17 April 20248 minute read

Load Planning: How to Reduce Costs Through Load and Route Optimization

Van with its rear doors open with boxes being loaded in

Efficient and thoughtful load planning is key to reducing transportation costs and getting the most profit from each truckload.

Loading each vehicle or container carefully leads to efficient delivery and better use of your resources. It’s the cornerstone supporting route optimization, helps drivers meet their targets and keeps your business compliant with legal requirements for transporting goods. That leads to cost savings, streamlined delivery and happy customers.

Planning your loading process properly supports route planning because the best load sequence makes loading and unloading items faster, easier and safer.

In this post, we outline exactly what load planning is and the key considerations to streamline your deliveries. We’ve also included some practical steps to help you improve load planning and reduce costs.

What is load planning and why does it matter?

Load planning is a key aspect of logistics management that involves the efficient organization and arrangement of goods in vans, trucks and other transport.

The main goal of load planning is to minimize delivery and transportation costs by maximizing each load's capacity and ensuring a smooth run of deliveries for drivers.

Getting it right reduces the cost of delivery, wear and tear on vehicles, and wasted space by creating an efficient and effective load every time.

Getting it wrong can lead to damaged goods, time-consuming deliveries, or penalties for exceeding load limits and breaking other common rules for transporting goods.

The goal of any load planner is to get goods from point A to point B as efficiently, safely and smoothly as possible.

Their work impacts the effectiveness of the whole supply chain.

Whether load planners are working by the container load, truckload or smaller vehicle loads, their areas of focus are the same.

What do load planners do?

Manage the coordination and documentation

Load planners keep track of records, make sure the right documentation goes with each load, and provide clear communication to coordinate warehouse and delivery teams.

They’re responsible for gathering all the details of a shipment, including:

  • The type of goods
  • The handling requirements
  • Any route restrictions

They’re also responsible for decision-making to improve the entire workflow so it becomes smoother, more profitable and faster over time.

Load optimization

Load optimization is the science of making the most of each full truckload, usually with load planning tools and optimization software.

It includes things like load configuration and weight distribution as part of the load planning process.

Load planning and optimization are sometimes used interchangeably because they both aim to improve the delivery process and vehicle’s capacity.

Items need to be packed in a way that keeps them secure while in transit.

Furthermore, the load planner also needs to ensure the weight is distributed evenly throughout the vehicle to meet requirements for gross and axle weight limits and to ensure a low center of gravity for safer travel.

Along with these concerns, there’s the matter of loading and unloading packages. Imagine loading a van for multiple deliveries in a way that keeps them secure and meets weight distribution regulations, but the packages for the first stop are stowed in the centre.

The delivery time is impacted because the driver has to move boxes to reach the right items for the first stop.

A load planner manages the space considerations along with the stops along a delivery route to ensure an efficient load each time.

Resource efficiency

Sending partially empty vans and less-then-truckload (LTL) deliveries increases operational costs. By optimizing each load for the intended delivery route, load planners ensure unloading is simple and each van, truck and container uses as much cargo space as possible.

That leads to fewer trips, less wear and tear on tyres and brakes, and less stress on delivery drivers.

This is reflected in your business’ profits. Less is spent on maintaining a fleet of delivery vehicles, fuel costs are reduced, and drivers stay longer.

Fine-tuning load planning makes each delivery more cost-effective and builds operational resilience.

Key factors in load planning for reducing delivery costs

Load planners are like conductors at busy transport hubs. You’ll find them working at airports, distribution warehouses and shipping centres.

Not only are they adept at transportation management, but they’re also experts at making sure their link in the supply chain is strong and efficient by coordinating drivers and packing teams to keep things running smoothly.

It’s a lot to manage and the benefits they give businesses with lots of good to move are significant. From legal compliance to time and cost efficiencies, load planners bring a strategic approach to ensuring timely cost-effective deliveries.

Essential elements of load planning

When planning loads for optimal delivery and cost reduction, each aspect of delivery needs to be carefully weighed and managed. This includes:

Regulatory compliance

Failing to comply with transportation regulations results in penalties, legal issues and fines. By gathering documentation for each load, route restrictions and securing loads correctly, load planners ensure compliance with guidelines and legal obligations. It also ensures the safety of your cargo and drivers.

Safety and load stability

Placing parcels or pallets into vehicles and containers properly helps the vehicle remain stable when braking, turning or navigating windy roads.

Poorly loaded vehicles are prone to accidents when items shift on turns or during sudden braking. Better space utilization helps vehicles remain within safe loading limits, reduces wear on tyres and brakes and improves the safety of drivers.

Better space utilization

Planned packing of vehicles makes room for extra items so fewer trips are needed to get goods from A to B. That saves on transportation costs like vehicle maintenance and fuel as well as avoiding safety issues and failure to comply with regulations.

Time, cost and operational efficiency

Sending a full truckload means loading and unloading more items per trip so fewer journeys are needed. This saves time as well as reduces labor, fuel and maintenance costs. Load planning tools can also be used to find the best load configuration and sequence. This cuts the time it takes to pack and unpack deliveries, leading to reduced idle times.

Load planning isn’t only about single loads, it improves business focus to more effective use of resources - vehicles, space and labor. The insights gained from streamlining the loading process lead to greater operational efficiencies. Plus there’s the added benefit of cost savings from fewer trips is a smaller carbon footprint for your business.

