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Forty Years of Periodic Vehicle Routing

Ann Melissa Campbell

Department of Management Sciences, Tippie College of Business, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa
Jill Hardin Wilson
Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois

The periodic vehicle routing problem (PVRP) first

appeared in 1974 in a paper about garbage collection
(Beltrami and Bodin, Networks 4 (1974), 6574). The wide
applicability and versatility of the problem has led to a
vast body of literature addressing both novel applications and solution methods. This article discusses the
wide array of circumstances and settings in which the
PVRP has been applied and describes the development
of solution methods, both exact and heuristic, for the
PVRP. As with many core research problems, many variants have been proposed. We will describe additional
problem variants and extensions, as well as discuss the
future of research for the PVRP. 2013 Wiley Periodicals,
Inc. NETWORKS, Vol. 63(1), 215 2014


periodic routing; literature review

In the standard periodic vehicle routing problem (PVRP),
customers require visits on one or more days within a planning period, and there are a set of feasible visit options i
for each customer i. Customers must be assigned to a feasible
visit option i i , and a (VRP) is solved for each day in the
planning period. The typical objective is to minimize the total
distance traveled over the planning period. In Figure 1, we
provide an example of a PVRP with a 2-day planning period
which initially appeared in [52]. In this example, customer 1
must be visited twice so  = {1, 2}. Customers 2 and 3 must
be visited once so 2 = 3 = {{1}, {2}}. In Figure 1a, we
show the route for day 1, and in Figure 1b, we show the route
for day 2. Here, 1 = {1, 2}, 2 = {1}, and 3 = {2}, and the
total distance over 2 days is 34.
The PVRP arises in a diverse array of applications,
from the collection of recyclables, to the routing of home

Received December 2012; accepted April 2013

Correspondence to: A. M. Campbell; e-mail:
DOI 10.1002/net.21527
Published online 1 October 2013 in Wiley Online Library
2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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healthcare nurses, to the collection of data in wireless networks. The wide applicability and versatility of the problem,
coupled with the problems difficulty, has led to a vast body of
literature addressing both novel applications and ever more
successful solution methods. The PVRP is truly a global problem. Table 1 was created by recording the listed national
affiliation of the lead author of the references that are included
in this article, excluding survey papers and citations not
specifically related to periodic routing. Table 1 demonstrates
that interest in the study of the PVRP and its applications
arises around the world, and it is not difficult to imagine
some variation of the problem arising in most any country,
even if not represented by the set of publications cited here.
The PVRP was first introduced in Networks and Vehicle
Routing for Municipal Waste Collection by [12]. To the best
of our knowledge, this is the first time the periodicity of customer deliveries was specifically addressed in combination
with the consideration of vehicle routing costs. Thus, [12] is
the parent publication of the many papers that focus on routing problems with periodic customer deliveries. Motivated
by their work with the New York City Environmental Protection Agency, the authors look at several interesting problems
related to the idea of garbage collection. The first problem
they consider is how to route vehicles to pick up garbage at
large industrial sites to minimize both the number of vehicles
and the total travel time. This is very different than previously studied vehicle routing problems because of the nature
of the demand. Some sites need to be serviced three times a
week, whereas other sites require deliveries six times a week
(which is daily in the NYC application). The customers that
are serviced three times a week can be served on Monday,
Wednesday, and Friday; or Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. This choice affects the daily routing problems, which
can in turn impact the travel times and the number of vehicles required. Beltrami and Bodin [12] also introduce the first
two key heuristics used to solve the problem.
Ref. [12] is highly cited also in part because it introduced
one of the earliest examples of the arc routing problem, in this
case examining how to route street sweepers on the streets of
New York to minimize deadheading. The arc routing problem

FIG. 1.

A PVRP with a two-day planning period.

