1 February 20215 minute read

Why Last-Mile Delivery Driver Jobs are Like Rocket Science

You know the phrase “It’s not rocket science”? People say it to describe a task that is easy to do — the underlying assumption being that rocket science is super hard. Well, guess what? Last-mile delivery drivers and rocket scientists have something in common: their jobs are really challenging.

The truth is that both last-mile delivery jobs and rocket science are both complex, but in different ways. Rocket science is complicated because the slightest error could (literally!) blow up a multi-billion-dollar mission.

Last-mile delivery driver jobs are tricky because you’re not only delivering packages – you become the one people associate with the multi-million dollar brands you are delivering for. And on any given day, there’s an unexpected obstacle keeping you from delivering packages on time.

You don’t know what surprises the day will bring, but whatever they are, the pressure is always on.

What’s so special about last-mile delivery?

As a last-mile delivery driver, you’re the last link of a long and expensive chain that originated when someone purchased an item. This means that the recipient (customer) and the sender (seller) rely on you to finish the job on time. Your ability to deliver can make or break a company’s entire reputation.

If you deliver a Dyson vacuum three hours late, the customer blames Dyson. If a customer thinks you’re rude when delivering a pair of Nikes, they’ll think Nike is a rude company.

Did you also know that last-mile delivery is really expensive? Your job accounts for over 53% of the total shipping costs. The stakes are high! So what can be so hard about last-mile delivery jobs, people ask?

Last-mile delivery drivers can’t catch a break

A group of smaller images that describe the obstacles of being a delivery driver. In order: maintain your vehicle, organize your route, plan ahead, drive smart to save fuel, take breaks.

City and suburban drivers know all about the day-to-day obstacles like limited parking spots, no-loading zones, bumper-to-bumper traffic, and 10-story apartment buildings with broken elevators.

Last-mile delivery drivers in rural areas experience different challenges, but just as cumbersome. Delivery points for a single package could be several miles apart, and gas stations are few and far between. One mistake could mean hours of delay.

If you’ve spent any time as a last-mile delivery driver, you know that there are dozens of things that are out of your control. Below are the three things that make the last-mile the hardest delivery gig around.

1. Unrealistic time pressure from your boss and the customer

The speed of the digital world means that a customer can order and track their purchase every step of the way. They expect you to deliver at the exact time your company told them it would come.

Faster delivery is not appreciated; it’s now expected. Studies show 80% of customers want to track their delivery in real-time, and most people expect a delivery window of 2 hours or less.

If the timelines are missed, everyone is mad. The customer is annoyed. The boss is annoyed. And frankly, you’re frustrated because it’s out of your control!

2. Too many unexpected hurdles to anticipate

It doesn’t matter if you are a former boy or girl scout who always comes ‘prepared’ — no one can avoid the uncontrollable circumstances that last-mile delivery drivers see every day.

Sure, there are traffic jams, road construction, no-parking zones, snow, and all the other acts of God that delay deliveries. But more often than not, time is lost dealing with customers. Whether they are unhappy, super talkative or simply not there, it can result in wasted time.

The last thing you want after battling traffic and carrying a package several blocks is a dead end. Customer unavailability not only hurts your morale but also causes a chain reaction that delays other deliveries.

3. Receiving bad data like wrong addresses or poor routing

When you start your shift, you’ll plan your fastest route, so you hit each address with the least amount of driving. But what if one of those addresses is wrong?

Wrong addresses are the worst. The thought of driving around for 20 minutes looking for an address that doesn’t exist is deflating, and it happens more than it should.

But even more infuriating is that you have to throw your entire route plan out the window. You planned to hit each address as quickly as possible, but now you need to either find the correct address and reroute your entire day or skip the package altogether.

Like rocket science, last-mile delivery needs smart technology

Last-mile delivery jobs are more complex than people think, but the good news is that new technology tools are now available to help make it easier.

Route planning apps like Circuit know your pain and have developed features to help alleviate most of these unfortunate events that can give you headaches on a daily basis.

With algorithms that automatically plan your best route, real-time optimization for those unexpected surprises, and geocoding to correct wrong addresses, Circuit acts as your wingman to streamline routes, help you deliver faster, and get home earlier.

Automated route planning

Here’s something you have in common with your customers—you both want the packages delivered fast. Who doesn’t want to finish their deliveries and go home early?

Route planning software uses GPS and mapping algorithms to find the shortest and fastest route. You enter all of your delivery addresses for the day, and within seconds it calculates the best route. You can also input things like duration, time window and priority level to ensure you arrive at locations during the expected delivery times.

It’s like having an assistant doing all the busywork. You can even use Circuit’s voice feature to speak the addresses into the app and easily switch back and forth between the navigation screen and the order details.

Real-time route optimization

A hand holding a phone with the Circuit Route Planner application open. The screen shows an optimized route for delivery drivers.

For drivers, the one thing you can expect is the unexpected. Whether it’s an unavailable customer, traffic jams or a hundred other things, there is always something that causes a delay.

When your plan changes, Circuit’s route optimization will change your route in real-time to account for the unexpected. You can add, delete or re-prioritize your stops, and you’ll get a new route to save you time.

You can also track your progress and save common stops if you find one that works better than others. If you notice an issue along your routes, like no parking or road work, you can add special instructions and comments to the route. This way, the next time to do that route, you’ll be reminded of what to avoid.

Geocoding to Fix Wrong Addresses

Humans and computers process addresses differently. People use a long string of information, including house numbers to localized postal codes. On the other hand, Computers understand addresses as a pair of geographical coordinates.

Geocoding converts a text-based address into its geographic coordinates. Why is this important? Because if you have a wrong address on your delivery due to bad data, Circuit’s geocoding feature automatically corrects it. So you never need to waste time driving around the wrong neighborhood.

The future is bright for last-mile delivery jobs

The global market for last-mile delivery is projected to reach US$53 billion this year which is almost double what it was last year. E-commerce has exploded, and with it, a new focus on improving last-mile delivery.

Customer expectations for super quick delivery will continue to grow. And even if last-mile delivery is complex like rocket science, new technology tools like Circuit will help you get the job done.

About the author

Jack UnderwoodCEO

Jack is the Co-Founder & CEO of Circuit. You can find Jack on Twitter.