Using route limits to regulate operational costs

A look at how to configure limits for your vehicle routes: maximum number of stops visited, maximum distance traveled, and maximum time spent on route.

In this post, we’ll discuss how to use route limits to balance vehicle usage and regulate operational costs. For routing use cases, we often have to consider metrics like time on road, distance traveled, and the number of stops on a route when analyzing costs related to vehicle usage and driver contracts.

But before we dive into limits, let’s recap how we think about routes, planning, and optimization at Nextmv.

What’s a route? 

A route is the path a vehicle travels between two or many locations. That might be the path between a pickup and a dropoff like in the instance of a single meal delivery. More likely, it will be the path between multiple pickups and/or dropoffs where a vehicle is visiting a number of stops in a delivery, distribution, or sourcing use case.

How is a route made?

A route can be chosen in a number of ways. Planning a route generally implies selecting the shortest path between two locations. Of course, we know that routing is generally not that simple. For instance, stops likely need to be visited in a certain order and different types of vehicles may have unique attributes. 

We use measures like Haversine, Euclidian, and OSRM to calculate these distances (and subsequent durations) — each taking various geographical inputs into account. Route optimization adds another layer of complexity, respecting constraints like capacity, shift times, and compatibility attributes.

What are route limits? 

Route limits do exactly what their name implies; they impose a restriction on some aspect of a route. In this post, we cover several maxima used to limit a route: 

Duration: Set a maximum duration per vehicle route in seconds. 

Distance: Set a maximum distance per vehicle route in meters.

Number of stops: Set a maximum number of stops per vehicle route.

When should I use route limits? 

When planning a route, you may have seen that certain vehicles are getting more use than others. This has an impact on vehicle maintenance, driver contracts, and other operational costs. Route limits are particularly useful if you want to put caps on hours worked, use your most fuel-efficient vehicles more frequently, or balance vehicle usage.

Understanding vehicle distribution

Let’s take a look at the charts in the Nextmv console to get an idea of how to analyze vehicle usage. After you do a run in the console demo environment, you’ll see a chart like the one below (with different values depending on your input file). This view shows us how each vehicle is contributing to the total solution value.

Vehicle Value Composition by Solution Value

Questions to consider:

  • Which vehicles are contributing the most to the solution value?
  • Which vehicles are not contributing at all?

This overview chart provides an at-a-glance understanding of vehicle usage as it’s related to the solution value. For instance, if a vehicle is contributing 0 to the solution value, we know that it isn’t servicing any stops. Let’s dig in further. 

Vehicle distribution by time/duration

By toggling to “Total Time” in the top right corner of this chart, you can see the total seconds traveled per solution broken down by vehicle.

Vehicle Value Composition by Total Seconds Traveled

Questions to consider: 

  • For how long are vehicles in use? 
  • Are certain vehicles in use for a significantly longer time? 

The amount of time a vehicle is used has may impact things like:  

  • Energy consumption which will vary by vehicle type (e.g., diesel semi-truck, hybrid cargo van, electric car)
  • Driver pay and other requirements per contract

Vehicle distribution by distance

By toggling to “Total Distance” in the top right corner of this chart, you can see the total meters traveled per solution broken down by vehicle.

Vehicle Value Composition by Total Meters Traveled

Questions to consider:

  • How far are individual vehicles traveling? 
  • Are certain vehicles traveling significantly longer distances? 

The distance traveled may impact things like:

  • Distance-based vehicle maintenance like oil changes
  • Driver pay and other requirements per contract

Using route limits to impact vehicle (or driver) distribution

These limits can be set at the default level to apply to the entire fleet or at individual vehicle level to create varying limits per vehicle.

Set ‘max_duration’. One way you can balance how vehicles are being used is to set a maximum amount of time that a vehicle can be used for a given route. For example, contractor vehicles may only be allowed to be on the road for a set time. 

Set ‘max_distance’. You can also balance vehicles by setting a maximum distance. For example, if you’ve identified the vehicles that require the most frequent maintenance, you can specify the maximum distance we will allow those vehicles to travel for a given route. 

Set ‘max_stops’. Another way to influence distance and time on road is to limit the number of stops a vehicle can make. For example, you may want to limit the number of stops that each driver (vehicle) services. This metric may be tied to the health of the driver and/or restrictions in their contract. 

Getting started

Try route limits for free on Nextmv Cloud. Have questions? Check out the documentation or feel free to reach out to us directly.  

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