Route planning vs. route planning Which method is recommended and when?

Transport processes are subject to a large number of influencing factors that have to be taken into account during scheduling. It is comparatively simple when only a few trucks or vans need to be coordinated on the way from A to B. However, if companies operate larger vehicle fleets, planning quickly advances to an extremely complex task that must be solved as efficiently as possible. Very often, the terms "tour planning" and "route planning" or "tour" and "route" are used as synonyms in this context. Strictly speaking, however, this is not correct. What exactly the difference is, is the topic of our current blog. Software also plays an important role in this - whether as a stand-alone solution, add-on or as an integrated module of a supply chain solution such as SAP Transportation Management(SAP TM).

The most important at a glance:

After entering the desired destination, a route planner measures the distance as well as the expected travel time and calculates the fastest or shortest route. Route planners are primarily used in cars or with a manageable number of trucks or (small) vans.

Tour planners are always recommended when users have to operate and coordinate a large fleet of vehicles. Scheduling is based on existing orders or freight shipments, which are consolidated into tours and distributed to the vehicles in the best possible way by assigning several unloading locations.

Route planning helps to increase customer and employee satisfaction. The fleet is optimally utilized, taking into account all resources, specifications and restrictions. Processes are transparent, costs are reduced and deliveries are made reliably within the time window requested by the customer.

What is a route planner?

Almost everyone who travels long distances by car relies on a navigation system. For the most part, it is even part of the vehicle's equipment. But map services such as Google Maps also show the way quite reliably as soon as the driver has entered the desired destination. The number of kilometers driven and the expected duration of the journey are calculated relatively accurately and the best possible route is determined. Consequently, car navigation systems are also route planners - albeit in a simplified form.

However, the planning of transports provided by trucks requires much more basic information, also in order to avoid critical situations. This can include dilapidated bridges closed to heavy goods transport, environmental zones and/or underpasses that are too low for high superstructures. A truck route planner designed for professional use is aware of these restrictions and adjusts the routing accordingly. Furthermore, modern tools of this type also store specifics such as the axle load of the truck or van. In addition, the system is able to determine not only the distance and travel time, but also the costs associated with each individual transport, including tolls incurred along the route.

What is a trip planner?

A route planner, on the other hand, has an even higher level of integrated intelligence. The delivery of even heterogeneous quantities of goods by an ever-growing fleet of vehicles to changing recipients succeeds unerringly. The primary goal of route planning can also be derived from this: Minimizing costs while maintaining the specified or contractually agreed service levels. However, this can only work if the orders intended for dispatch are included in the route planning. This is the decisive difference between a route planner and a tour planner.

Orders are clustered into tours with the help of software. As part of the clustering process, orders are also compiled in an optimized order of arrival, taking into account the planned stops on the tour. Consignments are distributed to each individual vehicle in the best possible way so that no time is lost during unloading on site and the process can be handled efficiently. This is possible because the respective software is not only aware of delivery quantities, resources and their availability, but also of opening hours, booked slots at the consignee, driving and rest times, and customer-specific delivery specifications. Professional route planning enables you not only to deliver goods just-in-time, but also to optimize vehicle and load volume utilization, reduce the number of kilometers driven, and significantly minimize costs for the vehicle fleet and the entire transport process.

Which planning method suits me better?

Route planner or tour planner? Which solution pays off for your company depends on the degree of complexity of your transport logistics. If companies primarily serve a fixed, manageable customer base with hardly varying goods and order quantities, or if solo self-employed drivers, for example, only operate one vehicle, a route planner is completely sufficient. If the vehicle fleet grows and the loaded freight is made up of orders from several customers who are to be called on during the tour, then the use of a route planning software is recommended. Such a tool is aware of even the most complex specifications and restrictions, so that errors in scheduling are minimized. This also saves users a considerable amount of time.

Route planning as a TMS sub-process

Transportation management systems (TMS) are also widespread - especially in the freight forwarding industry - and offer applications for route planning in addition to administration, control and accounting functions. This is usually done manually at first. The result is then imported into the TMS, which takes over further order processing. In the case of permanently increased order volumes and growing complexity, users are increasingly turning to linking separate route planning software to the system for support.

An alternative to actually generate the most efficient tour for all participants along the supply chain is the graphically supported transportation planning in SAP Transportation Management(SAP TM). The system also takes into account all specifications and restrictions, cost structures and prioritized transport routes. Load space visualization and optimization is also integrated. Another advantage is that SAP Extended Warehouse Management(SAP EWM) can be used in parallel in an SAP environment. Among other things, this allows the warehouse processes upstream and downstream of the actual transport to be precisely coordinated. Intelligent strategies can be used to ensure that shipments destined for the transport or tour are ready at the ramp on time and can be loaded without any loss of time. This not only minimizes waiting times, but also results in far lower costs.


Transportation planning can be a complex, sometimes nerve-wracking task that often wastes time and valuable resources. The process is much simpler and more efficient when using a software-based route planning system. And those who take the appropriate precautions in the warehouse or in the incoming and outgoing goods departments - such as ensuring that goods are ready for loading on time - benefit in two ways. Dispatchers are relieved and employee satisfaction increases - including that of the external personnel, i.e. the drivers. They can always be sure that applicable regulations are complied with, create transparency and reduce transport costs. Last but not least, the newly created maximum degree of adherence to schedules in the form of reliable delivery within the defined time window ensures long-term, successful customer loyalty.