23 September 20213 minute read

The Problem with Postcode-Based Route Planning

From the rise of online shopping to the rapidly growing takeaway delivery market, households are receiving more deliveries now than ever.

In fact, since 2014 the courier industry has seen a growth of 62% in sales, a number which is predicted to continue to rise exponentially over the next 5 years.

Meanwhile, the online grocery market is also experiencing growth, with the average value of weekly sales having more than doubled since 2010.

Whilst it’s clear the courier industry is booming as it faces higher demand than ever, the future is certain to deliver more of the same with no sign of slowing down. Delivery companies find themselves stuck in the past when it comes to route planning.

Delivery drivers are still being sent out on routes determined only by postal code – arguably the most inefficient and unproductive method of route planning – despite improvements in superior route optimization methods. But what is it that makes postcode routes so ineffective, and what are the alternatives?

What are the issues with postcode-based route planning?

Typically, drivers are allocated a postcode, and their job is to complete all the stops in their designated area. Sure, it’s easy enough for companies to assign postcodes to each driver and be done with it, but how much more difficult does this make the driver’s job?

They create workload inequality

When packages are assigned to drivers based on postcode only, there is no guarantee that any two drivers will be given equal work. One postcode may have more stops than another, creating inequality between workloads that vary significantly from day to day.

Besides a multitude of other issues this unpredictability can lead to, companies are then faced with the dilemma of paying too much, too little or unequally between two employees.

Drivers can’t predict what time they’ll finish

As a result of the unpredictability that postcode routes bring, drivers cannot accurately anticipate what time they’ll be able to go home.

Until a driver receives their route in the morning, they have no way of knowing if they’ll be having a busy day or a quiet one. Therefore it goes without saying that if one day their assigned postcode has more drops than usual, they will be forced to work later without knowing so before they arrive to work that day.

(In fact, we asked 1000 drivers whether they thought they could accurately predict what time they’d finish their round within an hour and found that 88% said they wouldn’t be able to.)

Knowing a postcode inside-out isn’t always a benefit

Postcodes do provide the sole benefit of allowing drivers to get to know their area well. Yet – and as employers will surely have experienced before – this can become a problem. If a driver isn’t working for whatever reason, or if a new driver starts, routes have to be reallocated. Productivity drops as a result.

Knowing the area well also doesn’t mean you can always predict traffic either – roadworks and road accidents happen, adding unpredictability to the journey. Routes optimized without the limitations of postal codes deliver far better results without knowing the area like the back of your hand.

Route optimization software eliminates these problems

Image of Circuit for Teams software showing a driver's route optimized on a map

A multi-stop route planner such as Circuit will automatically assign deliveries to drivers by calculating the optimal route between stops. This means that instead of circling the same neighbourhood with an ever-changing number of deliveries, drivers can avoid traffic and efficiently zip from A to Z with an optimized journey which takes much more than a postcode into consideration.

Route optimization software makes allocating equal work between multiple drivers a breeze, with no manual work required. Similar work means employers and drivers alike are safe in the knowledge that workloads and working hours won’t markedly differ from day to day or driver to driver.

While drivers may not become as accustomed to areas as they would with more archaic methods of delivery driving, the increased productivity offered by route planners far outweighs the small benefit of area familiarity. Soon, Circuit will even incorporate sharing area knowledge between drivers, reducing the benefit of knowing an area particularly well.

The future of postcode-based route planning

As the courier industry is only set to continue experiencing exponential growth, it goes without saying that it must continue modernizing and adapting to keep up with such enormous demand. Outdated postal code-based routes and their issues could potentially become detrimental to delivery companies.

Whilst we look to the future of delivery driving, it’s clear that the reliance on postcodes needs to be left in the past.

If you want to take control of your day and help make delivery easy, try Circuit for Teams today.

About the author

Jack UnderwoodCEO

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


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