Are you looking for a new routing software?
Shopping for routing software can be difficult. There are many different options to choose from and it’s hard to know which one is the best fit. We’ve created this guide to help you make an informed decision about what type of routing software would work best for your business.
Our goal with this guide is not only to provide information, but also offer insight into how we think about these decisions at our company and why we recommend certain things over others. Hopefully by the end of reading this article, you will have a better understanding of what makes good routing software and feel confident in making your own selection!
In this guide we’ll cover:
- What makes good routing software.
- Knowing your needs before shopping.
- Steps to take during the purchase process.
- How to use a free trial for the best results
- How to compare software and costs
- The bottom line about what we’ve learned over the years of choosing routing software for our own use and helping others along the way.
Read on to begin the journey of shopping for routing software? Let’s dive in!
What Makes Good Routing Software?
First things first, what exactly is routing software?
Routing software helps guide drivers to their destinations. The vehicle navigation system within the truck communicates with the routing software, which calculates a route based on customer addresses and locations of other customers en route. To give you an idea of how this works in practice, think about the last time you used Waze. You would enter your start and end points into the app, which then calculates a route based on traffic patterns and other users in the area to save you time.
Routing software is important because without it truck drivers would not be able to efficiently plan their routes or get paid for driving them.
What Industries Use Routing Software?
Routing software is used in many different industries. Each industry has its own unique needs and requirements, which makes it necessary to have specialized software that works well for the given industry. Here are some general examples of who might use routing/navigation software :
- B2C Transportation – Door-to-door delivery services like Fedex or UPS. Large fleets like DHL and Amazon.
- B2B Transportation – LTL (less than truckload) and FTL (full truckload) shipping services with large fleets, such as UPS Freight or Enterprise Truck Rental. Courier services for banks, hospitals, etc.
- Food & Beverage – Sysco, US Foods, other food distributors with large fleets.
- Construction – Electric, plumbing, HVAC. Any business that does site work requiring heavy equipment.
- Government/Military – Since routing software is used for mission-critical transportation, government agencies and the military are likely candidates to use routing software within their own operations.
- Public Safety – Fire, ambulance, and police services.
As you can see, when it comes to routing software, the possibilities are endless! To help us narrow down which options would be best-suited for your company, we’ll need to understand what your business needs.
How to Determine Your Business Needs
The first step in selecting a routing software is to figure out what your business needs. We call this the “who, what, where, when and why” of routing software:
Who will be using it? – Who will most likely be driving routes with the routing software you choose? Will your drivers mainly be sales teams visiting customers or a customer service team visiting clients? Will it be the whole fleet or just certain individuals within your organization?
What will they be using it for? – Do you need to plan routes based on time windows, as in home deliveries where customers want their product as soon as possible? Or do you have set geographic zones that must be covered daily, like warehouses that service customers within a certain radius? Do you track where your trucks are during the day or do you need to rely on drivers to communicate what work they’re completing at each stop?
Where will your drivers be driving (and how will they know)? – Will your drivers rely heavily on their own devices to determine what roads to take, or will they receive turn-by-turn directions that come with preloaded points of interest? Do you want to be able to upload your own POIs, or are there certain locations that need to be included within the routing software out of the box?
When should routes be created (and when should drivers use them)? – Will your drivers be using predefined routes to complete their day’s work, or will they be able to plan their own routes on a per trip basis? What type of guidance would you like your drivers to have when starting a new route?
Why do you need routing software in the first place? – Do you want real-time updates projected onto a digital map so you can see where your drivers are at all times? Would you prefer a turn-by-turn voice option for drivers using a mobile device? Will the routes be created by dispatchers based on updates from customers, or will your drivers be doing it themselves?
Now that we’ve gone over some of the basics of who, what, where, when and why routing software can be used for, let’s discuss the kinds of features you might see in different types of routing software.
Routing Software Features
Route Planning – This is the ability to plot out multiple stops along a route. Most common for large fleets or drivers using their own devices to create their own routes.
Driver Communication – This is the ability to communicate with drivers during route assignment or while they are out on a route. Most common for small fleets, managers giving directions to employees, and/or dispatch communicating with individual drivers.
Geofencing & Geolocation – These features allow you to create geographic zones (geofences) around areas you want to track. Common for large fleets that need real-time location updates on every vehicle driving in the fleet, tracking stolen vehicles, and/or monitoring fleet compliance with hours of service regulations.
Static Routing & Navigation – This is planned routes that are not flexible or dynamic. They will be used by drivers who are located at their starting point. Common for non-fleet use cases where drivers are provided with clear instructions before starting their route, such as making sure employees comply with daily meal and rest breaks required by federal law.
Dynamic Routing – This is planned routes that can be adjusted based on changes in the schedule, deliveries being added or removed, etc. Drivers will be able to plan their own routes, or a dispatcher will be able to assign them. Common for use cases with flexible scheduling, such as field service companies where each user is assigned territories and different employees can complete multiple stops on any given day, especially if those employees are using their own devices.
