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Estimated Time of Arrival: Complete Guide to ETA

Learn what is the estimated time of arrival (ETA). The difference between ETA and ETD and ECT. And how to raise the accuracy of your ETAs.

What is the estimated time of arrival (ETA)?

What about the estimated time of departure (ETD)?

In this article, you’ll find out.

You’ll also see who needs them. And why you need to measure both.

Plus, we’ll show you some advanced techniques to raise their accuracy.

So if you want to learn to raise the punctuality of your fleet and delight more customers with on-time delivery, you’ll enjoy this guide.

Let’s dive in.


What Is the Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA)?

The estimated time of arrival (ETA), as its name suggests, is the forecasted time when a vehicle (land, sea, or air) reaches a specific destination.

In delivery, the purpose of ETAs is to give dispatchers, logistics managers, and customers an approximation of when an order or delivery vehicle will arrive at a specific location.

In service delivery, it’s used to estimate the time when a field service professional or technician will reach a customer to carry out a scheduled service call.

What Affects ETAs?

When you compare road transportation to other modes of transportation (rail, sea or air), you come to the conclusion that road transportation is more complicated.

Road transportation comes with much more uncertainties.

That’s because roads are shared with many other vehicles.

Your delivery vehicles can encounter traffic jams and accidents that can cause delays.

Delays also happen due to poor weather, custom control, or vehicle breakdowns.

These things are much less frequent than, for example, shipping cargo via sea or air.

That’s because most air and sea transportation relies on established flight routes and shipping lanes.


How Do You Calculate ETAs?

To calculate the estimated time of arrival, you can use this formula:

Estimated time of departure + Estimated time in transit = Estimated time of arrival

But both of these elements depend on several factors.

For example, calculating the departure time requires you to know the service time with customers.

While the estimated time in transit (or travel time) depends on the delivery route, traffic, vehicle speed, and other factors that impact delays on the road.

That’s why it’s almost impossible to calculate accurate ETAs without the use of software.

(But more on that later.)

Why Are ETAs Important for Delivery?

Measuring ETAs has a lot of benefits in logistics, supply chain, and delivery management.

The biggest advantage of having ETAs is that delivery teams can use them to plan better delivery schedules.

In turn, this ensures that drivers deliver orders to customers on time.

But it also enables dispatchers to schedule more deliveries. And raise the order volume and capacity of the delivery fleet.

That also helps companies meet customer expectations.

Sharing tracking links with live ETAs lets customers know when drivers will deliver their orders.

If you provide clear and automatically updated ETAs you can provide what customers value in last-mile delivery:

  • Fast Fulfillment: Customers will be ready to receive same-day delivery and other fast options.

  • On-Time Delivery: Customers will receive orders exactly when they expect to get them and without delays.

  • Order Tracking: Customers can track and see their orders as they move across the last mile.

  • Delay Information: Customers can see if their order is late or if something happens en route.

  • Get Immediate Feedback: Customers can get answers right away without contacting CS.

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Estimated Time of Departure and Delivery

Estimated time of departure (ETD) is a major part of calculating ETAs.

So is the estimated time of delivery.

In this part of the article, we explain both.

You’ll see what they are, what affects them, and why it’s important to track them.

Let’s start.

What Is the Estimated Time of Departure (ETD)?

Estimated time of departure (ETD) is the approximate time when a vehicle starts moving away from a specific location.

It can refer to the time when the vehicle leaves the pick-off site at the start of its delivery route. Or when it departs from a drop-off stop on the route, typically a customer’s address.

What Else Does ETD Mean?

In delivery, ETD can mean two different things:

The estimated time of departure and the estimated time of delivery.

The estimated time of delivery is the final point in a delivery lifecycle. It refers to the moment when a delivery agent hands over the package to the customer.

Technically, it’s a synonym for an ETA. But these times can also be very different from one another. And ETDs can significantly affect subsequent ETAs.

For example, ETDs have a major effect on last-mile delivery in urban areas.

If a delivery vehicle arrives at a business complex at 10 am, it may take the driver an additional 15 minutes to reach a specific office and hand over the package to the intended recipient.

This is also where all of the confusion occurs when it comes to ETAs and both ETDs.

That’s why the estimated time of delivery is also called the estimated completion time (ECT).


What Is Estimated Completion Time (ECT)?

Estimated completion time (ECT) is technically the same as the estimated time of delivery (ETD). The only major difference between the two is that ECT is commonly used in the service industry. It refers to the time when a service call or transaction is completed.

Why Are ETDs and ECTs Important for Delivery?

Both estimated times of departure and delivery are important for a few reasons.

Estimated time of departure enables you to see when the drive time exactly starts. So you can calculate more accurate time in transit and ETAs.

Estimated time of delivery lets you determine when the order is handed off to the customer. So that you can calculate how much time a driver spends with customers.

This includes the time the driver uses to find the customer (in case of an apartment or office complex), wait for the customer to open the door, and to confirm the proof of delivery.

This is useful for dispatchers and delivery planners because it lets them allocate enough time to drivers to complete all of these tasks.

