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Backhauling

Author(s): S. Salhi and G. Nagy

Source: The Journal of the Operational Research Society, Vol. 50, No. 10 (Oct., 1999), pp. 10341042

Published by: Palgrave Macmillan Journals on behalf of the Operational Research Society

Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3009928 .

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journal

of the Operational

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1999 Operational

$15.00

http://www.stockton-press.co.uk/jors

depot vehicle routing problems with backhauling

S Salhil* and G Nagy2

1University of Birmingham; and 2University of Greenwich

We investigate an extension to the classical insertion-based heuristic for the vehicle routing problem with backhauling

(VRPB). It is based on the idea of inserting more than one backhaul at a time. This method is tested on data sets with

single and multiple depots with encouraging results at no additional computational burden. This approach can also be

useful in generating good starting solutions for the more computer-intensive meta-heuristics.

Keywords: routing; heuristic; insertion; clustering; backhauling

Introduction

The vehicle routing problem with backhauling (VRPB),

also called the backhaulingproblem, is an extension to the

classical vehicle routing problem (VRP). In this problem,

the vehicles are not only required to deliver goods to

customers,but also to pick up goods at customerlocations,

and bring them back to the depot. Customerswhose goods

are being picked up are also called backhauls.

Several researchers have made the assumption that

vehicles can only serve backhaul locations after they

have finished delivering all their load. One reason for this

is that it may be difficult to re-arrangegoods on the vehicle

and having both delivery and pickup goods may necessitate

this. Furthermore,accepting pickups before finishing all

deliveries results in a fluctuatingload. This may cause the

vehicle to be overloaded during its trip, resulting in an

infeasible vehicle tour. Although such an assumption

makes the implementation issue easier, in our view, it

may be possible to design vehicle routes which can be

practically feasible as well as more cost-effective if some

pickups are allowed to occur before all the deliveries are

completed.

If we do not make this assumption,then we can further

differentiate between two categories: simultaneous and

mixed backhaulingproblems.In the formercase, customers

may simultaneously send and receive goods. In the latter

case, customersare either delivery or pickup locations, but

not both. (The term 'mixed' denotes the fact that deliveries

andbackhaulsmay occur in any sequence on a vehicle tour.)

We note that mixed and simultaneousVRPB problems can

Mathematicsand Statistics, Edgbaston,BirminghamB15 2TT, UK

thought of as simultaneousones with either the pickup or

the delivery load being nil; while the customersof simultaneous problems can be divided into pickup and delivery

entities to give a mixed formulation.

The aim of this study is to develop an insertion-based

heuristicusing cluster insertionfor the VRPB, and to adapt

it to the case of multiple depots. Both the simultaneousand

the mixed cases are addressedin this study.

The literatureon the VRPB is very scant compared to

that of vehicle routing, see for example the review of

Laporte1for the VRP and that of Salhi and Sari2 for the

multi-depot routing. The literature on the VRPB can be

classified into three main categories: (i) simultaneous

pickups and deliveries; (ii) mixed pickups and deliveries;

and (iii) the case when deliveries are allowed to occur

before pickups only.

The only paper which, to our knowledge, tackles the

simultaneousproblem is that of Min.3 The authorsolves a

practical problem of transportingbooks between libraries

(one depot, two vehicles and 22 customers).The customers

are first clustered into two groups and then the two travelling salesman problems are solved. Feasibility is achieved

by penalising the overloaded arcs and resolving the infeasible TSP.

There are also very few papers which accept mixed

pickups and deliveries. The approachdescribed in Golden

et a1 is based on insertingbackhaul(pickup)customersinto

the routes formed by linehaul (delivery) customers. Their

insertion formula uses a penalty factor which takes into

account the numberof delivery customersleft on the route

afterthe insertionpoint. Casco et a15 develop a 'load-based

insertion procedure'where the insertion cost for backhaul

customerstakes into accountthe load still to be deliveredon

All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

hearistic1035

cluster

insertion

S SalhiandGNagy-A

latterapproachwas found to be superior.Mosheiov6investigated the TSP with pickups and deliveries (TSPPD), the

single-vehicle version of the backhaulingproblem. It has

been shown that if the TSP solution is infeasible due to

some arcs being overloaded,feasibility can be achieved by

re-insertingthe depot into the arc with the highest load.