also has a very rich history, but we will not address it here.
For excellent surveys on arc routing problems, see [8], [36],
[37], and [33].
In any search online or scan of review papers, it becomes
quickly apparent that there are two other very influential
papers in the early history of periodic vehicle routing: An
assignment routing problem by R. Russell and W. Igo, which
appeared in 1979, and The periodic routing problem by N.
Christofides and J.E. Beasley, which appeared in 1984. Beltrami and Bodin [12] obviously predates the other two and
is cited by both of them, but many papers related to periodic
routing cite [81] or [19] in lieu of [12]. Although Beltrami and
Bodin [12] introduced the problem, the papers by Christofides
and Beasley [19] and Russell and Igo [81] are highly cited
due to the important roles they played in the development of
the PVRP.
Beltrami and Bodin [12] introduces the idea of considering
the periodicity of site visits in conjunction with routing costs,
but does not give this new problem a name. Russell and Igo
[81] gives the periodic routing problem a name, calling it
The Assignment Routing Problem. They make the delivery
times a little more flexible than in [12] by specifying that
each customer i receives deliveries on Si different days in
a week, where 1 Si 7. There can also be additional
specifications on which days of the week are acceptable. The
number of vehicles are given and capacity constraints must
be followed.
Christofides and Beasley [19] is also well cited by periodic
routing papers, likely due in part to the fact that it names
the problem the period routing problem and provides the
first mathematical formulation for the problem. The authors
generalize the problem definition such that customers now

request k deliveries during the planning period and have a

given set of allowable k-day combinations.
The first article that uses the term periodic vehicle routing appears to be [45]. This article is unlike previous ones
in that it focuses on minimizing the fleet size. The authors
introduce yet a different definition of periodicity from the
above three, enforcing that at least Ki days and at most Ui
days must elapse between visits to customer i. All of these
early publications also present heuristics to solve the problem
that are built on by later investigators. These methods will be
discussed further in section 4.
The PVRP is a challenging problem, with a rich history of research spanning the last 40 years. In this article,
we will describe the evolution of periodic vehicle routing
as it has progressed since the 1974 paper, focusing on the
breadth of contexts in which it has been applied and solution


National affiliations of lead authors.

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methods which have been proposed. In section 2, we will

provide problem descriptions for the PVRP and its more
prominent variants. Applications for periodic routing extend
far beyond garbage collection, and we will describe the variety of applications where periodic routing occurs in section 3.
We describe the development of solution methods, both exact
and heuristic, for the PVRP in section 4. As with many core
research problems, many variants have been proposed. We
will describe additional problem variants and extensions in
section 5 and discuss the future of the PVRP in section 6.
As noted above, the wide variety of papers on the PVRP
differ in how strictly they define the allowable delivery schedule alternatives and, consequently, in the number of feasible
combinations that can be generated. Three main representations have been proposed in the literature for definining the
delivery options to a set of customers V . Some papers include
a predetermined set of allowable alternatives as in [12] and
[19], whereas others, such as [18] and [30], specify that deliveries to a customer i V must occur every ri days. Others
enforce constraints on the minimum and maximum required
spacing between deliveries, as in [45]. We will consider all
of these definitions of periodicity in our discussion of the
PVRP. In fact, all of these representations can be viewed as
specific cases of the PVRP definition introduced earlier, in
which there is a planning period T , and for each customer
i V there is a set of feasible visit options i over T . The
aim, then, is to assign each customer to one of its allowable
sets of service combinations i i , and to create daily
routes subject to the following set of constraints:
all vehicles begin and end their day at a single depot,
if a product is to be delivered or collected, the quantity will
be known and will be fully satisfied by a single vehicle,
the number of vehicles is given,
each vehicle has a limited capacity, and
there is a limitation on the total travel time for each route.

Most papers on the PVRP have an objective of minimizing

travel costs subject to these limitations. We will focus on this
objective, with minor variations in how travel costs are computed, in sections 3 and 4, but discuss alternative objectives
in section 5.
A few basic variants of the PVRP should be introduced
early in the article, as innovations in solving them are tied to
innovations in solving the PVRP. The periodic traveling salesman problem (PTSP) is a special case of the PVRP restricted
to one vehicle. The PVRP with time windows (PVRPTW)
generalizes the PVRP to include time windows for deliveries to the customers. In the multidepot VRP (MDVRP),
each vehicle is assigned to one from a set of depots where it
begins and end each delivery route, and the planning horizon
is restricted to a single day. Cordeau et al. [30] demonstrate
that the MDVRP can be viewed as a special case of the PVRP
by considering each of T depots to be a day on a T -day
planning horizon, and each customer to require one delivery over that horizon. The PVRP (MDPVRP), on the other

