Gaining better last mile transparency is essential for shippers to succeed in the Post COVID-19 world. More transparency can help companies overcome shrinking profit margins by reducing waste and ensure positive customer experiences. As explained by Freight Waves, “Expectations have raised over the years, and the biggest bridge that has to be crossed now is the delivery experience – increasing the rate of on-time deliveries, clear visibility of package location, and proper validation in terms of error-free invoicing. All these elements add up to customer delight.” Unfortunately, big problems or concerns to gaining this transparency remain, and shippers need to understand them.

Using a TMS to Execute a Final Mile Strategy that Yields Desired Outcomes

1. Limited Ability to Scan or Touch the Package After Loading on a Truck

Part of the problem with last mile transparency derives from the limited number of scans for a package after loading onto a final mile delivery truck. After all, the package status will not automatically update with a scan. But, as new innovations in the use of augmented reality (AR) and 2nd generation barcodes, also known as QR codes, arise, new opportunities to continuously rescan all packages with each movement and stop will increase. Thus, customers could better track the status of their deliveries. 

2. Inability to Ensure Customers Receive the Package When Left in Unsecured Locations

Another problem lies within the need to leave packages in unsecured areas. While this problem still wreaks havoc, the use of delivery lockers, pick up in brick-and-mortar stores, and even third-party location delivery can help reduce risk of theft.

3. Lacking Access to the Real-Time Location of the Package in Transit

Even if a driver had AR glasses, what about the periods of time when the truck is physically moving? During those instances, the electronic logging device (ELD) and GPS-enabled sensors could provide a real-time view of the packages’ locations on a map. In fact, UPS offers this capability on most packages today.

4. Customers May Refuse to Sign for Packages and Contribute to Risk

In the best of circumstances, customers may refuse to sign for packages, and depending on the type of shipping selected, failure to sign may result in a return. This creates added costs as the package now leads to higher fuel charges and wasted space. Integrated systems, on the other hand, could help eliminate this risk by allowing customers to sign prior to delivery or opt for a “contactless delivery” without signing anything.

5. Addresses May Be Inaccurate or Confusing

Google Maps and routing programs may contain outdated or confusing location data too. Drivers may end up driving unnecessarily or fail to deliver packages at all. Again, integrated systems that enable real-time data sharing could help to recognize these problems and ensure a timely delivery. 

6. B2B Customers May Lack Proper Delivery Procedures or Docks, Resulting in JLO Delivery

For the B2B customers, not having a traditional dock for delivery could lead to added risks. What happens if the delivery occurs during vacancy hours? The package may be left unattended. What about the risk for perishable products? Comparable to the risk of package theft for B2C shipments, the same use of lockers, store pickup, and even ship to a third-party location could help reduce risk

7. Poor Returns Processes May Complicate Last Mile Experiences

Customers do not see the difference between last mile delivery and the beginning of a return, if necessary. They only see a damaged or unwanted product. Unfortunately, this creates more risk for the shipper in the form of poor customer experiences. By integrated systems, including the transportation management system (TMS), shippers could let customers initiate the returns process online, schedule pickup, or even drop the shipment off at a brick-and-mortar location.

8. Increased Empty Miles

Higher fuel costs remain another issue in last mile transparency. Since drivers do not realistically know the total fuel costs associated with each trip, problems with deliveries will naturally lead to higher fuel costs. But, more visibility can solve the issue and keep spend under control. As reported by Material Handling & Logistics, “enhancing visibility can mean coordinating with motor carrier partners by executing match-backs (also called “street-turns”) to reduce the empty miles associated with almost every last mile move.”

9. Risk of Damage Due to Moving Packages for Delivery

Although last mile transparency notes the lack of scans for each package, the movement within the delivery vehicle to touch each package and fulfill delivery increases the risk of damage to last mile shipments. Imagine a driver that needs to move packages to get to a larger item. If moved incorrectly or roughly, damage may result. So, the final mile may indeed have more touch points than any other leg of shipping. Instead, proactive planning while loading the truck could help prevent the need to continuously rearrange the cargo in transit.

10. Limited Route Optimization Efforts for Both Urban and Rural Areas

Everyone wants and needs route optimizations, but in both urban and rural areas, optimizing routes may not always be possible. Traffic congestion may occur, construction may be present, and there may simply be only one road to “Nowhere Falls.” Fortunately, increased connectivity and availability to use driver’s personal devices to track location and communicate with drivers can help optimize routes after the truck leaves the dock and save big bucks too.

Implement the Technologies Needed to Trace All Last Mile Activities to Work in Your Supply Chain

As the supply chain continues to move toward digitization and e-commerce grows in value, the need for more last mile transparency will become absolute. Shippers need to start thinking about how they can improve transparency by considering each issue and implementing the technologies and cloud-based resources that can overcome it today.

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