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The Last Mile Delivery Problem & How to Overcome It

by Troy Searle, 24 January 2022

Last mile delivery is often the shortest leg of a shipping journey, but can be the most troublesome and expensive for businesses, and has the potential to completely tank customer satisfaction. Intimidating, right?  

It doesn’t have to be. Many of the challenges of the last mile can be tackled through the use of technology and efficient communication processes, which can save time and money whilst increasing customer satisfaction. 

This post will take you through the basics of last mile delivery - from what it is and why businesses struggle with it to a few practical tips to improve your performance. 

What is Last Mile Delivery? 

The term last mile delivery refers, like the name suggests, to the short, final leg of a shipping journey: when a package leaves a transport hub and arrives at its destination. 

Why Is It So Hard?

Most people have received a frustrating notification before, which reads something along the lines of ‘Your package will be delivered between 7am and 10pm’ - even if the item is only travelling a short distance. 

Unlike most legs of a shipping journey, the majority of items in transit on the last mile will have a  different destination. In cases such as consumer product deliveries, there can be upwards of 50 items in a single truck. This introduces a new range of variables into the shipping equation that aren’t present in other legs: the amount of time spent on each delivery is unpredictable, and stops can be anywhere from dozens of kilometres apart in rural areas to separated by gridlock traffic in urban centres.  

These variables make it extremely difficult to create efficient routes and give customers accurate delivery estimates. 

2 Key Ways To Tackle the Challenge

Comprehensive transport management systems allow businesses to take control of last mile deliveries and better tackle the unpredictable challenges that they present. Below, we’ll walk you through how automating routes and integrating communication systems can help tackle the problem of last mile delivery. 

1. Route Optimisation 

Although there are a host of expensive and exciting new technologies coming out to deal with the last mile problem, this remains inaccessible for most companies with smaller or more localised operations than the big players. On the other hand, using route optimisation software is a simple fix that dramatically increases the efficiency of last mile delivery. 

Route optimisation is the process of finding the most efficient route by which to make a delivery. In the last mile, when trucks are often making stops at several locations, the order in which those stops are made and the route the truck travels along can result in massively reduced wait times for customers, and lower fuel and labour costs to shoulder. Route optimisation has historically been done manually, but, as delivery routes become more complex and customer expectations continue to rise from the pandemic online shopping boom - the labour costs and inefficiency of manual process no longer make sense. 

In contrast, route optimisation software uses complex algorithms to determine the best possible route for drivers to take, and can often be easily used in conjunction with other transport management system features - allowing for frictionless communication between different branches of the business. Route optimisation software is also relatively affordable for businesses, and can help to save money in the long run by reducing the hours spent on manual administrative tasks and the cost of human error.

2. Seamless Communication 

Seamless communication with both drivers and customers can help to drastically reduce the cost and inefficiencies of the last mile. 

Communication with drivers, enabled through integrated transport management systems and GPS,  allows for the added degree of flexibility that is needed in the unpredictable last mile, enabling for quick route adjustments when needed.  

Features such as customer portals and advanced track and trace software allows customers access to up-to-date information on the location of their goods. This results in lower dissatisfaction (and fewer grumpy calls to customer service!), as customers no longer feel in the dark about the progress of their deliveries. What’s more, this communication can actually result in lower rates of failed deliveries - as the information provided helps customers to better plan around the arrival of their goods, and be there to receive them.

Final Thoughts

Last mile delivery is undeniably difficult logistically: with geography and timing presenting challenges that hinder the speed and quality of the delivery service and accuracy of tracking. However, proactive management strategies and powerful TMS software can help to bridge the gap between your business’ capabilities and customer expectations. 

Curious to trial a TMS and overcome that pesky last mile? You’re in luck! Check out TransVirtual’s 30 day free trial and automate the last mile today. 

The Last Mile Delivery Problem & How to Overcome It

Here’s the comprehensive guide to the technologies coming out to help businesses solve the last mile delivery challenge.

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