There is a much larger body of literatureon the VRPB

with no pickups allowed before deliveries. As we do not

make this assumptionin our study, we refer the interested

readerto the papers of Min et af7 and of Toth and Vigo.8

This paper is organised as follows. The insertion-based

heuristicsfor the single and the multiple depot problemsare

given in sections 2 and 3 respectively. The last section

presents the computationalresults and a summary of our

findings.

Insertion-based heuristics

eabc

Introduction

The insertion-basedmethods of Golden et a1 and of Casco

et a15 selects one backhaulat a time and hence such types of

search can be considered shortsighted.In other words, it

may be possible that because of early insertion of some

backhauls,some otherbackhaulscannotbe insertedcheaply

into a route. One possible way to remedy this problemis to

introduce flexibility in inserting customers in clusters not

necessarily of cardinalityone. We refer to this method as

cluster insertion. In the following, we first describe the

original 1-insertion method, then we provide the steps

needed to achieve cluster insertion.

Our implementationof the 1-insertionheuristic

This method is based on the load-basedinsertionprocedure

of Golden et al.4 Insertion-basedprocedurestreat linehaul

and backhaulcustomersseparately.Linehaulcustomersare

routedusing the heuristicdescribedin Salhi and Sari.2This

basically starts with a giant tour and then improves the

routes by a series of refinementsenhancedby useful reduction tests. The backhaulcustomersare then insertedinto the

linehaul routes one by one. For each backhaul c and each

route arc ab the insertioncost is defined as:

Wabc =dac

decreases.It is importantto note that the degree of arbitrariness for choosing P is much largerthan the one for R. The

choice of the R values can be based on the idea that

backhaulsmay be carriedto the depot by a common carrier.

The cost of doing this is proportionalto the distance of the

backhaul and the depot. This proportionis denoted by R,

and it can easily be observed that the value of R should lie

between 0 and 1.

We propose a more concise implementation for the

choice of P using the following observation.Note that all

terms of (1) are in distance units, while Lb is in units of

mass. Therefore,P should not be chosen to be unit-freebut

should incorporatea term (unit of distance/unitof mass).

One possible way of achieving this is to incorporatethe

ratio Tab/MQ into P, where Tab is the length of the tour

containing arc ab (Tab includes all backhauls already

inserted), and MQ is the maximum capacity constraint.

Therefore,we replace (1) in step 3 with:

+ dcb-dab-(1?

+R)

doc+P

Lb

(1)

values, 0 is the depot and Lb is the load remaining on the

route containing ab after b.

The method depends to some extent on the parameters P

and R. In Casco et al,5 P is referred to as a penalty

multiplier, its purpose being delaying the insertion of the

as P increases, the number of backhauls inserted between

two deliveries ratherthan at the end of the delivery route

= dac

dcb -dab-

a doc +?

.

* Lb(Tab/MQ)

(2)

depot. The default values for o and /3 are 1.5 and 1

respectively.

The pseudo-code for this insertion procedure is given

below.

Procedure 1-INS

Step 1. Solve the VRP for the linehaul customersonly.

Step 2. Insert the backhaul with the least insertion cost

using (2).

Step 3. Delete the insertedbackhaulfrom the list of backhauls.

Step 4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until all backhauls are

inserted.

We note that the method we use for solving the VRP has

complexity 0(14), where 1 is the number of linehauls. In

step 2, at most b remainingbackhaulsmay be insertedinto

less than (I + b) arcs, so the computationalcomplexity of

this step is 0(b(l + b)), where b is the numberof backhauls.

As steps 2 and 3 are repeated b times, the computational

complexity of this procedure is 0(max(14,b2( + b))) =

0(max(14, lb2, b3)) = ((max(14, b3). Denoting the total

number of customers by n (where n = I + b), the computational complexity of 1-INS is 0(n4), the same as that of the

underlying VRP procedure.

