How The Algorithm People help companies reduce fleet mileage and become more sustainable

The Newcastle-based outfit has developed software driven by algorithms that helps companies and organisations optimise the operation of their vehicles. This means their fleets travel less miles and therefore reduces emissions and increases overall profitability, writes Stephen Emerson
Picture: ShutterstockPicture: Shutterstock
Picture: Shutterstock

The Algorithm People offers a consulting service to help decarbonise fleets, while its platform can also be used independently by those involved in fleet management.

Colin Ferguson, chief executive of The Algorithm People, says: “Our platform can reduce emissions by reducing the miles travelled on each route, and we can also help organisations model and plan how they can overlay and then replace their petrol or diesel fleets with electric, hydrogen or other low emission vehicles.

“We provide the evidence-based analysis needed to underpin procurement decisions made.”

The Algorithm People deploys four main stages when working with a client to reduce mileage.

The first stage will baseline the existing routes taken by vehicles using data from GPS telematic devices on board, or through manual recording, along with other back office information.

The next stage will resequence the given routes to determine if they can be altered to achieve less mileage, while still working within operational rules.

The following optimisation stage will assess if the number of vehicles can be reduced or more routes can be done with the same resources.

The final stage will examine how electric or hydrogen vehicles could be incorporated within the fleet and what infrastructure, including charging points, would be needed for this transition.

Ferguson explains how The Algorithm People can help organisations make the call between electric and hydrogen

fleet vehicles: “With electric you have to consider the range of the vehicle, whereas hydrogen vehicles have a longer range but have a higher cost.

“Our algorithms will take on board the attributes of future vehicles that the organisation is considering and also consider the jobs and duty cycles they will be expected to perform.

“The algorithm will then work out what is the best option in terms of costs or emissions and will suggest a number of utilisation scenarios including all electric vehicles, all hydrogen vehicles or a hybrid model of the two.

“One model may be more expensive to run but have less emissions and another model may be cheaper, but there is a trade-off in terms of emissions.”

The costs of electrifying a fleet or electric or hydrogen is a large outlay for any organisation, therefore the stakes are high when it comes to deciding what vehicles to buy and where to install related infrastructure.

An electric-powered lorry can cost in excess of £400,000, while there are also costs to be incurred for setting up charging stations.

Ferguson says: “The optimisation part of our process also looks at how the vehicles will interact with the charging infrastructure.

“The platform will identify the infrastructure that you will need in terms of the number of charging posts and also help with planning how organisations can transition to powering their vehicles through renewable sources.

“It will also look at when the fleet vehicles have to be at charging stations to get enough energy to perform a duty cycle, and the process will also make sure that other vehicles are not turning up at the infrastructure at the same time.”

Organisations and companies face the challenge of fluctuating demand as circumstances out-with their control can lead to a surge or reduction.

Ferguson outlines how The Algorithm People’s platform can help manage these variations:

“We can use the platform to model a number of different scenarios.

“A fleet manager could change the parameters and assumptions and hit the optimisation button and it will then create a new set of routes.

“Once you have got all of your baseline data and have entered your routes into the model then it is easy to change the scenario and run it again.”

Organisations face daily challenges to services that can pose significant disruption to the entire fleet. Many local authorities are considering using IoT services to keep track of overflowing bins along their routes.

Ferguson points out that The Algorithm People’s platform can connect to IoT services and the data that they provide can be inputted into the algorithm. He explains: “We can connect the IoT bin sensors to our platform that will alert the system that something has changed which was not predicted.

“We can optimise dynamically based on the new information coming into the system and re-optimise the route just for that day to take into account the volatility.

“For example, if you have a bin that was supposed to be collected on Thursday it could then be collected on Tuesday or one-off remedial action taken.”

How The Algorithm People are helping organisations become more sustainable

Yorkshire Water is developing a ten-year plan to decarbonise its fleet, pictured, including introducing electric vehicles and the use of compressed natural gas and hydrogen power.

The utility company, which has a fleet of 1,400 vehicles, worked with The Algorithm People to help shape its decarbonisation plan by determining how much of the fleet could be electrified.

Yorkshire Water had anticipated it could electrify 48 per cent of its fleet through telematics data, however through working with The Algorithm People it was able to increase this figure to 88 per cent.  

David Hibbs, head of fleet for Yorkshire Water, says: “The analysis from The Algorithm People gave us exactly what we wanted – clear, evidence-based answers to the question of how much potential there is to electrify our fleet.”

Meanwhile, Gateshead Council halved delivery times for its school holiday meals scheme by working with the Algorithm People.

The authority ran the Cook n’ Eat initiative as part of its English Department for Education-funded holiday and activities programme over the Easter holidays and provided more than 1,750 families eligible for free school meals with a weekly food box .

The council found that manually planning the delivery routes and schedules was both time-consuming and inefficient. The Algorithm People provided the council with its My Transport Planner route optimisation platform to help improve its operation.

My Transport Planner is the UK’s first fully pay-as-you-go route optimisation platform. Users upload the required jobs to the system and an algorithm calculates the most efficient way to complete all tasks with the resources available.

Michael Walker, poverty lead at Gateshead Council, says: “My Transport Planner has made a massive difference. It has halved the time it takes for each driver to complete their route, from eight hours to just four.

“This has led to a saving on fuel, which reduces costs and of course emissions.”

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