Waste Collection Routing Software Implementation Pros and Cons

Waste collection routing software purchases and implementations, although typically meeting their return on investment are most commonly fail to be utilized on an ongoing basis.   Since equipment costs, labor and fuel are significant operating expenses for waste collection operations, reducing the number of routes, labor hours and mileage through route optimization is a critical approach to increasing efficiency and reducing costs.  However, route optimization software applications are not simple.  Waste routing software is typically complex to implement and has a high rate of failed implementations, i.e., the software was too complicated to be adopted into daily operations. Waste routing is extremely complex.  Waste routing requires multiple types of routing software algorithms:

  • High density for residential curbside collection of waste, yard waste, and recyclables,
  • Point to point waste routing for commercial collection or residential bulky items collection, or
  • Paired routing for roll off box collection and delivery.

There is not one application on the market that handles all types of waste routing effectively.  Multiple applications would need to be implemented to service all types of waste collection routing.

Do My Waste Collection Operations Need Route Optimization?

To assess whether your operation is a good candidate for implementing waste route optimization software, the following questions should be answered.

  • Do the crews have assigned route boundaries?
  • Do the crews have maps to use?
  • Was the last re-route more than 5 years ago?
  • Do you know how many stops and containers included in each individual route?
  • Are the current routes developed based on all of the factors of time, weight, number of dump trips, and the number of stops?
  • Do you know how long each route should take?

If the answer is “no” to any of these questions, it is highly likely that the operation is not efficient and would benefit from route optimization.  Given the hist cost of operating a truck each year, exceeding $200,000, it does not require a significant improvement in efficiency to reach an ROI in only a few months.

Pitfalls of Route Planning Software Implementations for Waste Collections

These projects are highly complex.  For residential waste collection, you will have thousands of customers that must be plotted on the map.  You will have varying productivity rates amongst different types of vehicles, in different types of streets and neighborhoods, and with different types of customers.    There are maneuver restrictions on certain roads.  Time constraints around schools or heavy traffic areas.  The complexity can seem insurmountable, but the route optimization software applications reduce complexity and make it easy to make routes, change routes, and generate maps and report outputs.  However, they are very complex to configure and set-up.  They are even more problematic to maintain and keep the data up to date.  Many operations will assign the logical candidate to learn and use the software: the Route Supervisor that manually created routes in the past.  This is a common point of failure.  The supervisor does not have the technical background or experience in implementing a complex software application.  Another common mistake is using the GIS staffer that has limited time and limited knowledge of waste operations.

Yet another common pitfall are expectations that the routing software will do everything that the salesman says that it does.  For example, the travel paths generated by high density routing applications are typically not as efficient as what can be manually generated by a highly experienced routing expert.  The benefit of the software is not in making perfect routes, but in providing the ability to quickly generate many routes with accurate completion times and other parameters.

Although there are not any studies quantifying the failure rate for waste routing software implementations, from our observations, more than half of the residential curbside waste routing projects end up in the customer not continuing to use the waste routing software on an on-going basis.  The project provides an initial set of routes that are implemented and then the software is hardly used again.  It is for this reason that many municipalities hire a consultant that is highly experienced with the various routing applications to develop the routes for them.

Add the Most Experienced Vendor-Neutral Waste Collection Routing Software Expert to Your Team

Consulting in your route optimization implementation is where Route Optimization Consultants stands alone.  We have extensive experience in using three of the four most popular routing applications: EasyRoute, FleetRoute and RouteSmart.  For example, the City of Virginia Beach project referenced below used FleetRoute in the first phase and EasyRoute in the next two phases.  All maps were custom developed in ESRI ArcGIS to mimic the City’s standardized fire maps per the preference of the drivers.  In this project, the City did not purchase the software, as the waste route development was conducted as a consulting service.