While the above procedure has been shown to behave

better than the stop-based insertion procedure of Golden et

al,4 see Casco et al,5 it may still be improved upon. This

greedy method may insert some backhauls in nearby arcs

making the vehicle full on those arcs. This may cause

remaining backhauls to be inserted into a distant arc, therefore increasing routing costs. An illustrative example is

provided in Figure 1. Our greedy method would insert

backhaul c into arc ab before inserting backhaul d. Capacity

All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Vol.50,No.10

Research

oftheOperational

1036 Journal

Society

e 'e

(a)

method

Greedy

(b)

A possible

improvement

furtheron. The total insertion cost for c and d is therefore

We can observe that

dac +dcb -dab +ded + ddf -def

considering backhaulsc and d together would insert them

into arc ef since if it could be inserted into any nearerarc

then d would have been inserted there by the greedy 1insertion procedure. The insertion cost for this case is

< dac +

- def. Therefore if dec + dcd-ded

then it is better to insert both backhauls into arc

ef. If backhauls c and d are near each other, that is, dcd is

relatively small then the above case is likely to happen. The

greedy procedure cannot consider this possibility thus we

decided to make a small improvement to it by allowing the

simultaneous insertion of two or more backhauls.

dcb - dab

The insertion of pairs of backhauls is a simple extension to

the 1-insertion but this serves as a basis for cluster insertion. The idea is to consider each pair of backhauls for

simultaneous insertion into a delivery route arc. This is

obtained by modifying the insertion cost given in (2) to:

leabcd = min(dad + dab; dac + ddb)

(dOc + dod)/N2

ft

dab + dcd -O

Lb(TablMQ)

(3)

for all arcs ab. The 2-insertion

cost Wcd as min(6abcd)

procedure inserts either the backhaul with the least insertion cost or the pair of backhauls with the best 2-insertion

cost, whichever of the two is cheaper.

presented in pseudo-code as:

Procedure 2-INS

Step 1. Solve the VRP for the linehaul customersonly.

Step 2. Find the backhaul with the least insertion cost

using (2).

Step 3. Find the pair of backhaulswith the least 2-insertion cost using (3).

Step 4. Insertthe best individualbackhaulor the best pair

of backhauls based on the lowest of the two

insertioncosts found in steps 2 and 3.

Step 5. Delete the inserted backhaul(s) from the list of

backhauls.

Step 6. Repeat steps 2 and 5 until all backhauls are

inserted.

We note that in step 3 less than b2 pairs of backhauls

may be inserted into less than (1+ b) arcs, therefore the

is

of

2-INS

complexity

computational

0(max(14, lb3, b4)) = O(max(14, b4)), or O(n4).

In this section, we extend the above procedurefor the case

of insertingwhole clusters of backhauls.These clusters are

determined using data generated during the 2-insertion

process. By calculating the 1-insertionand the 2-insertion

values for all backhauls,informationof whether the backhaul is best inserted on its own or together with another

backhaulcan be recorded.If a backhaulis best insertedon

its own then there is no need in considering it for cluster

All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

insertion

cluster

hearistic1037

S SalhiandGNagy-A

insertion. On the other hand, if we have, say, three backhauls, c, d and e and we know that the 2-insertioncosts for

each pair of them are better than the corresponding 1insertion costs then it may be worthwhile that the three of

them could be inserted together.

While it is possible to use specific clusteringmethods to

do this we have decided instead to build the clusters on the

basis of the results of the 2-insertion. Taking all backhauls

to be vertices in a graph we draw an edge between two

backhaulsif their simultaneousinsertionis betterthan their

separate insertion. This graph gives rise to two possible

methods of clustering.One way is to consider all groups of

backhaulswhich form a completegraphwhereasthe otheris

to allow all sets which form a connected graph.As completeness is a strongercriterionthan connectedness it can be

observed that the first case generates smaller clusters than

the second. In this study both scenarios are analysed.

