Fleet managers face logistics challenges this holiday season

Fleet management software may make all the difference in allowing businesses to take full advantage of an increase in demand for ground shipments during this year's holiday shopping season.

The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas have always been a relatively busy time for freight organizations. As brick-and-mortar retailers prepare to stock their shelves with enough supplies to satisfy an increase in foot traffic, they will depend heavily on the ability to receive merchandise from regional warehouses in a timely fashion. The holidays represent some of the most important weeks of the year in terms of revenue generation. Running out of products due to inefficient shipping operations on the part of fleet managers can have long-term detrimental effects.

The need for reliable ground transportation has grown exponentially in recent years. Because of the growing popularity of e-commerce, competition among retailers has become fierce. The ability to ship products directly to homes in as little time as possible can lead to a substantial increase in sales. Such practices can also improve customer retention rates in the long term.

This increase in competition has manifested itself in unique ways. For example, The New York Times recently reported the e-commerce giant Amazon announced it will partner with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to expand delivery options to all seven days of the week. While the retailer will only offer Sunday shipping service to residents of New York City and Los Angeles metropolitan areas this holiday season, the Times said these trends could expand to Dallas, Houston, New Orleans and Phoenix as early as next year. Amazon already has a competitive edge in the e-commerce market with its Amazon Prime program, which offers free two-day shipping for customers who sign up for a yearly fee.

Increased pressure on brick-and-mortar retailers
These most recent developments from Amazon create unique challenges for brick-and-mortar retail businesses across the U.S. Many of these companies have already worked hard to maintain maximum customer retention in the face of increased competition from e-commerce organizations that increasingly improve their delivery capabilities. Especially during the holiday shopping season, businesses often place more importance on the ability to keep their in-store shelves fully stocked for the expected boost in consumer activity. For most of these organizations, this task is simply impossible without reliable ground transportation from regional warehouses. As a result, small and medium-sized fleet management organizations must do everything they can to dispatch trucks and deliver products as quickly as possible. Logistics software programs can help these businesses make maximum use of their available resources and eliminate the risk of increasing overhead costs during busy shipping seasons. 

Managing risks
In addition to the need to keep overhead fuel costs as low as possible during the holiday season, ground vehicles transporting packages directly to homes face other threats as well. According toCBS News, the end of the year is often associated with an increase in theft. In fact, the source said many drivers of United Parcel Service (UPS) truck drivers have reported incidents of people following routes and snatching packages before they are able to bring them directly to a customer's doorstep. 

However, high-quality transportation management software programs can help fleet owners both large and small keep better track of their operations amid an increase in these kinds of threats to business activity. Rather than running the risk of losing packages or failing to make deliveries, automated tools can ensure trucks are dispatched and managed in the most efficient ways possible. For example, routing software can make it easier for managers to identify safe delivery paths and eliminate the possibility of losing business to theft. Other logistics tools can also make it easier for managers to control overhead costs during the busiest weeks of the ye