Route Sharing & Collaboration – This is the ability for multiple people to collaborate on the same route at the same time. Common for use cases like field service or pest control where several employees are assigned to complete a single job, such as servicing ten homes in a subdivision over the course of a day.
Driver Feedback & Notifications – This includes real-time alerts about weather conditions, road closures, detours, or other events that might impact a driver’s ability to complete their route. Common for use cases where drivers are either using their own devices, or will have access to routing software on a tablet mounted in their vehicle.
Fueling Stops – This is the ability for drivers to fill up the fuel tank at the same stop throughout an entire day. Common for use cases where fuel costs and/or mileage per tank is critical, such as fleets of trucks who must complete a certain number of deliveries within a given time frame or return to the garage with enough fuel to get through the next day.
Employee Access – This includes the ability to add and remove employees from access groups, determine what data they are allowed to see, and how that data is presented. Common for use cases with multiple drivers who need access to the same routing software at different times, such as managers working in a field service environment with hourly employees using their own devices.
Electronic Signature Capture – This is the ability for drivers or dispatchers to sign for deliveries or other tasks on a tablet, handheld device, or smartphone. Common for use cases where drivers need to sign for deliveries of goods, such as couriers who sign for delivery of packages and/or documents.
Any combination of these features would be okay, especially if it meets your specific use case.
Make a Checklist For Your Specific Business Needs
Once you have a better understanding of what you are looking for, make a list of the features that are most important to your business. The items on this list will be different for each business. Here are some questions to ask yourself while making it.
This will become your “Must-Have” list. When you start evaluating software solutions, these will be the features you want to make sure are included.
Since this is your “Must-Have” list, is there a reason why you absolutely need each one of those items on that list? You may find it useful to write down the business problem(s) that feature solves and why you need it.
This list of items will help you focus on only the features that are necessary for your business to run. You can then use this information to make a more informed decision about the routing software you choose.
The goal is to make sure your “Must-Have” list isn’t too long, where every routing software solution you consider can be used for your business. If that’s the case, then you are probably not being specific enough in your search for routing software .
Now that you have a list of features that are important to your business, it’s time to start your research.
The Research and Purchase Process
The first thing you should do is a little research and find out what software solutions are available to meet your “Must-Have” list. There are a lot of different routing software options out there, so this might seem overwhelming… but don’t worry! We can help you work your way through that list efficiently.
Step 1: Make a Shortlist
For each software solution you consider, make a list of all the features that are important to your business and see how many of those features are included.
Keep going until you have a list of at least five software solutions that meet your criteria.
Once you have a list of options that will work for your business, it’s time to contact each company and start a conversation about your business. We recommend asking the following types of questions for each software vendor you consider:
- What types of businesses are you currently serving?
- Who are your current customers?
- What are your plans for the future, including improvements to existing features or adding new ones?
- Do you have a free trial available?
This conversation will help you better understand how each routing software solution works and what their company has planned for the future. It also gives you an opportunity to ask questions specific to your business.
Of the options you have on your shortlist, which are the most promising?
If they meet all of your “Must-Have” list items, then these are the best options for your business! If they do not currently have some of them or have limited availability or functionality, then you may want to keep looking.
Step 2: Put Together a Team to Help You Evaluate
At this point you should have a shortlist of at least five routing software solutions that are worth investigating further. This is where you will start to see some variation in the approach to making a purchasing decision, depending on your company’s size and number of employees. If it’s just you, then obviously this is an easy choice. Just pick the one that seems best and get started!
However, if you have a team of people involved in this decision it’s important to gather everyone together at this point. This is your opportunity to learn more about these routing software solutions and ensure everyone agrees on which of them is the best fit for your business needs, and each business function.
Step 3: Jump on a Call or Product Demo
Now it’s time to start getting hands-on with the routing software. If possible, schedule some time to connect with someone from the company you are considering and either jump on a call or do a product demo (depending on what is available).
Assemble your team and make sure they are all available to attend the demo. Each person will have their own perspective, questions, and pain-points. It is important that you all have the opportunity to participate in this conversation.
Most companies will offer a trial version of their software so you can try things out before purchasing it. If they don’t, then we recommend asking about a free trial or money-back guarantee. This gives you the opportunity to try the routing software out for yourself and decide if it’s the right fit for your business. But we’ll go into that in more detail later.
Step 4: Take Some Time To Think About It
After you do the demo or try out a free trial, take some time to talk with your team and decide if any of them have concerns.
If they do then you may want to keep looking at routing software solutions that better meet everyone’s needs. If the routing software you are considering seems to meet everyone’s criteria, then it is time to…
Step 5: Make an Informed Decision
Remember when we talked about making a list of features your business needs? Now it’s time to use that list. Look at each potential solution and compare how well they support the items on your list.
Doing this will give you the chance to determine which software solution best fulfills your business requirements. If they meet all of your “Must-Have” list items, then this is the one for you! Otherwise, it’s time to keep looking.
