Almost all businesses we talk to with a small delivery fleet start off using something like Google Maps Route Planner or Mapquest Route Planner. It makes a lot of sense. When you only have a handful of deliveries, say 10 or 15 a day, it’s fairly easy to use Google Maps Route Planner to make multiple stops.
But what happens when your business is growing and you have too many stops? In this post we’ll walk you through how to use Google Maps to plan your delivery routes and highlight when you might want to consider route optimization software.
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Does Google Maps have a route planner?
The short answer is yes. Google Maps is great when you have a small number of deliveries to make. It’s free, fast, and extremely user-friendly. To use Google Maps as a route planner, look no further than this helpful guide Google has put together.
With that said, there are some limitations when you’re trying to plan routes for deliveries.
- Your routes need to be 10 stops or less
- You can only plan for 1 driver at a time
- You can’t optimize routes using constraints like delivery time windows, vehicle load capacities, driver breaks, etc.
- You need to eyeball and manually determine an efficient order for your stops (this gets tricky when you need to factor in things like the constraints mentioned above)
How do I plot multiple routes on Google Maps?
Even with those limitations in mind, many businesses with small delivery fleets choose to use Google Maps Route Planner. Just keep in mind that you can’t plan multiple routes at the same time. You’ll need to plan your routes in batches.
If you’re trying to use Google Maps to route multiple locations here are a few tips:
- Driver territories: If you have more than one driver, cluster stops into driver territories. This can be done by assigning postal codes to your drivers, or by dividing the city up into neighborhoods or zones (north, south, east, west).
This ensures your drivers use the least amount of fuel for a set of deliveries. They cover one area completely instead of driving all around the city.
Also, by giving your drivers the same territories each time, they’ll build up their knowledge of the area. This will help both of you to map out the most efficient routes as you become more familiar with the area.
- List your stops in the order you want to complete them: Now, within each territory, do your best to list each stop in the order you want it completed. You can do this in Google Maps directly or by using a spreadsheet.
Download this handy excel template to help you list your stops in the right order
The order of stops should be based on proximity to the next stop, as well as things like delivery time windows (when your customer wants something delivered) or office/store hours, if you’re delivering to a business
- Give your drivers delivery instructions: To make your routes more efficient, compile notes for your drivers about where to park, drop off the delivery, delivery times, ETAs, etc. This will speed up your driver’s routes meaning you either pay less wages or can fit more stops into a single route.
- Build routes in batches of 10: Now use Google Maps to find the shortest path between each stop. You’ll need to do this in batches of 10.
- Dispatch routes to drivers: Google Maps gives you the option to send a route via email or SMS.
- Repeat steps 2-5: Since you can only route 10 stops at a time, you’ll need to repeat steps 2-5 a few times until you’ve planned all your stops in an order that makes sense. What we mean by this is that your drivers don’t show up at a stop at the wrong time, that they don’t have to double-back unnecessarily, etc
Route Optimization Calculates Quattuorvigintillion Possible Solutions In Seconds
That’s because you’re now dealing with something called the Traveling Salesman Problem (TSP) or Vehicle Routing Problem (VRP). This is a complex problem mathematicians and computer scientists have been trying to solve for years. It’s also happens to be one of our favorite topics of conversation here at Routific.
Essentially, the more stops you have to make and the more drivers you have, the more complicated it gets. In fact, the possible routing solutions grow so exponentially, it becomes impossible for any human to accurately calculate the most optimal order of stops without some help. The closest we’ve come, albeit imperfectly, is algorithms.
Route optimization algorithms are able to quickly calculate a massive number of dependencies, including addresses, delivery time windows, driver speeds, vehicle load capacities - you name it!
You’ll find route optimization algorithms in a variety of different route planning software - everything from free online tools to enterprise-grade fleet management solutions.