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hand, adds periodic customer deliveries to the multidepot

problem. If the customers and vehicles are preassigned to
depots, the problem decomposes into a set of PVRPs. If the
problem requires assigning customers to depots, solving the
problem now involves making these assignment decisions,
representing a generalization of the PVRP.
The literature on the PVRP considers a number of variants
of the PVRP beyond these. Some of these variants require
substantial modifications to solution methods; these will be
discussed further in section 5. These include papers with significant differences in the objective function, constraints, or
The applications for the PVRP are quite diverse. We will
review many of these and discuss the nature of the periodicity where it is not obvious. We will categorize them primarily
by whether a product is being picked up, a product is being
delivered, or a person or machine is being routed to perform an on-site service. The applications we will discuss are
summarized in Table 2.
3.1. Pickup
As stated earlier, the motivation for Beltrami and Bodin
[12] is the collection of industrial garbage in New York City,
and many of the papers related to the PVRP also focus on
the collection of garbage and other wastes. Many model the
residential garbage collection as an arc routing problem as all
customers have the same frequency and all customers on a
street are usually served together, but there are exceptions that
take more of a PVRP approach. For example, Nuortio et al.
[67] solve a waste collection problem in Eastern Finland for
residential customers with varying collection requirements
as a PVRP. This article justifies the use of node routing, versus arc routing, due to the sparsely distributed customers in
the service area. Matos and Oliveira [63] describe efforts to
improve residential garbage collection among 8087 sites in
Viseu, Portugal. Instead of using an arc routing approach,
the authors reduce the 8087 sites to 202 localities and solve
a PVRP among these localities. Angelelli and Speranza [7]
use PVRP solution methods to evaluate the operational costs
of different technologies for garbage collection. For example, they compare traditional pickup of garbage at individual
houses with having citizens put their waste into big street
containers that can be picked up by more expensive trucks.
The number of papers that involve the PVRP has definitely
grown as the emphasis on recycling has increased. As societal
interest in recycling grows, more recyclable products need to
be collected from consumers, creating higher costs that companies and cities want to minimize. Bommisetty et al. [15], for
example, consider the problem of collecting recyclable materials at Northern Illinois University. The problem is modeled
as a PVRP in which different buildings on campus require
different numbers of visits per week and one truck is available for collecting all types of recyclables. Baptista et al. [11]


Applications of PVRP.

present a case study of the collection of recycling paper containers in a city in Portugal. Feasible combinations for each
customer are generated such that the containers would be
at least 50% full on collection day. Unlike the traditional
PVRP, the objective function considered here is one of profit
maximization. Becuase recyclable products can be sold, the
cost/benefit tradeoff of collecting a recyclable can be incorporated in the problem. Teixeira et al. [88] look at how to collect
three types of waste (glass, paper, and plastic/metal) at 1642
urban locations of varying delivery frequency in a region
in Portugal. Their problem becomes a PVRP for each type
of waste with a planning horizon of 4 weeks. Hemmelmayr
et al. [56] consider the periodic collection of recyclables, but
these recyclables are delivered to one of a set of intermediate
facilties, rather than the depot. This problem variant will be
discussed in some detail in section 5.
Other types of recyclables include waste vegetable oil
([1]). New technologies are being developed to use waste
oil in the production of biodiesel. Unlike a regular PVRP,
this problem also incorporates the selection of which potential source points to include on pickup routes. Their work
is motivated by a biodiesel production facility in Istanbul.
Potential waste sources include restaurants, hotels, and hospitals. The periodicity emerges from the different rates at
which the source points generate waste oil. A predetermined
production plan dictates the amount of input needed each
day, so service at all potential source points may not be
Besides garbage and recyclables, collection is needed for
other waste products that are generated periodically. Shih
and Lin[85] and Shih and Chang [84] model the collection of
infectious waste at 384 hospitals and clinics in Taiwan as a
PVRP. The motivation for this work is the lack of incinerators,
or access to incinerators, and the importance of carefully disposing of infectious waste. Thus, the collection of this waste
became an emerging need. The periodicity enters the problem because hospitals are only able to hold waste for a certain

