7 Steps to Better Collection Routes

Steps to Better Collection Routes
Seven Steps to Better Collection Routes
With specialized route optimization software built for the waste industry, today’s leaders are building routes with tomorrow in mind.

Municipal and private haulers used to redesign routes a few times in their careers. As neighborhoods changed, longtime drivers made accommodations, and together with their colleagues, they just made things work. The most complex rerouting projects likely involved paper maps, a whiteboard, and several hours in the conference room.

Today solid waste collection – and indeed the entire waste industry – is in the midst of an ongoing digital transformation. Many waste haulers have abandoned legacy routing processes in favor of digital solutions, and forward-looking leaders are taking things a step further by focusing on efficient, agile solutions that consider future route changes, as well.

Software built for the waste industry’s unique needs is helping organizations take a proactive approach to route design, and some of the added benefits of digital routing can be surprising.

When private hauler Meridian Waste, headquartered in Charlotte, N.C. undertook route optimization in one of its markets, they freed up 34 percent of solid waste vehicles and eliminated 26 percent of trash routes while reducing route miles and related emissions by 21 percent. Another plus: They were able to phase out aging collection vehicles without the need to replace them.

By conservative estimates, digitally-aided route optimization projects generally create cost savings of 10 to 15 percent. With so much at stake, it is worth understanding each step of the route optimization process before getting started.

  1. Start by setting goals.

Do you want to balance routes and workloads, deliver better service, or reduce your number of trucks? Or perhaps you are changing collection frequency, adding new services, or consolidating routes following a merger or acquisition.

Defining goals helps to scope your project and guides what you will measure – and what you won’t.

  1. Resource the project properly.

Once you have defined goals for your route optimization project and scoped appropriately, it’s important to resource the project properly.

Ideally, one person can take ownership of the project and software. This person can coordinate teams, keep the project on track, and make sure you have the needed modeling data.

If you can dedicate someone to this role and make the project their primary responsibility, the process of route planning is apt to run much more quickly and smoothly. 

  1. Develop core collection scenarios.

Of course, making the most of resources is at the heart of optimization. Placing the right trucks and drivers in the right places at the right times delivers the efficiencies that make undertaking route redesign worthwhile.

By starting with a set of core scenarios, and their unique dependencies, you can use route optimization software to test each one and determine exactly what resource will be needed to deliver.

If you take the time to develop these test scenarios with real-world data, the optimized results will be quicker to evaluate. In addition, you will avoid rework as different requirements present themselves.

  1. Gather and use real-world input data.

Without real data inputs, the outputs of route optimization will be guesses, whether you’re working with pen and paper or software.

The advantage of using software, of course, is its ability to quickly crunch these real inputs from multiple sources, such as GPS and in-vehicle systems.

It is important to note that while input data does not need to be perfect or absolutely complete, it must be real for the resulting plans to be realistic and achievable.

This real-world data will include inputs such as address lists, container details, current routes, access issues, facility details and material weights. Input data is so important, in fact, you should plan to spend about one-third of total project time gathering this information. Defining the data you need, creating a plan for collecting it, and then doing the collection are all critical tasks for a successful reroute project. 

  1. Choose software that’s purpose-built for waste collection.

Routing solutions from other industries do not work in waste. The optimization of solid waste collection routes is different and more complex than routing problems in other industries, such as deliveries or field service. It involves many more stops, different frequencies of collection, specific safety risks and unusual vehicle constraints.

While solid waste route optimization is complex, with the right software and support, it is worthwhile — and results from successful projects in cities around the world prove it. 

  1. Get drivers and supervisors involved.

Route optimization software empowers people who understand waste collection to design better routes faster, so it’s imperative that drivers and supervisors be involved in the route design process.

Route optimization software cannot replace people — and it certainly doesn’t replace the knowledge of those who operate solid waste services. When knowledgeable users leverage robust software tools for route optimization, the resulting designs work well.

  1. Stay on top of ongoing changes.

Given the growing number of changes in solid waste — and the speed at which they are happening — the days of one-and-done route optimization are past. Today’s forward-thinking organizations are working toward increased agility and resilience within a continuous improvement model.

As the solid waste landscape continues to shift, agility is becoming more important for organizations with environmental targets to meet. As populations grow, new collections are added and others are removed, collection weights go up and down, and crew and fleet makeup changes over time, solid waste operators who commit to keeping data up-to-date in a continuous fashion will realize the greatest efficiencies in their operations while saving money for their organizations. In turn, these agile leaders will help make a lasting impact for operations and the environment.

Route Optimization: Three Stories
How three organizations increased efficiency, reduced costs, and enhanced customer service
  1. The City of Lexington, Kentucky

With its IT Manager for the Division of Waste Management, Eddie Dean, at the helm, the City of Lexington, Ky. was able to reroute collections of 360,000 carts across garbage, recycling and yard waste streams in just three months with Routeware’s route optimization software. By planning and resourcing properly, and selecting the right tool, Dean and his team saved considerable time on a project that previously would have taken two years.

  1. The City of Virginia Beach Virginia

The City of Virginia Beach, the most populous city in Virginia — which provides household garbage, recycling, and yard waste collection services — reduced its number of routes by 10 percent in phase two of a three-phase route optimization project. The City also reduced operating costs due to fewer miles traveled and fewer trips to the landfill, and enhanced safety protocols for busy and tight spaces.

  1. Meridian Waste, Charlotte, South Carolina

A growing company making regular acquisitions, Meridian Waste, headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, provides residential, municipal, and commercial hauling, plus roll-off, special waste, and construction/demolition services. When the company acquires new routes, it uses route optimization software from Routeware to streamline collections. As Patrick Messinger, area president for South Carolina, put it, the software “was a key pivot for us. We have used it in all our markets to help us hit our goals.”


Interested in designing and implementing new routes, or having it done for you? Click that Let’s Talk button below.


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