Algorithm aims to create haulage sharing economy

8 December 2016

Researchers have developed an algorithm that creates opportunities for logistics firms to collaborate.

The tool is designed to help hauliers share trucks by identifying common routes and journeys, thereby combining different routes into single looped trips and avoiding empty running.

Its developers at Vlerick Business School in Belgium hope the algorithm will create a “sharing economy in haulage” and improve the efficiency of the industry.

Currently one in four delivery trucks are driving around empty, while the rest are on average just over half full, said Professor Robert Boute of Vlerick Business School.

“Companies are under pressure to deliver our orders faster than ever before. It’s not hard to guess the costs incurred by trucks full of air rather than goods,” he said.

The algorithm used to create these routes is called BBaRT, an acronym that stands for “bundling, backhauling and round trips”, said Boute.

“As far as I’m aware, BBaRT is the first and only algorithm which can efficiently select opportunities for collaboration from a huge amount of data.”

Boute said the algorithm can handle datasets of any size, and can provide users a list of opportunities ranked by their potential cost savings and environmental benefits. 

“I often hear people say that they believe that there are opportunities, but can’t identify them. Our algorithm can give companies the insight they need. There is a lot of talk about big data digital transformation and the sharing economy. BBaRT is an example of what that really means.”

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