can adapt to these transitions smoothly. For example, there are many complex planning rules regarding low emission zones and the limited driving time of electric vehicles, which can be easily modeled with modern optimization software.

Conclusion

Route optimization software is a powerful tool that enables carriers to significantly reduce their CO2 emissions. In short: it increases the load factor, which means that fewer vehicles have to be on the road; it reduces unnecessary CO2 emissions caused by traffic jams; it minimizes the total number of kilometers driven; and it offers the necessary flexibility and insight to respond to rapidly changing external circumstances such as regulation.

Topics: Route optimization, Environment

Nathalie Göbel

Written by Nathalie Göbel

Nathalie obtained her MBA in International Business at KU Leuven in 2020. Since 2021, she has been part of the Business Development team at Conundra, immersing herself in a world of innovative technology driven by continuous improvement. With her passion for communication and marketing, she has the ambition to identify highly relevant questions in the market and translate them into valuable insights.