length of time (one week) and some require multiple visits

per week due to the volume of waste generated. Coene et al.
[26] examine the collection of animal waste from slaughterhouses, butchers, and supermarkets in Belgium and northern
France. The rate at which this waste is generated and the
storage capacity available are used to determine the number
of visits needed. For example, supermarkets tend to require
visits every day, while smaller butchers require only weekly
pickups. Legislation that originated due to the outbreak of
mad cow disease in the 1990s led to the categorization of
animal waste into high-risk and low-risk categories. Vehicles assigned to collecting high-risk waste cannot be used
to collect low-risk waste and vice versa. Thus, the problem
decomposes into two different instances of the PVRP.
Other products are collected periodically besides waste
products. For example, Claassen and Hendriks [23] examine how to improve goat milk collection in the Netherlands.
Dairies only want to buy specified kinds of milk on specified
days, so both the customers (farmers) and the dairies have
acceptable visit days. Alegre et al. [2] consider the collection
of parts for use in auto parts manufacturing in Northern Spain.
The production schedules of the suppliers and the manufacturer determine feasible visit sequences for each supplier. The
focus is on how to solve instances with long time horizons of
up to 90 days. Goncalves et al. [50] model how to extract oil
from wells in Brazil using mobile units. Each well needs a
specified number of days between visits for a sufficient quantity to be collected. Le Blanc et al. [61] examine the factory
gate pricing problem where goods are not delivered from a
distribution center (DC) but are picked up by the retailer at
the factory gates of the suppliers. The authors try to examine the potential benefits of factory gate pricing for Dutch
retailers. Retailers would have to make decisions about the
frequency of these pickups and the modes of transportation.
In the proposed solution process, as different frequency allocations are considered, PVRP subproblems are created that
are solved with heuristics.

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3.2. Delivery
The first application, besides garbage collection, of the
PVRP to appear in the literature is in [49] where the authors
examine the delivery of Coca-Cola products to stores. The
drivers have their own territories that include the stores
where they routinely sell their products. Some customers
receive deliveries once per week, where others, due to shelf
space, require deliveries twice per week. Grocery stores also
motivate the study by Gaur and Fisher [46] of the periodic inventory routing problem. The maximum time between
deliveries to stores is defined, and trucks must be routed
from a single DC to satisfy these requirements with minimum transportation cost. Stores are grouped into clusters, so
that all stores in a cluster are replenished together.
Ronen and Goodhart [79] examine how to replenish over
one thousand stores from several DC. Due to changes in
demand patterns over the year, the frequency at which stores
are visited may change, thus new routes need to be created.
Most stores are visited between two and six times per week,
and these deliveries need to be evenly spaced over the week
for storage reasons. The workload at the DC to prepare for
these deliveries must also be considered due to limited picking and loading capacity. Because each store is preassigned
to a DC, the problems can be solved for each DC separately.
Rademeyer and Benetto [78] also consider delivery to retail
stores, where stores are visited between 1 and 6 days a week.
These stores represent one of South Africas largest retail
chains with over 275 stores.
Banerjea-Brodeur et al. [10] give another example of
deliveries that are modeled using the PVRP. The authors
considered the delivery of hospital linens such as bedsheets,
pillow cases, gowns, and towels to the 58 different clinics
within the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal. The authors
were not concerned with the collection of linens, as they
were sent to the laundry via an elaborate chute system. After
looking at the historical usage by different departments in
conjunction with the space limitations in each department,
delivery frequencies could be established for each unit of
the hospital. Once these frequencies were established, the
problem could be solved as a PVRP.
One of the biggest applications of the PVRP is in solving
inventory routing problems. In vendor-managed inventory
systems, the vendor decides when to visit his or her customers
and how much to deliver to prevent the customer from running out of product. Many of the papers on the inventory
routing problem, particularly the early ones, decompose the
problem such that the first step is to use usage rate information about customers to determine a delivery frequency. This
period between visits should be as long as possible to minimize delivery costs, but should be sufficiently small to keep
the customer from running out of product. Once this period
is known, the remaining problem can be solved as a PVRP
for a defined planning period. For example, Rusdiansyah and
Tsao [80] transform an inventory routing problem inspired
by the replenishment of vending machines into an instance
of the PVRPTW. The delivery frequencies for the vending

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machines are selected to minimize a balance of inventory

