10 Million Reasons Why Shorter Isn’t Always the Best Route

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One of the driving forces in just about everything Grading & Excavation Contractor magazine writes about is efficiency. Whether we’re talking about fuel efficiency or time management, or operator efficiency or fleet management, it’s mostly about what can be done to save time and money—mostly money.

The drive towards greater efficiency has spawned telematics, GPS, machine control, grade control, building information modeling, augmented reality, mixed reality, not to mention engine, brakes, and transmission innovations. Even training is becoming more efficient. Site management is continually becoming more efficient. There are a host of other things that aren’t at the top of my mind at the moment.

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My guess is that when manufacturers or software code writers or engineers are trying to improve the efficiency of a thing, they’re looking to cut something somewhere. But sometimes increased efficiency can be found by stretching instead of shortening. Sometimes it can be found by following a counter-intuitive path. Sometimes it can be found by refusing to turn left.

At first you might think that a company like UPS would always, and religiously, look for the shortest routes when delivering packages. The thing is, the shortest route isn’t always the most efficient. Each driver is given a route to follow by the company (the vehicle routing software is designed to get rid of as many left turns as possible), and the policy that drivers should never turn through oncoming traffic. In the United States that means never turn left. It has resulted in UPS using 10 million gallons less fuel every year, along with emitting 20,000 tons less carbon dioxide and delivering 350,000 more packages.

So, should we all avoid turning left as much as we can?
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