Diesel woes, help us sort it out!
June 26, 2008 12:46 PM   Subscribe

We've got a huge truck that does pickups and deliveries all over a rural community. Diesel eats us up. Do you have suggestions for helping us schedule pickups in a manner that maximizes efficiency? We're an NPO...

Hi. Me again.

Like it says, we do pickups all over a large geographical area. We really need to maximize our truck-time. Between labor and diesel and insurance, it currently costs us something like $40/hour to run our truck. Ouch, pretty painful for a non-profit.

Does anyone know any software system which would enable us to type in addresses and then automagically plot them along a route that was the most efficient?

We currently tell people X day, not X time, although we could even bump that back to "we schedule all pickups for the next week on friday, we'll call you that afternoon to let you know what day and time."

My driver already has a GPS, and it'll route plan, but only in the order you give it waypoints.

I've heard that MS Streets and Trips will do something like this, but I'm unfamiliar with the product.

posted by TomMelee to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
MS Streets and Trips will absolutely help you out, if your driver can carry a laptop (or if you print out the route ahead of time). Once you add the stops to the route (and the locations are fully searchable or modifiable), you can optimize the route. Further, you can prioritize different types of streets (e.g. avoid highways). No GPS is necessary to use it (or you may be able to hook up your current GPS to a laptop), and it can be found pretty inexpensively.
posted by zachxman at 12:56 PM on June 26, 2008

Check this out: Google Maps TSP Solver

Your problem is a variation on the notorious "travelling salesman" problem. Getting a perfect solution is nearly impossible, but getting a very good one is possible, and this website will do it for you. I just gave it a shot with some local addresses and it gives believable-looking results.
posted by adamrice at 1:18 PM on June 26, 2008


Diesel is killing everybody right now. Expect much, much worse.

So, to your problem. The more sophisticated routing programs out there do some pretty cool stuff. Not only is getting from here to there important, but, where you place product on your trucks. The fuel efficiency wonks have really mapped out how product should be placed on trucks (position in the box, height in the box, central location of weight).

You may want to work with a firm like Competitive Logistics. I know that dollars are tight, but, my guess woudl be that you could cost model fuel savings vs. the cost of consultant to re-evaluate your routing methodology and find savings (based on the number of trucks you use).

I found this, and this and this which all seem interesting.

Simple tips for your drivers: No idling...ever (many states now will fine you if you idle more than 5 minutes). Don't ever fill the tank to full unless you need to (less weight = better fuel efficiency) because trucks have pretty big fuel reservoirs (30-50 gallons). Early morning driving and fueling whenever possible (cool fuel = more fuel).

Drop me a mefi mail if you want to chat further on this. Good luck!
posted by zerobyproxy at 2:04 PM on June 26, 2008

Hm, I'm conflicted on whether to memail you or post this here, but this is so cool I figure I'll share it with everyone.

So this is not what you asked, but it might also help. And from the little I know of you (homebrewing and canoeing and NPOs) you might be interested in it anyway: The Dervaes family in LA brew their own biodiesel. It looks pretty easy and only takes 30 days, and you don't need to pay taxes if you mix in a bit of regular diesel.
posted by GardenGal at 2:18 PM on June 26, 2008

I almost put a "don't talk about BD" part to this question. I personally have a Biofuels company as my home business that I operate outside of work. We're very very close to ramping up production to ~10,000 gals a month, and then the diesel will be free. It also doesn't take 30 days, it takes 8 hours. 3 hours when we switch to centrifugal. (333 gals/hour maximum production for intermediate facility.)

Thanks for the heads up on all the other goodies. I should be more clear about lots of what we do:
Our diesel is actually paid for by a third party. We pay 0. I just want that prepaid account to last as long as possible. We only do, I'd say, 100 miles a week. Our truck gets ~4-6mpg. He knows better than to idle, that sort of goodies. We only have 1 truck.

I will send you a mefi mail just because I want to hear more of what you have to say.

I think streets and trips is our best bet for right now, but I'll definitely be examining the other choices.

posted by TomMelee at 7:16 PM on June 26, 2008

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