costs and travel costs. In [13], the authors compute a frequency for each customer based on a modified economic
order quantity calculation and use these frequencies to define
a PVRP. Hemmelmayr et al. [55] transform an inventory routing problem for the blood bank for the Austrian Red Cross
into a PVRP. They evaluate the performance of their solution techniques using data from the Austrian Red Cross from
2003. For a thorough review of approaches used in solving
the inventory routing problem, see [25].
The only application of the PVRP that involves both
pickup and delivery that we encountered is in [43]. Here, the
authors consider the distribution problem motivated by interlibrary loan services for the North Suburban Library System
in northern Chicago. Vans leave a sorting facility and periodically visit libraries to deliver interlibrary loan items and
pick up items that need to be returned to the depot.
3.3. Routing for On-Site Service
Periodic routing problems emerge in the planning of routes
for salespeople and for those doing repair and maintenance
work. For example, planning the routes for sales representatives for the Missouri lottery via the PVRP was the subject
of [58]. The 39 sales representatives for the lottery visit the
5043 retailers that sell lottery tickets. Most retailers are visited every 2 weeks, but the high volume retailers are visited
weekly. At these visits, the sales representative checks on
inventory, replenishes stock, collects returned tickets, and
inspects the equipment. One issue considered by the authors
is that many sales representatives have long standing relationships with their retailers, so they preserved the current
assignment of retailers to territories. This decomposes the
problem into a series of single vehicle problems. Blakeley
et al. [14] optimize periodic maintenance of elevators and
escalators for Schindler, one of the worlds largest escalator
and elevator companies. The intervals for different maintenance tasks range from monthly to yearly. Unlike most
applications of the PVRP, the skillsets for the technicians vary
and must be considered in the assignment process. Prior to the
development of the new routing and scheduling system, the
company developed tours at their 250 offices in the U.S. and
Canada using spreadsheets and roadmaps. Their new system,
based on solving PVRPs, is estimated to save the company
over $1 million annually. Hadjiconstantinou and Baldacci
[54] examine how a utility company provides preventive
maintenance to 162 customers using a fleet of 17 depot-based
gangs. Service to the utility customers ranges from once per
day to once every 4 weeks. The gangs are assigned to different depots, and these depots represent the starting and ending
point of the tours. Thus, the problem is an application of the
MDPVRP. Clatanoff [24] looks at how to allocate and route
quality assurance inspectors among the 26 locations where
their services are required. The inpectors are based at two
locations and travel by car to the inspection sites, and the planning period considered is an entire year. The authors focus
is more on the minimization of the number of inspectors.

Determining the best way to visit students and patients

at home can also be viewed as an application of the PVRP.
Maya et al. [64] examine the problem of how to assign teaching assistants to help disabled students. Every morning, the
teaching assistants depart from their homes and travel from
school to school to visit the pupils that have been assigned to
them for that day. At the end of the working day, the teaching
assistants return to their homes. Thus, the problem involves
multiple depots as in the MDPVRP. The government is interested in reducing the total mileage for the teaching assistants
to visit the students since that is the primary driver of their
compensation. The periodicity comes from the type of disability the students have. Students with moderate disabilities
are visited once per week, whereas students with more severe
disabilties receive two visits per week. A related problem is
covered by [6] who consider the routing of home healthcare
nurses in Korea. The nurses will begin and end each day at
the hospital, and the intervals between visits will vary for different patients depending on the seriousness of the illness. At
the company in Korea that motivated this work, each patient
is assigned to a nurse, so the problem becomes a series of
PTSP problems.
An emerging application of the PVRP is in the collection
of data. Almiani et al. [4] consider a periodic routing problem
motivated by the growth in wireless sensor networks. Mobile
mechanisms (e.g., a vehicle equipped with a data transceiver)
visit each sensor and collect data. As the data generation rate
may be different for different sensors, the frequency of visits
to each sensor will vary. For example, sensors at industrial
locations must be visited more often than residential locations. The problem is to route the mobile mechanisms to
satisfy these frequencies. Giger [48] examines planning tools
for use with unmanned underwater vehicles. Such vehicles
are used in the oil and gas industry and in several branches of
the military. These vehicles have sensors that perform different kinds of readings, and these readings must occur at sites
Section 3 describes a wide variety of real-world contexts
in which the PVRP and its variants can be applied. Yet successful application of the problem requires solution methods
capable of producing good solutions in a reasonable amount
of time. Next, we turn to a discussion of solution methods for
periodic routing problems with careful note of key datasets
used for testing.
Although the presentation of solution methods here is
organized according to the type of method, it is interesting to note that the historical arc of publications follows
this organization rather closely. Early approaches for the
PVRP essentially focused on construction and improvement heuristics, sometimes assigning customers to days
before routing them, and sometimes creating routes and
then attempting to assign these routes to days. As applications of the PVRP became more prevalent and computational
power increased, these relatively straightforward approaches

