Route optimization software can help shipping companies come up with creative solutions for increasing both the efficiency and safety of their daily deliveries. Automated tools that allow fleet owners to access GPS data to come up with the fastest directions based on a variety of factors are nothing new in the transportation industry. However, a handful of firms have used these tools to make radical changes to employee driving habits.
Business Insider recently reported on the unusual suggestion from Bob Stoffel, senior vice president of UPS, that the best way for transportation firms to save money is to eliminate left turns from their daily routes. He touted his company's recent success delivering more than 350,000 more packages than usual during 2013 while simultaneously reducing the total number of miles driven by nearly 20.4 million due to adjustments that included, but were not limited to, avoiding left turns.
Route optimization also improves safety
Other industry stakeholders agree that Stoffel has a point. In fact, left turns are a frequent cause of accidents in dense urban areas. The Washington Post cited data from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) that found more than half of all collisions at crosswalks involve at least one automobile completing a left turn. The article also reported that these turns have a tendency to increase traffic gridlock.
"Left turns create some concerns when it comes to generating potential for congestion, back-up traffic flow, safety, accident situations," Phil Caruso, deputy executive director for technical programs at the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE), told the newspaper. "So if you can eliminate left turns, especially concurrent left turns, that's a positive."
Cities are also warming up to the idea of at least improving the safety of left turns. A report from the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) even suggested creating a pilot program that increases visibility at crosswalks on heavily-trafficked streets. Some experts have gone as far as to call for imposing a ban on on left turns.
Shipping companies that invest in routing software can experiment with new ways to reduce overhead costs by focusing on avoiding the need to turn left as much as possible. Not only will these companies increase driver safety, but they will also be able to complete more assignments in less time. Shorter trips can lead to additional savings in the form of fuel efficiency and the ability to deliver more shipments with one tank of gas.