Environmental impact

The logistics and transport sectors are responsible for more than one-third of global CO² emissions. Carbon footprints increase with unplanned trips, less than optimal loading and LTL deliveries. An efficient load addresses the challenges faced by supply chains and shows a strong commitment to environmental responsibility.

A strategic approach to improving profitability

Load planners enable a strategic approach to staying ahead of competitors and reducing costs. They do this by making sure every load counts and identifying opportunities to streamline processes. Minimizing wasted space and maximizing the efficiency of loading, unloading, and transportation makes the most of resources and reduces the number of vehicles and drivers needed.

Optimized loading reduces idle times, speeds up deliveries and improves customer satisfaction. When load planning is combined with route optimization, delivery accuracy is enhanced, businesses exceed customer expectations, deliveries are more reliable and the business has greater resilience and flexibility.

Creating synergy between route and load planning

Combining load planning and route optimization leads to dynamic and streamlined processes. Optimizing routes first means loads can be planned and packed with greater precision. This allows businesses to maximize the use of vehicles, minimize empty space and reduce transportation costs.

Route planning can be completed in just a few minutes with the right software solution and integrated with your load planning system for easy automation. This minimizes unnecessary detours, allows for tight scheduling, easy management of last-minute changes and improves delivery accuracy.

Leveraging load planning software

There are many aspects to consider and manage when optimizing loads for delivery. This is why load planners use load planning software and automated processes to keep on top of shipments and deliveries.

Manual load planning leaves too much room for error and inefficiencies that can lead to costly mistakes. Using Excel sheets to track orders and plan loads may work for small, simple deliveries, but leads to lost opportunities and higher overheads for larger operations. Last-minute changes to deliveries and gaining strategic insights into operational costs and opportunities are limited.

Automated management systems such as transport management software (TMS) and warehouse management software (WHS) use clever algorithms to quickly configure vehicle loads so it’s optimized faster. This avoids exceeding weight limits, ensures optimal space utilization and can even help warehouse employees locate items for packing into transportation.

When these systems are integrated with Circuit for Teams route planning, you elevate load planning and delivery management with additional functionality. Once a delivery has been optimized and packed, delivery drivers can use their route planning app to locate parcels within their vehicle, check the number of parcels being delivered at each destination, and ID packages so they’re easily found no matter where they are scheduled on the delivery route.

Practical advice to improve load planning and reduce costs

The key to successful load planning goes beyond software solutions. Using management systems well includes reviewing processes, using system data to make better decisions and spotting insights and opportunities to improve.

Invest in technology

Choose load planning software that’s aligned with your business requirements. If you already have a TMS or WTS, consider integrations that can enhance its functionality and support your whole delivery team, not just the load planner.

Make time for training

Clever technology is no use if your team don’t know how to use it. Training doesn’t mean hours spent in a stuffy room listening to instructions. Microlearning platforms can make the transition to load planning software enjoyable, memorable and fun.

Use the data from load planning software for decision-making

One of the great things about software solutions is the information they gather on your behalf. Make time to create reports and use the data about load planning and deliveries to improve your business, refine strategies and streamline your workflow.

Implement dynamic routing

Optimized route planning is a key part of load planning. Give your team the best route optimization tools so they can make changes based on new circumstances easily.

Whether you’re using comprehensive load planning software or a route planning integration for an existing TMS or WMS, track deliveries and monitor efficiencies in real-time. This data can be used to further refine your whole delivery process.

Maintain vehicles and equipment

Regular maintenance prevents breakdowns, delays and disruptions to delivery schedules. Keeping your fleet, forklifts and other plant in good condition saves you money in the long term.

Load planning FAQs

What is the average load planner salary?

Load planners make anywhere between $43,000 and $89,000 per annum. The average load planner salary in 2023 was $61,787 p/a. Employers prioritize bachelor’s degrees in logistics, supply chain management or similar business fields. However, relevant equivalent experience or a background in supply chain management, logistics or transport can also help you land a load planner role.

What factors should load planners consider when sequencing cargo?

There are six key factors to consider when sequencing cargo.

  1. Vehicle specifications It sounds obvious, but the type of vehicle you are packing, where the doors are and its capacity and capability are a primary consideration for cargo sequencing. Loading a delivery van will be very different to loading a shipper's container.
  2. Weight distribution Even distribution of the load weight ensures the center of gravity for the cargo is balanced, stable and aligned with the vehicle to minimize accidents and wear.
  3. Destination Where the load is going to end up, and the passage it takes to get there needs to be considered. This includes the terrain, distance, territory regulations and expected weather conditions.
  4. Cargo type The nature of the cargo is important. Refrigerated items, perishable goods, hazardous materials and fragile items all have different packing requirements to ensure they arrive safely and undamaged.
  5. Regulations State and international regulations such as weight limits, safety standards and environmental rules need to be complied with and must be considered when planning loads.

Order of delivery Multiple delivery points should influence the sequencing of cargo and be considered in the early stages of load planning.

About the author

Cary HastingsSenior Content Strategist at Circuit

Cary is a content strategist at Circuit. He enjoys creating people-first content strategies and articles that solve challenges for readers in the best way possible. On weekends, you can probably find him in a bunker on the local golf course. Chat to Cary on LinkedIn.


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Logistics map interface showing the New York afternoon delivery run with route lines and list of addresses