With less than five months until the Working Time Directive (WTD) becomes UK law for mobile workers, Paragon Software Systems has introduced new routing and scheduling software functionality to enable companies to prepare for the forthcoming changes in legislation. By automatically calculating WTD-compliant routes and schedules, the enhanced software enables companies to model the impact that the WTD will have on current resource levels and investigate opportunities for reducing the additional resource requirements. This will help companies both understand and minimise the impact the new legislation will have on their operations.

From March 2005 transport managers will be faced with the challenge of planning WTD-compliant transport schedules, at the same time minimising the associated extra costs that have been widely predicted for the transport industry. In response, Paragon Software Systems has introduced new software enhancements that have been designed to enable companies to overlay the WTD rules and regulations onto their existing transport operations.

The new scheduling software takes explicit account of the new Working Time measure, which excludes breaks and Periods of Availability (POAs) such as planned waiting time, and applies separate limits to night work. It also handles the additional rules governing drivers breaks, schedules split meal breaks for increased flexibility, and enables Periods of Availability (POAs) to be absorbed as breaks and excluded from the Working Time calculation when planning WTD-compliant schedules. The software also enables companies to plan weekly shift patterns for drivers that are subject to a specified maximum working time per week, whether a 48-hour target average for a typical week or the 60-hour absolute maximum during a peak week.

The software enables companies to focus on how the Working Time Directive is going to affect their transport operations, comments Phil Ingham, Paragons Support Director. Once you understand the impact, in terms of additional drivers and vehicle requirements, you can start to look at ways of reducing the additional resources you will need once the WTD legislation is introduced. For example, you can see how overall costs and resource levels can be reduced by treating predictable delays as POAs, scheduling evening deliveries or experimenting with double-shifting.

Paragon have been working on a number of different scenarios that demonstrate the value of planning ahead in this way. One such example showed that overlaying the WTD rules onto a single depot operation currently running 23 vehicles and drivers resulted in a 17% rise in both resources and a 14% overall cost increase. The Paragon software was then used to test alternative shift patterns, analysing an average week when ideally drivers would be working close to the permitted 48-hour average. In this example, allowing drivers to operate 4 longer shifts per week, rather than 5 normal shifts, led to more efficient routing patterns with less stem mileage and less additional vehicles and drivers. As a result, the WTD-related cost increase dropped from 14% to less than 1%.

A major concern for many companies is the number of extra drivers that may be needed to meet existing customer requirements within the confines of the Working Time Directive, adds William Salter, Managing Director. Paragons routing and scheduling software provides a way of assessing the impact the WTD will have on driver resources, and then mitigating the impact whether by investigating different driver shift patterns, taking full account of periods of availability or looking at customer service or depot location options.

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