gave way to the development of metaheuristics, which have

demonstrated considerable success on the problem. Although
several researchers developed exact (i.e., mathematical programming) approaches, these are often unable to solve the
large instances that arise in many applications. Only recently
have computational power and innovative mathematical programming methods combined to result in tractable exact
approaches for the PVRP.
A number of publications present heuristics designed
specifically to deal with problems arising in applications.
These heuristics often exploit special characteristics of the
problem in question, thus they are not applied to general
PVRP instances. Of particular note are [85], [84], [79], [26],
and [6] who all utilize information based on integer programming (IP) to drive their solution procedures, whereas
Teixeira et al. [88] and Nuortio et al. [67] use special-purpose
heuristics and metaheuristics. More detailed information on
the applications driving these approaches can be found in
section 3. We note, however, that many of the most successful solution methods in the literature for the standard PVRP
were also developed in response to interesting applications.
Though these applications have been described in section 3,
we mention some of them again here to point out their innovations in solving the PVRP without further comment on the
applications themselves.
4.1. Early Approaches
Beltrami and Bodin [12] introduces the first two key
heuristics used to solve the PVRP. The first idea is to route
customers using a Clarke and Wright procedure, then assign
routes to days. The second idea is to randomly assign customers to delivery days and create routes for each day based
on this assignment. In the heuristic presented by [81], the
authors cluster customers that are close together and that have
the same weekly delivery requirements to reduce the problem size. Once the problem is sufficiently small, they consider
three heuristics. The first assigns all daily customers to each
day of the week, then schedules the remaining customers
based on the estimated costs of combining with customers
already scheduled on those days. These estimates are based
on values such as average distance to the centroid of customers serviced on a given day. Customers are inserted in
order of highest to lowest delivery frequency. Their second
approach uses link exchanges to improve the initial solution
created by the first heuristic. Their third heuristic uses Clarke
and Wright ideas, modified to enforce the spacing of periodic deliveries throughout the week. Russell and Igo [81] also
introduce a 490 customer dataset to test their approaches for
the periodic routing problem. In their approach, the 490 customers are clustered to create a 126 customer problem. This
dataset has been used by many others to test their solution
Christofides and Beasley [19] offer an exact formulation, but solve the problem via a heuristic. Their heuristic
assigns customers to days and then solves the resulting daily
VRPs. The initial assignment is based on an initial ordering

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of customers in which customers with the fewest delivery

combinations and the largest delivery quantities are scheduled first, as these create the biggest challenge for creating
feasible solutions. Customers are inserted in this order using
the allowable delivery combination that yields the smallest
increase in total costs. An improvement method is proposed
that considers swapping customers from one allowable combination to another. Because this improvement would result
in solving many new VRPs, they propose simplifications such
as solving the new daily problems as median problems and as
travelling salesman problems (TSPs). These simplifications
are also solved with heuristics. The authors test their approach
with the dataset from [81] as well as 10 new instances derived
from existing datasets for the VRP in [35]. The Eilon-based
datasets all involve smaller numbers of customers than the
one in [81], but a planning horizon of up to 10 days and
involving up to six vehicles. Their tests with the 126 customer
Russell and Igo dataset yielded improved solution values with
both of their solution approaches. In general, they find the
TSP-based simplification to be the most successful heuristic.
Nearly 20 years later, Baptista et al. [11] modify this approach
to address their own waste collection problem, a testament to
the influence that [19] had on subsequent efforts to address
PVRP and related problems.
Tan and Beasley [87] and Russell and Gribbin [82] both
utilize information provided by solutions to an IP formulation of the problem to guide solution development. Tan and
Beasley [87] solve a seed-based IP (see [40]) to assign customers to delivery days. The authors then utilize the approach
outlined in [19] to create daily routes over the planning
horizon. Russell and Gribbin [82] extend this approach by
considering additional local improvement heuristics. Both
Tan and Beasley [87] and Russell and Gribbin [82] test their
results on the ten instances provided in [19] and improve on
the results presented there. Russell and Gribbin [82] also consider the instance presented in [81] and present two additional
instances, one based on data in [27].
The next substantial improvement to the best-known solutions for this set of 13 instances appeared in Chao et al. [18].
In particular, [18] aimed to enhance previous heuristics by
providing a means of escaping local optima. An initial solution is generated by solving a linear program that seeks to
level the number of customer deliveries across the planning
horizon. This linear programming solution is then rounded
to create an initial integer solution. Local improvements, in
part based on record-to-record improvement (see [62]), are
then sought on the current solution. To allow for more flexibility in these local moves, vehicle capacity is relaxed to
allow for moves that would otherwise be infeasible. Solutions
are then post processed to remedy any resulting infeasibilities (Pourghaderi et al. [73] later implement a similar
capacity relaxation). This approach led to improved bestknown solutions for all thirteen instances introduced by [19]
(Instances 110), [81] (Instance 11), and [82] (Instances
1213). Additionally, Chao et al. [18] introduced 19 new
instances (Instances 14-32) that, together with the previous
13, became the canonical set of instances against which all