To insert these clusters, we determinethe shortestpath

from vertex a in a delivery route to the neighbouringvertex

b such that the path traverses all points in the backhaul

cluster ft. The insertion cost for cluster ?ft into arc ab is

defined to be:

(Pt,

dab

*EiaI + /

Lb(Tab/MQ)

(4)

where E is the sum of pairwise distances between all

backhauls in the cluster and the depot, n is the numberof

backhaulsin Yt, and T(ft, ab) the length of the path from

a to b passing throughall points within this cluster.

The pseudo-code for this method, called LC-INS or SCINS depending on whether the clusters are formed by

connectedor complete graphsof backhauls,is given below:

Procedure LC-INS/SC-INS

Step 1. Solve the VRP for the linehaul customersonly.

Step 2. Find the backhaul with the least insertion cost

using (2).

Step 3. Find the pair of backhaulswith the least 2-insertion cost using (3).

Step 4. Create, using the outcomes of steps 2 and 3, all

possible clusters of backhauls.

Step 5. Find the backhaulcluster with the least insertion

cost using (4).

Step 6. Insertthe best individualbackhaulor the best pair

or the best cluster based on the lowest insertion

cost found in steps 2, 3 and 5.

Step 7. Delete the inserted backhaul(s) from the list of

backhauls.

Step 8. Repeat steps 2 to 7 until all backhaulsare inserted.

We note that the clusteringprocedurewe use in step 4 is

of complexity 0(b3) for both LC-INS and SC-INS. In step

5, less than b clusters may be inserted into less than (I + b)

routine of complexity O(b2), therefore the computational

complexity of step 5 is O(b(l + b)b2) = O(max(lb3,b4)).

Steps 2 to 7 may be repeated up to b times, therefore the

computational complexity of LC-INS and SC-INS is

O(max(14,ib', b5)). In terms of the total number of customers n, this is a complexity of O(n5), which is a good

result, especially when comparedto the complexity of the

underlyingVRP algorithm.

The performanceof these insertionheuristics is given in

the computationalresults section.

Adaptation to multi-depot problems

To our knowledge, this is the first time the simultaneous

and the mixed backhauling problems are studied for the

case of multiple depots. We note that even for the case of

'deliveries before pickups', there is only one multi-depot

paper.7

The multi-depot extension is based on the idea of

borderlinecustomers as used by Salhi and Sari.2Roughly

speaking,borderlinecustomersare those customerssituated

approximatelyhalf-waybetween two depots. This flexibility

is importantas it takes into account the local information

about a borderline customer. For instance, a borderline

customer may be situated far from the other customers

that are served by its nearest depot but can be closer to

the other customersthat happen to be served by its second

nearestdepot. In such circumstancessuch a customeris not

necessarily better served from a route originatingfrom its

nearest depot as other routes originating from its second

nearestdepot happento pass close to it and hence requiring

a relatively small extra insertioncost.

For the multi-depot VRPB, step 1 of the procedures 1INS, 2-INS, SC-INS and LC-INS is replaced by the

following four steps:

Step 1: Divide the set of linehaul customers into two

subsets namely borderline and non-borderline

customers.

Step 2: Assign the non-borderlinecustomersto theirnearest depots.

Step 3: For each depot, solve the resultingVRP.

Step 4. Insert the borderline customers into the vehicle

routes one at a time.

The remaining steps of the insertion procedures are

unchanged, however there is one point that needs further

attention.During the calculation of the distances between

backhauls and the depot, the appropriatedepot, that is the

one the route originates from, must be used. As the worstcase complexity of steps 1 to 4 above is 0(14) (althoughthe

average complexity will decrease as the number of depots

increases), the multi-depot modifications have the same

computational complexity as their single-depot counterparts.

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Vol.50,No.10

oftheOperational

Research

Society

1038 Journal

In step 1, customerj is considered as a borderline customer

if djp/djq > p where p E [0.5, 1] (usually set to 0.90), p and

q are the nearest and the second nearest depots serving

customer j. In step 3, in each depot the non-borderline

customers are routed using the same VRP method as in the

case of single depots. In step 4, the borderline customers

are inserted one at a time into the routes originating from

the nearest and the second nearest depots serving such an

unassigned customer. Some reduction tests are also incorporated into this search to speed up the process. The details

of such reduction tests and their impact on computing time

can be found in Salhi and Sari.2

Computational

backhauls. This is done for the single and multi-depot

problems.

