Effective route optimization unlocks a whole host of business benefits — from reduced maintenance and fuel costs to happier customers and more efficient service. But, in order to enjoy those benefits, you’ll need specialized software.
In this article, we’ll explain why route optimization software matters, then get into how to choose the best route optimization software for your business.
What is route optimization?
Route optimization is the process of mapping out the most cost-effective route.
But it’s much more involved than charting the shortest path from one point to the next. Rather, it’s about looking at all of the factors at play — number of stops, weather conditions, destination locations, and variables like the number of turns or intersections a driver might encounter on their route.
What is route optimization software?
Route optimization software uses algorithms to help route planners and dispatchers calculate the best possible route within a matter of clicks. And what’s more, most solutions provide access to features and insights that enable users to respond to changing conditions in real time and update driver routes accordingly.
For drivers, this technology saves a lot of time. They’ll spend less time sitting in traffic and avoid the inconvenience of zig-zagging across town or doubling back to areas they’ve already visited that same day.
Dispatchers and schedulers can use route optimization software to quickly map out the fastest routes for their entire fleet and maximize the number of stops for each driver on any given day. At the same time, these tools allow them to update the plan when customers reschedule an appointment or there’s an unexpected storm or traffic jam.
Features to look for in route optimization software
Route optimization solutions range from the basic to the incredibly robust — with features designed to manage massive fleets across multiple locations.
As such, it can be hard to figure out exactly what features to look for. To help you start your search, we’ve outlined a short list of features to consider in a route optimization solution:
Multi-stop and multi-driver route optimization
One of the main benefits of using route optimization software is that it leverages the power of AI and machine learning to manage all of the different variables that influence driver ETAs, fuel costs, and so on.
Image: Onfleet’s route optimization engine factors in multiple variables, including time, location, traffic, vehicle capacity and more.
You’ll want to look for a solution that allows you to manage multiple stops and multiple drivers — otherwise, you’re getting about as much value as you’d find with consumer solutions like Waze or Google Maps.
Keep in mind that many solutions are priced based on volume. So, it’s important to consider how many drivers and locations you’ll need to support, as well as how many stops they make on an average day. You want to also make sure that your solution leaves some room for growth, as well as the flexibility to add or remove drivers as needed.
Many route optimization platforms allow dispatchers, decision-makers, and drivers to use visual maps and dashboards to locate drivers, identify stops, and monitor real-time traffic conditions.
Look for a solution that keeps customers in the loop. For example, many leading solutions will alert customers when a package is out for delivery and when it’s scheduled to arrive with automated SMS or push notifications.
You might also look for route optimization tools that allow customers to contact the driver or the customer service center with the touch of a button. This feature shields phone numbers to protect customer and driver privacy.
Proof of delivery
Proof of delivery supports greater transparency between the business and the customer. Features like e-signing and the ability to upload a photo of the package at its final destination offer a layer of protection against false claims and can help customers locate packages that were, say, dropped off with a neighbor or in front of a different entrance.
Customers can easily verify that they received a package — even if they’re not home when it arrives. Alternatively, if their delivery is dropped at the wrong location, it’s easy to trace the problem to its source and resolve matters ASAP.
Driver tracking is an essential feature that supports visibility for both the business and its customers. It allows users to see where drivers are at any given moment, and dispatchers can make manual changes, if needed
On the customer end, driver tracking provides more visibility into where the package/driver is located, along with an updated ETA. Some platforms, including Onfleet, allow customers to track arrival times in more detail once the package is “out for delivery.” Users can see how many stops the driver has to make before they receive their delivery – allowing them to plan errands and other activities around arrival times, so packages aren’t left unattended for hours at a time.
7 best route optimization softwares (by use case)
Below, we’ve included seven of the best route optimization tools. Each is best-suited for a specific group of users – with some platforms offering advanced features or specialized tools you won’t find anywhere else. Read on to check out our picks and why we chose them.
Overview: Onfleet offers end-to-end route planning, optimization, dispatching, and communications to help businesses streamline last-minute delivery operations, increase profits, and consistently deliver a great customer experience. It also has the best route optimization app among the software on our list.
The platform features an integrated, AI-driven route optimization engine that analyzes variables like location, time, traffic, and capacity to generate the fastest, most cost-effective routes. As conditions change, the platform automatically reoptimizes routes, and drivers receive updated directions in real time.
Finally, the platform offers comprehensive analytics and a built-in tool for capturing customer feedback, allowing business leaders to make decisions that improve driver productivity and customer satisfaction.
