As an LTL carrier with national reach, route optimization has long been a priority for Saia LTL Freight. Several years ago, as some of the first Windows phone-based driver applications became available, the fleet became an early adopter of the technology.
“We recognized quite early that these tools gave us the ability to be more efficient and more productive,” says Rohit Lal, Saia’s executive vice president and chief information officer. “And early on, we saw that this was a game-changer for us on those fronts.”
This was the driving force behind the fleet developing a route optimization app called RouteMax. The app was developed in partnership with Optym.
RouteMax uses advanced route optimization technology combined with a driver interface to allow for “intelligent” dispatching, and a mobile app that can be integrated as an electronic logging device.
Fleets that use the app see their need for drivers reduced by as much as 12%, miles driven per delivery decrease by 15% and route-planning times reduced by 50%, according to the developer.
“We really see this move as more of an overall modernization effort, particularly for our city drivers,” Lal says. “We really wanted an Android-based app that could give us a graphic representation of a map – something our Windows phone-based solution didn’t support.”
Lal says that in addition to better graphic representation, a new format and interface has improved workflow for drivers with simpler, more intuitive functions.
“Using this new app, our drivers can now do everything on their smartphones, when we used to have two separate devices in the cab of the truck,” Lal explains. “Now, with their smartphones, our drivers have a fully compliant ELD that also allows them to take a photograph of a delivery and get a signature from the recipient. So, what we really have here is all of our driver productivity tools coming together in single device.”
The latest RouteMax app was developed jointly by Saia and Optym over more than two years. The process included extensive feedback and evaluation ride-alongs with company drivers.
These efforts resulted in many efficiency upgrades, including the addition of inbound route planning and optimization, and updates to the DOT placard compliance and safety features.
“If a driver picks up a load of poisonous materials, the app will not allow them to ship it with food,” Lal explains. “It also gives speed limit alerts, off-course alerts and tells a driver that structures on a route – like an overpass, for example – are too small for the truck they’re driving. “
The RouteMax app has been in service with Saia for about a year and a half, and Lal says driver feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
The drivers have given both Saia’s operations team and Optym continuous feedback since the app deployment, and that feedback has already resulted in new features being added to the app’s capabilities.
“We’re continuously improving the RouteMax app by addressing driver feedback,” Lal says. “And I’m beginning to think that process will never really stop.”
This article first appeared in the September 2022 issue of Heavy Duty Trucking magazine.