The same holds true for estimated completion times (but for services and service calls).

As a result, dispatchers can calculate the most accurate ETAs in all three cases.

What Affects ETDs and ECTs?

A lot of factors affect departure, delivery, and completion times.

In delivery, there are two types of stop departures: pick-up departures and drop-off departures.

Pick-up ETDs are determined by pick-up schedules (at depots), loading and unloading times, and various bottlenecks and delays at supply depots.

Drop-off ETDs are determined by the delivery schedule, drivers ability to find the customer, time with customers, and time it takes the driver to get back to the vehicle.

Estimated time of delivery and completion times are primarily determined by the driver and their interaction with the customer.

Time of delivery is affected by how long it takes to find the customer, hand over the order, and collect proof of delivery.

ECT is determined by how long it takes to complete the service call and conclude the service transaction.

All three are, however, affected by time in transit.

Here, delays can occur due to several external factors such as traffic congestion, weather, types of roads, access points to location, and others.


What’s the Difference Between ETAs and ETDs?

The difference between ETA and ETD is what you consider a delivery stop:

  • When a vehicle or order arrives at its destination (estimated time of arrival);
  • When a delivery hands over the order to the customer (estimated time of delivery), or;
  • When the driver departs from a stop (estimated time of departure).

To avoid confusion, many companies only use live ETAs to inform dispatch and customers when the vehicle/order will arrive at its destination.

And they use ETDs internally, either to determine drive time between stops or to register the exact time of delivery (in case of customer complaints).

But let’s take a closer look at how you can improve this:

How to Provide More Accurate ETA, ETD, and ECT?

Automate with delivery management software

The easiest way to calculate ETAs, ETDs, and ECTs is to use software.

That’s where delivery management software comes in:

This digital tool can automate how you forecast time estimates.

To do this, the software has driver tracking capabilities that rely on geo-targeting.

The delivery app on a driver’s smartphone connects to the software.

The platform takes into account driver location, distance, and travel speed to calculate ETAs and departure times automatically.

On the other hand, you can use APIs to integrate it with third-party software.

For example, you can connect it to a traffic report website or weather app.

This enables the platform to incorporate additional data and anticipate possible delays.

Because of this, the software can generate highly accurate time estimates for every driver in the fleet.


Calculate departure times with route planning

Some of the key features of delivery software are route planning and route optimization.

Because you don’t manually plan routes, you can generate more accurate schedules.

You can plan the order of departures from the transportation hub for each driver in the fleet.

Drivers can set off on their route in sequence.

So their departure times don’t affect the pick-up or create bottlenecks at your depots.

And because all of the routes are optimized, the driving paths won’t affect travel time.

The software will also choose the best access points to stops.

So when drivers return from a customer, the position of the vehicle doesn’t affect the departure.

Use real-time visibility to track time estimates

Real-time visibility over the last mile is essential.

It’s what enables you to forecast arrival, departure, service, and delivery times.

Dispatchers don’t have to manually reach out to drivers to locate them.

Instead, they can view the location of every driver in the fleet on a virtual map.

Dispatchers can also receive electronic proof of delivery directly from the field.

That lets them determine the exact time of delivery.

And in the case of ECTs, dispatch can check the service time.

If it’s taking a technician more time to complete a job than the allocated time in the slot, they can reassign their next appointment to another field service agent.

This ensures 100% on-time delivery and total customer satisfaction.

Live ETAs

Because of real-time tracking and visibility, the software always shows live ETAs.

Up-to-the-second updates means that estimated times change every moment.

Dispatchers can scroll over a driver’s pin on the virtual map to check the distance to the next stop and ETA.

If the driver is running late, for example, they can adjust the schedule to factor in those delays.

Live Tracking

Real-time driver tracking is the software feature that gives you total visibility over the last mile of delivery.

But we’ve mentioned this.

What we haven’t mentioned is that you monitor the performance of your drivers.

Dispatchers can see:

  • When drivers actually arrive at stops;
  • How much time they spend with customers;
  • How much time they spend on the road
  • If they arrive at a stop late, early, or on-time

This means teams can make adjustments to schedules as soon as delays occur.

But the software gives delivery and route planners access to historical data.

They can use this information to adjust future delivery schedules and slots.

But also incorporate the data to allocate enough time for each delivery.

Especially when it comes to repeat addresses or return customers.

According to a consumer survey, 88% of people want to track their orders in real-time.

And if you use delivery software, then you can send tracking links to customers.

ETAs play an important role here.

Each tracking link allows the customer to follow their order as it moves across the last mile.

But people can also view how long until their delivery arrives (ETA).

Best of all, the customer doesn’t have to keep the link open all day.

Instead, you can set up custom notifications to alert customers when their order is near.

For example, you can set it to 10 minutes before delivery.

Once the driver is ten minutes away, the software can send an SMS reminder with a more accurate time of delivery.

Since the customer is anticipating the delivery, this speeds up the drop-off at their door.

As a result, you can significantly reduce ETAs, ETDs, or ECTs.

And we have more tips like this that can help you:


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