Key route optimization features:
- Real-time driver-tracking
- Automatic status updates
- Integrated customer communication
- Driver chat
- Proof of delivery
- Predictive ETAs
- Feedback capture
- In-app analytics
Overview: SPOTIO’s route tracking software is ideal for field sales teams. The platform streamlines sales routes, allowing reps to spend less time driving, while also enabling them to make more stops per day. What’s more, SPOTIO connects directly with your CRM, allowing users to filter pipelines from map data and search for new potential leads with the Google Places integration.
- Multi-stop route optimization
- Sales route planner
- Automated mileage tracking
- Google Places integration
- Sales tracking
- Task automation
- Sales territory mapping
- Reporting tools
- Mobile app
- Lead generation
- Appointment setting
Overview: Routific’s route planning software has a built-in route optimization algorithm that analyzes variables like vehicle capacities, driver shift times and breaks, priority customers, delivery types, ETAs, and more to chart the routes that deliver the best possible outcomes. Inside, you’ll find features like live GPS tracking, proof of delivery, drag-and-drop route adjustments, and delivery analytics.
- Master routing
- Route assignment
- Default routes
- Delivery analytics
- Proof of delivery
- Delivery tracking link
- Live GPS tracking
- Customer updates
Overview: Truckstop.com is an all-in-one load board and freight management solution that offers a suite of tools for running the entire business — from dispatching and negotiation to payroll, invoicing, and preventative maintenance.
Where Truckstop.com really shines, however, is with its comprehensive load board, which enables more efficient dispatching and simplifies booking confirmations.
Overall, users seem to like the board’s intuitive interface, noting that features like the map search make it easy to locate loads and make decisions that help them save time and money. Additionally, Truckstop.com offers a mobile app that allows users to set bookings on the go — though it’s currently only available on Android.
- Comprehensive load board
- Paperless IFTA reporting
- Customizable documents
- Driver settlements
- Driver messaging
- Preventative maintenance
- Sales management tools
Overview: Route4Me's suite of tools cover route optimization, route monitoring, proof of delivery, and customer communications. The platform supports both single and multi-driver routes and allows users to set predefined parameters before passing route optimization off to the algorithm. The platform also captures driver data and syncs it back to a dashboard view, allowing users to analyze driver performance against predicted ETAs and customer feedback.
You’ll also find customization and add-on options that give businesses the flexibility they need to adapt the platform around the needs of their dispatchers, drivers, and customers.
Customizations are offered through its “marketplace catalog” on an “a la carte” basis. This means some features that other platforms include right out of the box are available only as a paid add-on in Route4Me. For example, real-time driver tracking, which comes standard with tools like Onfleet, isn’t offered in any of Route4Me’s plans.
For larger companies — particularly those in the field services space — the ability to pick and choose features is seen as a key selling point. For smaller companies operating on a tighter budget, Route4Me may not be the most cost-effective solution.
- Single and multi-driver route optimization
- Built-in GPS tracking
- Integration with popular navigation apps like Google Maps and Waze
- Cross-platform functionality
Overview: RouteXL is a route planning tool that helps users find the best multi-stop route for service calls, deliveries, and pickups. The free plan allows users to optimize routes with up to 20 stops. Users can also enter addresses directly into the app or import them from an existing spreadsheet, and the app will send those addresses to third-party geocoding services like Mapbox, Bing, MapQuest, or Photon at no additional charge. Premium plans, on the other hand, use Google’s geocoding API to verify addresses, which is considered to be more accurate than the options we’ve just listed.
Ultimately, RouteXL is one of the better free options out there, but it performs only two functions: route optimization and geocoding. That means you’re missing several key features like route monitoring, real-time notifications, proof-of-delivery, and a mobile app for drivers.
We could see this being an effective tool for companies with limited needs (i.e. one-off drop-offs or sales and service appointments) but it doesn’t have what it takes to manage and optimize the routes of an entire fleet.
- Route optimization
Overview: OptimoRoute is a route planning tool that helps dispatchers provide reliable service, using sophisticated algorithms to plan and optimize driver routes.
This solution is best for field service companies — think HVAC, pest control, cleaning, or waste removal services. Users can easily import orders and customer details, establish stop-specific parameters, and optimize multi-stop routes in minutes. Drivers can access routes directly from their phones and receive mid-route updates as they’re confirmed.
- Automated planning
- Order and task optimization
- Real-time order tracking
- Live tracking and ETA notifications
- Real-time route modification
- Proof of delivery
- Built-in analytics
- Mobile app for drivers (iOS and Android)
Which route optimization software is right for your business?
The best route optimization software for your business is the one that aligns with your target use case, business goals, and, of course, your budget.
Onfleet works with thousands of companies, across a wide range of industries — retail, e-commerce, food, beverage, pharmacy, and more.