Route Optimization for Garbage Trucks

June 28, 2023
5 min read

As anyone in the industry knows, a lot more goes into waste management than simply collecting garbage. But even experienced professionals might not realize how much optimizing garbage truck routes can improve their operations.

In this article, we’ll look at what route optimization is and how it helps solve the biggest challenges in the waste management industry. Keep reading to find out how you can maximize your routing efficiencies while minimizing wasted time with routing software. 

What is Route Optimization?

Route optimization, a subcategory of route planning, is the process of planning your garbage truck routes in the fastest and most cost-effective way. Route optimization deals with making your routes as efficient as possible, especially with regards to fuel consumption and time. It is a dispatcher's job to plan which trucks are going where and how many stops that truck will make.

Route optimization technology allows dispatchers to find the best routes for your waste management fleet with the goal of saving your business time, money, and hassle. Whereas before you had to manually track your vehicles and plan routes with pen and paper, now route optimization technology makes the process a lot easier for dispatchers. With route optimization software, dispatchers can plan, modify, and update routes in just a few minutes rather than several hours.

The Benefits of Route Optimization for Garbage Collection

The first major benefit of route optimization is time savings. The faster trucks can complete their routes, the lower your operating costs will be, such as “wear and tear” on your trucks (i.e. repair and maintenance cost) or fueling needs.

By designing the ideal route, trucks can also fit more stops along their route to gain greater coverage – otherwise known as route density. Route density is a major way for haulers to increase the profitability on their routes as more customers can be serviced along that same route.

Additionally, devising the optimal route can also lead to an increase in customer satisfaction as garbage can be collected in a timely and predictable manner.

As mentioned, route optimization tools allow dispatchers to quickly plan routes and adjust them as needed. Drivers receive automatic updates to their route directly in their app, which is designed to reduce wasted time going back-and-forth between dispatchers and drivers and also ensures everyone is on the same page.

Challenges of Waste Collection Routes

When it comes to route optimization, what problems does it solve? Let’s look at some of the biggest challenges that occur with waste collection routes. 

Inefficient Routes

The larger the area you cover and the more vehicles you have, the harder it will be to track all of your routes. While you can certainly manage to get the job done, it’s difficult to consider the different variables that go into routing, such as if routes overlap or if vehicles are going through the same area multiple times.

Because your focus needs to be on running your business and providing high quality customer service, you can’t be spending hours each week trying to determine the best route for each truck, especially as new customers sign up, which will require frequent changes to routes.

In summary, a lot of time and money can be wasted on inefficient routing.

Unpredictable Traffic Patterns

One of the challenges of fleet management and route planning is that traffic is not always consistent or predictable. A route is going to look very different on a Monday at 10:00 a.m. versus 5:00 p.m. This means that you can’t rely on static routes because they don’t factor in what’s happening in real-time.

It’s important to have a flexible route plan that can accommodate unexpected issues.

Unnecessary Fuel Consumption

One of the biggest issues in waste collection is the fuel consumption that occurs when routes are inefficient and drivers have to circle around or even double back to check off all their stops. 

Coupled with traffic issues, this means a lot more idling time, which is a significant contributor to fuel consumption for garbage trucks. Garbage trucks are already not particularly fuel efficient, so inefficient use means more time and money spent filling up at fueling stations. 

High Maintenance Costs

The more trucks you have and the more distance they cover, the higher your maintenance costs will be. This is especially true because of the start-stop nature of garbage trucks that can put a strain on the vehicle.

You also have to keep track of when each vehicle was last serviced and when it’s due for maintenance. It can be hard to manage this information amongst everything else, and then you have to work out how to adjust your routes while that vehicle is out for maintenance. 

Driver Fatigue

Lastly, there is the impact of inefficient routes on the drivers. Long hours are not optimal working conditions, so being able to streamline routes greatly reduces driver fatigue. 

The Solution: Waste Management Routing Software 

Luckily, there is a solution that deals with all of these problems and makes route optimization for garbage trucks easy. Waste management routing software, like Basestation, comes with a wide array of features designed to solve common problems facing waste management companies. 

Real-Time Route Optimization Solutions

One of the advantages of waste management routing software is that you can build a planned route and then make changes to that route in real-time. 

Without this software, you’d have to manually plan routes or use a separate GPS. Then it can be very hard to communicate with drivers once they are out in the field, or even to know where they are. 

With Basestation, you can quickly and efficiently design routes and adapt them in real-time. Using Basestation’s Driver App, which can be installed on a tablet or smartphone (iOS and Android), it is easy to keep in touch with drivers and communicate information. Dispatchers also receive real-time notifications on the status of each route and if any issues have occurred.

No matter how well you plan, dispatchers can’t control every variable and unexpected events will ultimately occur. With routing software, you can streamline your routing process to ensure the best routes are created but also respond to issues as they arise.

Cost Savings and Operational Efficiencies

One of the biggest advantages of software for route optimization is that you can maximize the coverage of your fleet while minimizing operating costs and time. This will help reduce maintenance and fuel costs (thereby increasing profitability) in addition to driver fatigue.

It’s also important to consider the environmental benefits of route optimization as it can reduce the unnecessary operating time of a vehicle. This can lead to emitting less carbon emissions and ensures compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations for commercial vehicles.

Automated Billing

Another benefit of waste management routing software, like Basestation, is that it also includes a billing module, which can ensure customers are billed in a timely manner. This is especially important if haulers need to charge customers for extra services, such as extra pick ups or overloaded containers. Drivers can log this information in the app in real-time (accompanied with photos), which then gets communicated to the office so the charges can be properly applied to the customer’s account.

Having a billing system integrated with your routing system can save hours spent billing, invoicing, and reconciling data.

Automated Tracking

With automated inventory tracking, you’ll know exactly where your assets are at all times, in real-time. For example, a dispatcher can look on a map to see where a driver is scheduled to go for the day, and then see if there are any other customers with a container in that area that need servicing. By having a system in place, the dispatcher can get this information in real-time and make immediate changes to the driver’s route, thereby optimizing the route and saving a trip back to that same location at a later date.

The Bottom Line

There are lots of challenges when it comes to designing and maintaining efficient garbage truck routes; however, implementing route optimization software can make a huge impact on your company’s operations by saving you time and money.

If you’re looking for ways to improve routing efficiencies for your waste management business, book a demo with Basestation to see how their all-in-one software solution specifically designed for waste haulers can help streamline your operations.