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future approaches to PVRP have been compared. These are

collectively known as the old data set. Table 3 shows the
instances in this data set, and how the best-known value for
each of these instances changed over time as researchers
explored solution approaches for PVRP and applied them
to these instances. Data values included in the table reflect
attainment of a new best-known value at the time of publication. Since publications report values with varying levels of
precision, presentation, and comparison here ignore anything
beyond one decimal place.
4.2. Metaheuristics
4.2.1. Tabu Search. One of the most influential solution
approaches for the PVRPprimarily because of the degree
to which it has been modified for a variety of applications and extensions of the PVRPappeared in [30]. The
authors present the first tabu search algorithm designed to
solve PVRP and two of its special cases: the PTSP and
the MDVRP. The heuristic begins by randomly assigning
customers to combinations of delivery days. Considering customers according to some ordering, each customer is then
assigned a route on each of its assigned delivery days using
insertion heuristics to determine how the customer should
be routed. Neighborhood moves are made by either moving
a customer to a new route on one of its assigned delivery days, or by changing the combination of delivery days
for a customer and reinserting them into appropriate new
routes. If a customer is removed from a route on a given day,
tabu search prevents this customer from being reinserted on
that route for a specified number of moves. Their implementation allows for infeasible solutions, which are then
discouraged via penalty terms in the objective function. The
penalty function also helps to diversify the search by discouraging solution attributes that are seen frequently in the
course of the search. The authors note that their tabu search
implementation requires fewer user-controlled parameters (a
number of which are used to control the penalty function)
than other implementations of tabu search, making it easier
to use. They test a number of parameter settings, and on the
old data set, they produced new best solutions on the majority of the 32 instances. Cordeau et al. [30] also introduced
10 new instances collectively known as the new data
set. Although these are often used for comparison in subsequent publications, they are not as frequently solved as the
instances in the old data set.
Cordeau et al. [30] inspired a host of similar techniques, with many authors seeking to modify the tabu
search approach to address related problems and applications. Cordeau et al. [29] modify tabu search to address
PVRPTW, Angelelli and Speranza [7] adapt tabu search to
incorporate intermediate facilities (PVRPIF), and Alonso
et al. [5] incorporate multiple trips per vehicle along with
accessibility constraints. Banerjea-Brodeur [10] apply it to
optimize laundry delivery within a hospital, and Parthanadee
and Logendran [69] apply it to MDPVRP in a food service delivery setting. Francis et al. [44] define metrics that


Best-known values for the Old data set produced over time.

quantify the operational flexibility of a solution and the operational complexity and then modify tabu search to account
for these characteristics. They also modify potential neighborhood moves so that moving a customer from one delivery
schedule to another is contingent upon one of its geographical
neighbors also being assigned to the same schedule. Cordeau
and Maischberger [28] increase the computational power of
the algorithm by alternating local search moves with diversification moves to escape local optima and by parallelizing
the algorithm.
4.2.2. Variable Neighborhood Search. The most significant improvement in best-known solutions since those of
Cordeau et al. [30] was produced by the variable neigborhood
search (VNS) technique of Hemmelmayr et al. [57]. VNS
essentially works by performing neighborhood search, but it
changes the neighborhood when local search stagnates. When
local search is unable to improve the current incumbent, VNS
selects the next neighborhood in a series and performs a
shaking step by randomly selecting a solution from this new
neighborhood, and then performing local search. Basic VNS
moves through neighborhoods in the series until an improving

solution is found. The implementation of Hemmelmayr et al.

[57] accepts inferior solutions in a manner typical of simulated annealing. It provides improved solutions on most
instances in both the old and new data sets; the authors indicate that those that are not improved are largely de facto
multiple TSP problems. Pirkwieser and Raidl [71] extend
VNS by adding multilevel refinement (essentially abstracting or coarsening the problem to a simpler one), solving the
simplified problem, then refining the solution by extending the simplified solution to the original problem. Pirkwieser
and Raidl [71] claim to produce new best-known solutions
to some of the instances in the canonical data sets, but Pirkwieser and Raidl [71] only provide aggregate data (see also
4.2.3. Other Metaheuristics. Perhaps inspired by the successes with tabu search, a number of other metaheuristics
were developed for PVRP. Ochi and Rocha [68] offer an evolutionary approach based on genetic algorithms and local
search, a parallel version of which is presented in [34]
(although they present results for instances in the old data
sets, a number of later references question the accuracy of