For the base of simultaneous pickup and delivery, the

same coordinatesets and demandmatriceswere used again.

For each customer, a we calculated a ratio ra as

min((xa/ya), (Ya/Xa)). Then, the new demand level of

customer a is qa =ra - ta and its supply level is

Pa = (1 - ra) * tam where ta is the original demand. This

pickup loads. Anotherset of supply and demandlevels was

created by exchanging the demand and supply figures of

every other customer. The average results are computed

and referred to as X and Y for the two sets of data

respectively.

77 and executed on a VAX 4000-500 computer at the

University of Birmingham. They are evaluated using

empirical testing.

Data generation

We used the problems given by Christofides et at9 to

generate our single-depot data (50 to 199 customers) and

the ones given by Gillett and Johnsonl' for multi-depot data

(2 to 5 depots, 50 to 249 customers). There are 14 problems

in the first case and 11 in the second.

For the case of mixed pickups and deliveries we have

generated three VRPB problems for each VRP, declaring

every second, fourth or tenth customer on the list a backhaul and assigning it supply figure equal to the original

demand figure, in other words we let p(a) = q(a). For each

of the three classes the average results are computed and

Analysis of results

Overall 70 single depot problems and 55 multi-depot

problems were tested. For simplicity we report only the

average values, in terms of total cost and computingtimes,

grouped by the percentage of backhauls for the categories

of single and multiple depot data. The detailed results are

presented in the Appendix. These results are obtained for

the case of o = 1.5 and /3= 0.8 which were selected after

some preliminarytesting. The number of vehicles is not

tabulatedas the different methods gave, on average, about

the same number of vehicles (11 and 17 for single and

multi-depotproblems respectively).

The cluster insertionmethod, though it does not produce

substantiallybetter results, does offer a positive improvement with only a slight increase in computing time. The

proposed heuristics produce better results than the 1-INS

Computertime (s)

Solution quality

10% (T)

25% (Q)

50% (H)

Single-depot

(X)

simultaneous (Y)

average

10% (T)

25% (Q)

mixed

50% (H)

Multi-depot

(X)

ae

simultaneous

(Y)

mixed

average

I-INS

2-INS

SC-INS

LC-INS

1-INS

2-INS

SC-INS

LC-INS

1015

1040

1061

1101

1105

1064

2008

2052

2136

2237

2173

1014

1038

1052

1099

1104

1061

2008

2050

2112

2237

2173

1013

1034

1045

1096

1098

1057

2008

2054

2088

2230

2172

1011

1035

1047

1097

1093

1056

2008

2050

2099

2230

2160

2.5

2.8

3.1

3.9

3.9

3.2

9.0

7.6

10.7

18.5

11.9

2.6

2.9

3.3

4.3

4.3

3.4

9.8

7.9

11.8

28.3

13.3

2.8

3.1

3.6

4.9

4.8

3.8

10.9

8.7

13.3

39.4

14.8

2.8

3.1

3.6

4.9

4.8

3.8

10.9

8.7

13.4

39.4

14.9

2121

2116

2110

2109

11.5

14.2

17.4

17.5

Rows referto the averagesoverthe differentproblemsets. (T,Q,H) referto averagesover single depotproblems(14 in each case)

and multiple depot problems(11 in each case) when 10%,25% and 50% backhaulsare considered.'X' and 'FYreferto the two

sets of simultaneouspickup-and-deliveryproblems. Similarly the average values are recorded for single and multiple depot

problems.

All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

hearistic1039

insertion

cluster

andGNagy-A

S Saihi

improvementwas found. The improved results are highlighted in bold in the Appendix. The proposed cluster

insertion heuristic appears to behave even better for the

clustereddata, that is the last 4 problems in Christofideset

al.9

It is worth noting that it is not easy to establish whether

there is a clear relationship between the goodness of the

initial (linehaul)routingsolution and the qualityof the final

solution. This may be due to the fact that the linehaul

solution does not take the location of backhaul customers

into account.