How to Make the Most Out of Your Free Trial
A free trial is the best way to truly understand if a routing software will work for you. But there is a time constraint on trials, so it’s important to be prepared before starting one. Here are some of the things you should plan in advance:
1. The Time You Will Need for the Trial
Remember, this is your chance to not only understand how the routing software works but also ensure it meets all of your business needs. For most software companies a 30 day trial should be enough time to fully evaluate their solution.
Just make sure to dedicate some time in your calendar to fully testing out the trial — should shouldn’t be something that’s done “when you have time”. It should be done with focus.
2. Prepare a List of Dummy Data to Play Around With
If the routing software allows for importing data, it’s important to have a list of dummy/sample data ready so you can get an idea how using the software is like in the real-world. This will give you a more realistic feel for how things will work once your company starts keeping their own clients’ data on the platform.
You can spend less time scrambling around if you prepare this before you start the trial.
3. A List of Features You Want to Test
There are many capabilities that routing software can offer. It’s important to know which ones are most important to your business. You may want to prioritize this list by moving the items you consider “Must-Have” up higher, and anything else lower.
4. A List of Questions You Want Answered
If any features were skipped over during the demo, you can always ask about them when you contact the routing software company. But in addition to feature questions, it’s helpful to jot down some other questions that are more specific to your business. For example, if you don’t have a lot of experience with this type of software then ask how easy it is to learn or what types of training are provided.
5. A List of People You Want to Experiment With the Software
Remember, everyone will have different questions and comments so it’s important to invite each person who needs to be part of the decision-making process. And don’t forget to invite your boss! Let them know the time constraints and let them know when the trial is running so they can be part of the conversation.
6. Avoid Distractions
During the trial you will probably have a lot going on – that’s ok! The best thing to do is block out time in your calendar or leave any other activities that might take you away from your computer. Once you start the demo those 30 days WILL go by quickly so it’s best not to risk missing any of it. If something unavoidable comes up, then just contact the company and let them know you need a few days extension.
The last thing you want is for your trial to expire without getting everything you needed done. Proper planning can help ensure you have the information you need to make an informed decision about routing software.
How to Compare Software Costs
If you’re in the midst of a free trial, then you obviously have your software narrowed down to a few choices. Now it’s time to start doing some math and crunching numbers! It’s helpful to know what features come with each solution so there is no confusion when looking at pricing.
You can get this list from their website or spend a little time on the trial itself to make sure you understand each feature.
Once you have these two lists then it’s just a matter of comparing apples to apples – or in this case, features to features. You might be surprised at what a few numbers here and there can do for your routing software cost! One of the best ways to do this comparison is by making a simple table.
List out more than just the price of the software one the table. Be sure to include: Price of additional modules, support costs, yearly maintenance fees and other fees.
By knowing how much each feature is going to cost you every year then you can make a better decision about what features are worth their price. This way you don’t end up paying for a lot of unnecessary extras that will inflate your overall product cost.
Don’t make the mistake of only focusing on the cost of the software itself. While this is a major part of your decision, you should never forget to factor in all the other costs as well – they will definitely make a difference over time.
For example, if you are paying $10,000 per year on support and maintenance on top of your software, but you can get the same feature set for $5,000 per year somewhere else then it might be better to go with that option.
A Sample Routing Software Price Comparison Table:
There are many different ways to set up a price comparison table and it all depends on the features offered by each routing software company, so we’ll just use one here as an example. If you get confused, please ask for help because there are some things that need explaining.
For instance, some companies charge for support and maintenance on a per-user basis – meaning it gets more expensive as you add users. Other companies pay a flat fee no matter what, but the price may go up each year. This table assumes a flat rate per user:
|Routing Software A||Routing Software B||Routing Software C|
|Price after 1 year with 10 users:||Price after 1 year with 10 users:||Price after 1 year with 10 users:|
|$1,000 + $10,000 = $11,000 per year for a total of 12 years.||$5,000 + $500 = $5,500 per year for a total of 12 years.||$10,000 flat fee per user per year for a total of 12 years.|
It’s always better to do the math yourself , but if this seems like too much work then just get in touch with us and we’d be happy to help.
The Bottom Line
And there you have it, a step-by-step guide to shopping for routing software. If you follow this process then hopefully that will help alleviate any concerns your business might have and ultimately help lead you to finding the best solution.
You will also want to take some time to look at what your company needs are now, as well as where it might be in the future. Some routing software companies offer excellent long term support options that are friendly for growing companies – others do not. Make sure you know what kind of growth you expect before you make a commitment!
If all else fails, just get in touch and we can help you through it!
The route planning software landscape has changed a lot over the years. Not all the changes have been positive but many of them definitely have. Here’s how it used to be: not so long ago if you wanted good routing software for your business, you’d be looking at spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000 – $30,000 per year.
While that’s still a lot of money, there are now more options available on the market than ever before. Not only this but routing software is cheaper than it used to be so more companies can afford it!
Today you have all kinds of options available to you, no matter what kind of business you have or how big it is. Even though the price has come down significantly over the years, there are still some things to look out for when shopping around.
It can seem overwhelming at first but don’t worry – we’re here to help! You can even start your research by taking a look at Less Platform’s free trial.