Planning the most advantageous route for road transport in 5 steps

- Author: TFF

For starters, what does the most advantageous route mean? The cheapest one? The fastest? The safest? Or maybe… Well, that’s just it. There is no one-size-fits-all definition of the “best route”, as it depends on many factors, such as the type of cargo, customer expectations and the specifics of transport.

Some shippers want the goods to arrive as quickly as possible and are willing to pay more for express transport. For others, it’s about savings, so they can wait until the freight forwarder arranges an added load and can offer a lower price.

When it comes to transporting high-value goods, safety is key. The route must include certain stopping places and provide maximum protection for the cargo during transport.

5 steps to plan the best route

There is no one-size-fits-all recipe for determining the optimal route in road transport, and many freights require an individual approach. So how does the process of determining the best route work? What should be taken into account?

1. Gather information about the load and customer expectations

The first step is to determine the type of load and identify the customer’s expectations:

Type of load: Is it dangerous, fragile, valuable, with a limited shelf life, non-standard?
Load storage conditions: Does the load require specific transport conditions, e.g. controlled temperature or humidity?
Dimensions and weight of load: Will the load parameters affect the choice of route, e.g. height, width and load capacity limitations of bridges and tunnels?
Specifics of transport: Is it full truck load (FTL) or less than truckload (LTL)?
Customer expectations: What is the customer’s priority – time, price, or safety? When does the load need to arrive? Are there specific times when loading and unloading is possible? Does the customer have any additional requirements for the route, such as avoiding toll roads or passing through certain countries?

2. Determine the basic parameters of the vehicle and route

The basic parameters of the route, apart from the starting point, end point and possible loading/unloading locations along the way, include the profile of the vehicle (bus, solo, vehicle with a trailer/semi-trailer) tailored to the transported load. It is also worth taking into account the emission class of the vehicle, which in many countries affects the amount of road tolls.

With LTL transport, loads from different shippers are often consolidated, which requires the addition of extra loading and unloading points along the route. This affects the length of the route and cost.

3. Consider other important aspects

An important part of route planning is to take into account the PTV environmental restrictions. Many countries have regulations and laws aimed at reducing the negative impact of road transport on the natural environment. These restrictions may include:

  • exhaust emission standards and low emission zones defining areas where the entry of vehicles that do not meet certain emission standards is restricted or prohibited
  • restrictions on vehicle traffic, e.g. entry bans for trucks with specific parameters (older models, emitting excessive amounts of exhaust fumes)
  • time restrictions, which specify the times of day when truck traffic is prohibited.

PTV transport restrictions may vary by country and even by specific regions or routes. As an example, in Germany an emissions fee (LKW-Maut) is levied on all trucks with a GVW over 7.5 tons (from July 2024 it will also apply to vans with a GVW over 3.5 tons), and in some French cities certain trucks that do not meet the Crit’Air emission standards are banned. Remember to check the regulations along the route before you leave.

4. Explore alternatives

The goal of route optimization is to select the solution that best meets all the established criteria while minimizing travel time and costs. Therefore, do not limit yourself to one route, but consider several alternative options. To reduce costs, you can also set a route that avoids toll roads or exclude certain locations.

5. Calculate the final cost

If you transport with your own fleet, knowing the exact route, toll and fuel costs allows you to accurately calculate the profit from a given order. This ensures that you make profitable business decisions. Moreover, when looking for a carrier for a specific order, you know what rates to expect and gain a better negotiating position.

Good route planning allows you to achieve the highest possible profit, while maintaining a high level of service. The Best Route Assistant will help you determine the best route. You can try it on the Platform for free for 3 months!