Using Your Employees as Assets for Route Optimization

Fri, Feb 13, 2015 at 11:45AM

Using Your Employees as Assets for Route Optimization

Routing is an integral part of every waste and recycling company’s daily operations. Routing efficiencies directly affect the bottom line of your company’s P&L statement. Safety is positively affected when routes are optimized with safety as one of the main components.

Route Optimization

There are a number of products on the market today that offer automated route optimization. While some are more complex than others, in essence they are doing the same thing. These programs vary in price and effectiveness. You can guide the program with rules and restrictions allowing it to work within a certain criteria. While these products continue to evolve on their effectiveness, I have yet to find a one size fits all solution. Depending on the application (residential or commercial) you are applying this technology to, there is still a need for human input. In my opinion, without the human element involved, a route cannot truly be optimized for success.


There is, and always will be, a need for human input. Routes change daily when a stop is added/deleted or depending on weather conditions. Having your driver trained on the route, who understands how to read a map/grid system is always a plus during the hiring process. With my experience, drivers who can learn and follow a route without being dependent on a GPS are generally more seasoned, safer drivers. There is a fine line between human input and micromanaging. If you had to micro-manage trucks on a daily basis that too would be an issue.

Safety Minded

Unfortunately, computer-generated routes cannot route with safety in mind. They generally take all the stops on the route and spit out the shortest calculated timed or mileage route. Yes, as I mentioned before, you can give it a criteria to work with, but it still never gets it totally correct. Without human input, I’ve seen these routes dead end at streets that do not exist, cross over double yellow lines from stop to stop and go down a wrong way on a one-way street. In cases like these, if not caught beforehand, it puts your driver in a panic situation and forces him to make a split second decision. Having a route supervisor monitoring routes on a daily basis is a must if total profits and safety is the overall goal.


Let’s just say for the sake of this argument a route is optimized for both safety and profitability. Together with a supervisor’s area knowledge and use of technology, they have created a safe and profitable route. Just because this is done, doesn’t equate to success just yet. You have to ensure the employee is going to follow it. Training a new guy on an optimized route is easy. Training a seasoned guy to do “his/her route” in a new way is a different story. They say you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. I believe you can with the correct management style. Once again, routes change daily. So if the employee is not following the route correctly, the more changes from day to day increases a snowball effect in inefficiencies as days pass.


Our industry costs are relatively calculated on a cost per hour basis—10 minutes lost here, 10 minutes lost there, per truck, per day, per week, adds up in the company’s total cost on labor, maintenance, equipment, etc. The fine mixture of getting your trucks off the streets and back in the yard the fastest and safest way together is what you want. You do not want one without the other. The fast employees may offer short-term profitability, but will destroy the numbers in the long term. Generally, the fastest employees are the ones who are incident/accident prone, do things their own way and do not buy in totally to management. Creating and carrying out a safely optimized route is not something that is built in a day. It is just a part of your ingredients for success. It is no more or less important than hiring the correct person for the job, the training process, sales, management or safety. It is a mere link in the chain of the company that must be able to hold together when the chain is tested.

Putting Forth the Effort

These are only a few beneficiaries of a properly optimized route. It is very easy to just settle in at the end of every day and become complacent that “the garbage is off the streets”. Going beyond this simplicity, by putting forth extra effort to ensure routes are optimized for safety and profitability, consistency will become evident in your safety record and the company’s bottom line. | WA

John Paglia, III is a 4th generation garbage man. Before he climbed the ranks to become Florida Express Environmental’s General Manager, he had a successful career in college and professional athletics. John has been around the garbage industry since his car seat days. Currently, John is focused on growing his company and offering the highest level of customer service and prolonging the world we live in today. John wakes up every day knowing the impact professional haulers have on their community is far greater than most realize. He can be reached at (352) 629-4349, e-mail or visit

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