Skip to main content
Fleet Management 4 min read

The surprising ways weather can affect route optimization

A semi truck driving over a bridge.

Route optimization isn't just about journey efficiency; weather — and how it's monitored — can play a surprising part in both costs and savings.

Increasingly, companies are recognizing the role weather can play in influencing route optimization. Climate change, global warming and extreme weather are gathering pace. From wildfires and tornados to storm deluges and increasing temperatures, whether it's hot, cold or wet, the weather is affecting business supply chains in new and surprising ways from first to last mile logistics.

Weather conditions such as temperature, rain and snow can all have an impact too. The wrong weather can add miles or days to business schedules at best and at worst cause fatalities.

The US Department for Transportation estimates that 21 percent of road crashes are caused by adverse weather — that's approximately one in every five accidents. With around 37.9 million fleet vehicles in the US, there are a lot of risks that could be averted or mitigated if routes are optimized with the weather in mind.

If a fleet is operating in areas with extreme temperatures — whether it be hot or cold —the engine of the vehicle will need to work harder to maintain optimal performance either to stay warm or cool down. Temperature variations can have a huge impact on a vehicle's engine, inherently using more fuel and increase maintenance costs over time. When it comes to EVs, there are issues too. Cold weather can sap 12 percent of range whereas warm weather saps up to 40 percent. Traction control systems have to work harder in cold weather too - another range sapper when it comes to EVs.

Weather often plays a bigger role in route optimization than we think or anticipate. Intelligent speed assistance (ISA) systems use data from weather forecasts to get the driver to adjust speed, especially in places where the speed limit changes according to the weather. If a storm or icy road conditions are predicted, ISA systems can warn the driver accordingly to keep both drives and vehicles safe, which also means more efficient travel times. By being aware of changes in the weather, navigation systems can recommend routes that combine safety considerations with getting drivers to their destination quickly.

In addition, data from weather forecasts can help drivers calculate the amount of fuel needed. This is especially useful when traveling in remote and rural locations, where refueling frequently isn't an option. 

When it comes to autonomous vehicles, the lightest smattering of snow makes road markings impossible to interpret. The lidar systems they use are affected by rain and snow and the cameras they need to detect road signs are rendered useless in fog. But issues arise with drivers in vehicles too — the speed limit in France varies based on the weather; rain lowers the 130km/h speed limit to 110km/h which isn't always visible on signage.

Reducing risks

It's not just heat or cold that fleet managers need to be aware of either. Rain or snow-covered roads can make driving more difficult for drivers, leading to higher insurance premiums, an increased need for driver concentration and a higher risk of crashes. By monitoring local weather forecasts and incorporating weather data into their systems, fleet operators can adjust routes to improve safety and reduce risk for both drivers and vehicles.

Monitoring weather patterns is essential for fleet operators to adjust routes for safety, speed, improved fuel efficiency, reduced delays and increased savings. By understanding the surprising ways climatic changes affect route optimization, companies can save time and money and increase safety while ensuring their fleet performance remains at its best.

With the right strategy, companies can make sure their fleets stay efficient — even in unpredictable weather conditions.

Clare O'Reilly, Contributor, HERE360

Clare O'Reilly


Have your say

Sign up for our newsletter

Why sign up:

  • Latest offers and discounts
  • Tailored content delivered weekly
  • Exclusive events
  • One click to unsubscribe