Truckload carrier Schneider National has been working for the past three years with Princeton University to develop the Tactical Planning Simulator. The TPS models characteristics of Schneider's freight network and allows the carrier to troubleshoot for freight flow and driver capacity situations as well as determine the business impact of federal regulations and customer shipping requests. The tool recently earned the 2009 Daniel H. Wagner Award for Excellence in Operations Research.
Developed by Ted Gifford and John Nienow from Schneider National; Jeff Day, a former Schneider associate; and Hugo P. Simao, Abraham P. George and Warren B. Powell of Princeton University, the simulation tool replicates long-haul truckload operations and the behavior of Schneider's fleet of drivers and dispatchers. The simulator optimizes the movements of 6,500 drivers hauling 13,000 loads per week over a four-week planning period.
"With the TPS system, we are able to represent the large, complex problem of efficiently transporting various types of freight across a nationwide network, while taking into account specific driver and environment characteristics," explains Gifford. "By accurately modeling the human-decision factors of our dispatch process, we are able to create a realistic simulation from which we draw conclusions about the potential impact of various conditions and strategies."
The TPS identifies drivers as "resources" and full-truckload shipments as "tasks." The TPS tool then matches each driver's location, domicile, capacity type, scheduled time at home, days away from home, available time, geographical constraints and DOT hours of service with each shipment's origin and destination. After the simulation runs, a solution is created and produces metrics and statistics on how efficiently and effectively the Schneider resource network can perform specific tasks for shippers.
"Application of our analyses has resulted in increased efficiency and cost reductions, improvements to internal processes at Schneider, and valuable insights and feedback provided to government regulatory officials," adds Gifford. "In one specific example, we used the tool to demonstrate to a customer how a modest reduction in the customer's delivery windows would force an increase in the number of trucks required and number of empty miles driven to serve the account and a decrease in the utilization of available driver work hours. "
Replicating the company's freight network allows Schneider to utilize the TPS as an external proactive thinker and provide a real-world impact analysis for federal regulations, including suggested hours of service changes.
"Schneider National is able to use the TPS to assess the myriad impacts of proposed changes to the HOS rules, " adds Don Osterberg, Schneider's senior vice president of safety and driver training. “We were given the HOS proposal on a Tuesday morning and had to provide projections to the American Trucking Associations by Thursday. We ran the simulator and were able to provide timely and credible projections on a critical topic. The TPS provides decision support tools that project the first-, second- and third-order effects of contemplated decisions and help remove emotion and conjecture from the debate. "
Internally the TPS is used as a planning tool to study policies that affect the network, including hiring locations, driver time at home, setting appointments and cross-border driver management, which improves company driver recruitment and retention by creating strategies for where to hire.