Table 1 shows that, in most cases, the computing time

increases with the percentage of backhauls as was to be

expected. However, this trend is distortedin Table 1 by a

small number of instances requiring large cpu times (see

GJ8 and GJl0 in the Appendix).

Conclusions

for the vehicle routingproblemwith pickupsand deliveries.

The idea of the 1-insertion proposed by Casco et a18 is

extendedto the case of clusterinsertion.These ideas, though

simple, provedto find good solutions for both the single and

the multiple depot problems. To our knowledge, this is the

first time the simultaneous and the mixed backhauling

problems were investigated for the case of multiple

depots. The methods presentedhere have been tested and

we found thatthey are all able to solve VRPB problemsin a

relativelyshort time.

The cluster insertion heuristic can be used to provide

good starting solutions to meta-heuristics such as tabu

search or simulated annealing based methods. The authors

are currentlyexploring such a researchavenue.

Appendix

Rows correspond to the different solution methods. Columns refer to the 14 single depot test problems and the 11 multidepot test problems. CMT refers to the problems initially given by Christofides et al.9 and GJ refers to those problems given

by Gillett and Johnson.'0 For each initial problem we have five new problems, namely three mixed problems, each with

10%(T), 25%(Q), 50%(H) of backhauls, and two simultaneous problems (X and Y). Therefore, we have 125 problems in

total, 70 of them single-depot and 55 multi-depot. Entries in the table are routing cost, number of vehicles and computing

time (in seconds). The best results are highlighted in bold, except when no improvement was made to those found by the 1INS.

Results for single-depot problems

1-INS

2-INS

SC-INS

LC-INS

CMT1T

541/5/0.6

541/5/0.7

541/5/0.7

541/5/0.7

CMT1Q

557/5/0.9

557/5/1.2

557/5/1.4

557/5/1.4

CMT1H

594/6/0.9

594/6/1.2

594/6/1.4

594/6/1.4

CMT1X

601/6/1.5

601/6/2.0

601/6/3.0

601/6/3.0

CMT1Y

603/5/1.5

603/5/2.1

603/5/3.0

603/5/3.0

1-INS

2-INS

SC-INS

LC-INS

CMT2T

839/10/0.9

839/10/0.9

839/10/1.1

839/10/1.1

CMT2Q

871/11/1.0

860/11/1.1

860/11/1.1

860/11/1.1

CMT2H

900/12/1.0

900/12/1.1

873/12/1.3

900/12/1.3

CMT2X

873/10/1.2

873/10/1.3

903/11/1.7

903/11/1.7

CMT2Y

924/12/1.2

924/12/1.3

924/12/1.3

924/12/1.3

1-INS

2-INS

SC-INS

LC-INS

CMT3T

911/10/1.3

911/10/1.5

911/10/1.8

903/10/1.8

CMT3Q

918/9/1.3

918/9/1.6

918/9/1.8

918/9/1.9

CMT3H

930/10/1.5

930/10/1.8

915/9/2.0

918/9/2.7

CMT3X

923/10/1.6

923/10/1.9

923/10/2.3

923/10/2.3

CMT3Y

923/10/1.7

923/10/1.9

923/10/2.3

923/10/2.3

1-INS

2-INS

SC-INS

LC-INS

CMT4T

1111/13/3.4

1111/13/3.4

1111/13/3.4

1111/13/3.4

CMT4Q

1178/15/3.7

1164/14/3.9

1164/14/4.0

1164/14/4.0

CMT4H

1178/15/4.1

1164/14/4.3

1164/14/4.5

1164/14/4.5

CMT4X

1178/15/4.3

1178/15/4.3

1178/15/4.3

1178/15/4.3

CMT4Y

1178/15/4.3

1178/15/4.3

1178/15/4.4

1178/15/4.3

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suggestions which improved the content as well as the presentationof

this paper.

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ReceivedJune 1998;

accepted June 1999 after one revision

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