The Future of Delivery Tech for Services like FedEx

With everyone stuck at home over the last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, delivery drivers experienced a massive boom in demand. Quarantined folks, unable to shop for goods and basic needs, relied on companies like FedEx to distribute their orders. With so many corporations seeking to capitalize on this moment, it’s become increasingly difficult for any one company to maintain significant leverage.

While competing organizations like UPS and the U.S. Postal service have taken up a large portion of the demand, Amazon’s swift rise to monopolize the market has really put the pressure on for other services to boost efficiency. The $1.7 trillion multinational technology company took over one-third of all U.S. online retail growth during the pandemic, so they have had quite the opportunity to fine-tune their process.

Among Amazon’s practices to maximize speed and efficiency—e.g., implementing working conditions that have spurred laborers to unionize—is their strategy to rethinking delivery. Guaranteed expeditious delivery is one of the strongest selling points for accumulating returning customers, so companies are constantly looking for ways to innovate their methods while saving on costs. Some examples of Amazon’s successful tactics include expanding warehousing for shorter travel distances and taking advantage of the demand for drivers through local private contracting. In order for courier services like FedEx to compete as a viable option in the market and keep their head above water, delivery drivers have to find independent means of surpassing corporate distribution systems.

One tech option that FedEx has explored is Route Optimization Software. So, what is it, how does it work, and how as it impacted delivery and delivery drivers? Let’s find out:

Route Optimization Software

Route Optimization Software is basically just a computer program that calculates where delivery drivers need to stop en route to maximize efficiency. Think Google Maps, Waze, or any general navigation tool on your phone that allows you to plot out pit stops on the road. This technology is revolutionary for delivery drivers because it allows them to predict traffic and road-conditions on the fastest route to their destinations.

While you might think of route optimization software as just a helpful tool to get to work on time, the benefits of using this technology are fundamentally changing how drivers operate. By constantly processing thousands of data points and providing updates on road congestion, delivery drivers are able to transport goods faster than ever before. Some of the other benefits of using this software include saving time with live updates, being able to pre-plan the most efficient courses to serve a greater volume of customers, decreasing resource consumption by offering shorter routes, and saving companies money on repairs because drivers are able to track and avoid paths with rugged terrain. Continuously developing route optimization software helps struggling services take full advantage of these benefits, helping them compete against massive corporations.

For FedEx, the future of route optimization software is promising. As developers look to incorporate more satellite systems, new methods of reporting traffic, and integrating Bluetooth self-driving cars into the mix to better collectively direct traffic, FedEx has the potential to rise to the top of the competition with this transformational technology.

Now that you know what route optimization software is, it’s time to see how the ideal meets reality at FedEx.

DRO – Dynamic Route Optimization

While there are plenty of public options for common drivers and delivery services to use, there are several apps that companies use to streamline communication and maximize the benefit of their reporting. For example, Amazon uses Rabbit and the UPS relies on a system called Orion to navigate deliveries. FedEx employs a newer software called FedEx DRO, which was released in 2019 to great enthusiasm. However, FedEx’s use of the app has actually complicated work for the drivers and continues to show signs of future problems.

Instead of helping FedEx boost efficiency and get deliveries out quicker, FedEx DRO has presented drivers with a more difficult burden and new challenges left and right. One issue with using FedEx DRO is that managers are able to manually allocate 8 hours of nonstop work for the drivers, meaning they’re not able to refuel their trucks, they wrack up late work if uncontrollable road conditions slow down, and they’re not even allowed to stop for food or to use the restroom. Employees using the system have also reported ongoing complaints of the app’s usage including manipulation from management, issues with navigation, and limitations preventing them from decent working conditions.

Although FedEx is impacted as a whole, the drivers are the ones who are taking on the largest impact of negative effects. Facing the overburden of these poor conditions, FedEx drivers are forced to take one of two paths moving forward: struggle to fix the DRO program or find an alternative software.

The Future of Route Optimization Software

On the one hand, it is possible to fix the FedEx DRO. But that would require workers to organize and not only demonstrate to their employers how it is negatively affecting them and the company, but convincing them to invest the time, energy, and money to deliver a significant update. It would take multiple trial periods to gather useful feedback, conducting field tests, and slowing down daily operations to troubleshoot for any remaining bugs.

On the other hand, FedEx might consider the growing market of route optimization software with programs that are ready to go. Studies also reflect multiple options for driver-approved apps that provide them with favorable working conditions that also maintain the company’s efficiency.

The most promising option, it seems, is an app called Straightaway. We consider this program to be the best move for services like FedEx because it was created by delivery drivers for delivery drivers. When workers are able to determine their working conditions, they’re not only going to be working in safer and healthier environments, but they’re also going to be able to perform their jobs better and more efficiently.

The way the app works is, drivers need only take a picture of their day’s distribution and then Straightaway automatically formulates the most efficient way to make deliveries while meeting the worker’s needs. They can stop for breaks, refuel, and still meet maximum quotas before the end of a normal workday. The fact that delivery drivers worked with tech engineers to design this program means that the experts and workers on the job get to influence the workflow.

Starting from the ground up on this level will not only benefit the drivers, but companies that use Straightaway are likely to optimize their deliveries because of the better working conditions. Straightaway is the future of route optimization software, and if services like FedEx want to see an increase in their efficiency, then they should start using the app … well, straightaway.

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