Network Balancing: How to Simplify and Optimize Load Planning with Modern Tech
Load planning is among the highest-paid jobs in the trucking industry. It’s easy to see why. Few people have the skills and experience to make dozens, even hundreds, of high-impact decisions in a chaotic environment.
Balancing capacity — drivers and equipment — with inbound and outbound loads is a daily challenge. Freight networks are constantly in flux. Load planners who rely on notepads, whiteboards, and spreadsheets cannot handle the job's complexities.
Without total operational visibility, even the best planners are prone to make erroneous driver-load assignments that can spoil customer service, strain driver earnings, and shrink the bottom line from missing revenue goals and racking up deadhead miles.
Many fleets use transportation management software (TMS) with outdated load-planning tools. To manage data and make decisions, users are toggling between screens and switching between systems. Using outdated tech becomes more problematic as truckload carriers grow and need a more efficient, streamlined, and intelligent process.
Only a TMS platform that brings total visibility to load planning can proactively help fleets solve network imbalances and other challenges. This article highlights three new developments that will give fleets a more efficient and effective way of managing the intricacies of truckload planning.
1. Visibility is Key
Traditionally, load planning has been a reactive process. Users must manage a relentless data stream of order details, current asset locations, drivers’ hours-of-service status, appointment times, and more. The volume of data can bury load planners in minutiae, hindering their ability to respond to network imbalances and other developing problems.
By contrast, a TMS with a unified interface that gives users complete operational visibility of all essential data points helps users make faster, more informed decisions. Users can benefit from market insights showing where and when their networks will have imbalances days in advance to focus resources and optimize planning strategies.
Fleets can also benefit from technology that creates visibility of key performance metrics that help executives and planners drive accountability and foster teamwork.
2. Shifting to Proactive Mode
Future-focused load planning is a hallmark of modern TMS solutions. The ability of a system to identify network imbalances days in advance is a real difference-maker. Having a TMS that combines market insights with robust features and advanced functionalities to help users solve problems proactively will enable fleets to navigate chaos successfully.
For example, innovative planning screens that identify excess drivers or an absence of freight in a planning region help load planners shift to a proactive mode by recognizing and solving problems before they develop.
Flexible planning tools are also essential. For instance, some TMS platforms limit the visibility of load planners to the drivers, assets, and loads of user-defined geographical regions. These artificial boundaries restrict users from accessing available resources across state lines or a neighboring county.
A more flexible process that allows users to go outside their planning boundaries can help maximize all available resources to balance a freight network. A user could search for available capacity in all directions of a specific location's defined radius, such as 100 miles from Chicago, to find drivers or empty trailers in a neighboring planning region, like Indiana.
3. Empowering Load Planners
A modern TMS that leverages cutting-edge technology can significantly improve load planning, but solutions must remain deeply rooted in the human element. Computer algorithms can only account for some things an experienced load planner knows.
To stay rooted in the human element, a modern TMS platform must deliver information through customizable views and features that help planners make better decisions and exercise greater control.
Load planners can factor in the human element by using a TMS that integrates driver-related data, such as available service hours, time-off schedules, and mileage or revenue goals for pay. In turn, drivers experience a more personalized approach, contributing to higher retention rates and operational performance.
Another way to strengthen the human element is with a TMS incorporating notes in the planning screen for loads, equipment, and drivers. A customer service rep, for example, could add a note to an order about a time-sensitive delivery schedule. The system could require a planner to read the note before assigning the load to a driver. Similarly, a driver manager may need to add a note about a driver who has requested time off.
Trailer visibility is an example of how a modern TMS gives load planners greater control. With visibility to trailers and trailer pools, users access available trailer resources from their screens. Similarly, a TMS platform that incorporates editable data fields can also give users greater control by allowing them to adjust appointment times based on communications they have with customers.
Embracing Change for Long-term Success
Adopting modern load planning tools is a strategic imperative in an era of rapid changes and relentless competition. Having a unified interface that gives users everything they need to identify problems and make intelligent decisions can transform the chaos of truckload planning into a simplified process with greater visibility, proactive decision-making, and efficiency to sustain success.
New developments in modern TMS platforms also help truckload carriers drive continuous improvement. A platform that integrates key performance metrics into the planning screen helps users prioritize work, model others’ best practices, and focus their resources to achieve goals. Fleets that embrace the power of next-generation load planning technology will be positioned for a more resilient, agile, and profitable future.
Download our latest guide to get quickly up to date on the latest market trends in load planning technology and learn how you can be on the cutting edge.
Fleets that embrace the possibilities of a next-generation load planning system can eliminate errors, increase productivity, and drive efficiency — over the road and in the office. For more detailed information about the evolution of load planning, contact Magnus Technologies today.