CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Engineers at Oregon State University are studying a new approach to organize and route truck transportation that could save millions of dollars, improve the quality of life for truck drivers and make freight transportation far more efficient.
The study, published recently in Transportation Research Part E, looks at the downfalls of existing approaches to truck transportation, including “point to point,” in which one driver stays with a full load all the way to its often-distant destination; “hub and spoke” systems, in which less-than-full loads are changed at selected points; and “relay” networks in which the drivers change but the load stays on the truck.
“None of these systems by themselves are ideal for long-haul transport,” researchers said in a release. “The hub and spoke system is among the most popular with drivers because they get home much more frequently, but it can be costly and inefficient for full-truckload transportation. Relay networks make sense in theory but are difficult to implement.”
The new approach addressed in the study combines the relay system and the point-to-point system for full-truckload transport. The researchers at OSU developed a new mathematical approach to optimize the design of the dispatching system for the movement of goods and to minimize the impact on drivers. It’s one of the first models of its type to create a mixed-fleet dispatching system at a large scale, according to researchers.
“We now know this approach can work,” said Hector Vergara, an assistant professor in the OSU School of Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, who is working on this project in collaboration with researchers at the University of Arkansas. “Compared to point-to-point, this system should cut the length of trips a driver makes by about two-thirds, and get drivers back to their homes much more often. We can also keep loads moving while drivers rest, and because of that save significant amounts of money on the number of trucks needed to move a given amount of freight.”
The computer optimization determines the best way to dispatch loads and tells where to locate relay points, and how different loads should be routed through the relay network. Researchers say “significant improvements” based on this computer optimization should be possible.
“The perceived quality of life for long-haul truck drivers is poor, and it shouldn’t have to be that way,” Vergara said. “It will take a transition for companies to see how the approach we are studying can work effectively, but it should help address several of the problems they face.”