NETWORKS2014DOI 10.1002/net

the reported results). Vidal et al. [91] further improve genetic

search by increasing the diversity in the gene pool when identifying survivors from the current population of solutions.
They combine this with local improvement to create a hybrid
algorithm that performs well on instances in the data set,
though data are only provided in aggregate form. This work is
extended in [92] to a number of problems with time windows,
including PVRPTW and MDVRPTW.
Matos and Oliveira [63] describe an ant colony optimization (ACO) algorithm for the PVRP. Nodes are replicated to
represent the required number of deliveries, and the authors
use ACO to construct good routes for these nodes. After local
improvement on the resulting solution, graph coloring and
exchanges are used to finalize the periodic assignment. The
authors test their algorithm on some of the largest instances
in the canonical data set but do not report their best results.
Their aim appears to be to compare their algorithm with prior
ACO implementations for routing problems, rather than to
compare with previous algorithms designed specifically for
Goncalves et al. [50] develop a greedy-randomized search
procedure (GRASP) and test it on instances derived from an
oil extraction application. Alegre et al. [2] describe a scatter
search technique designed to address an auto parts application
which has a longer planning horizon. Although this approach
was designed for a certain class of PVRP instances, it is competitive with [30] on the canonical instances and on occasion
outperforms [30].
Gulczynski et al. [52] instigate another paradigm shift by
inverting the typical approach to local search (see also [53]).
Although local search typically aims to search small neighborhoods a large number of times, the approach presented in
[52] searches large neighborhoods a small number of times.
They use mixed-integer programming to schedule customers
in an attempt to evenly spread deliveries across the planning horizon, and solve the resulting VRPs with a Clarke and
Wright algorithm. They then utilize IP to consider simultaneously moving a large number of customers to new days and/or
routes. This IP is alternated with a record-to-record improvement procedure until no substantial improvement is found.
They compare their algorithm to the approaches published
by [30], [18], [57], and [2], implementing these with the
parameter settings suggested by those sources. Although the
approach of [52] outperforms these algorithms under these
recommended settings, it does not produce any new bestknown solutions as compared to the best solutions recorded
in those sources. Gulczynski et al. [52] also provide extensions to the algorithm for handling reassignment constraints
and balance constraints (these are described in Section 5).
4.2.4. Metaheuristics for Problem Variants. Use of
metaheuristics to solve the PVRP has also run parallel to their
use in approaching its variants. Polacek et al. [72] use variable
neighborhood search to solve the PTSP, allowing deviation
from periodicity with a penalty. Yu and Yang [16] describe
an ACO algorithm applied to PVRPTW. Hadjiconstantinou
and Baldacci [54] use tabu search to solve the resulting VRPs


NETWORKS2014DOI 10.1002/net

in the MDPVRP once customers have been assigned to both

depots and delivery days, while Vahed et al. [89] apply a
path relinking algorithm to MDPVRP. A recent paper by
Lahrichi et al. [60] on integrative cooperative search seeks
to harness the power of the best decomposition and metaheuristic approaches by using several solution methods in
tandem and then sharing the information among them to
improve the solutions produced. They apply their approach
to the MDPVRP, decomposing it into both a set of PVRPs
(by assigning customers to depots) and a set of MDVRPs (by
scheduling customers a priori). They then utilize tabu search
and the techniques of Vidal et al. [91] along with initial solutions to these subproblems to generate good feasible solutions
for the MDPVRP.
4.3. Progress Toward Exact Solutions
Foster and Ryan [41] make one of the earliest attempts to
model the PVRP as a mathematical program. In particular,
they provide a linear programming formulation for the VRP
and discuss modifications to the formulation to incorporate
periodic delivery requirements as well as other extensions.
The linear formulation utilizes variables xj [0, 1] to represent the probability that route j is utilized in an optimal
solution. Thus, the formulation is exponential in size. Foster
and Ryan [41] discuss column generation techniques, noting
that they are slow to converge, as well as relaxations of the
problem that are used to drive heuristic solutions. Results are
only presented for VRP instances.
Christofides and Beasley [19] are often credited as providing the first IP formulation of the PVRP. Altough many
subsequent publications reference that formulation or provide their own, most concede that solving these formulations
becomes prohibitive for larger instances and resort to heuristic or metaheuristic approaches, some in fact based on the
information provided by these IPs. A few researchers, however, have explored mathematical programming approaches
in more depth, particularly because of their flexibility in
handling extensions and variations of the problem.
Francis et al. [43] extend the IP formulation presented in
[39] for VRP to accommodate service choice, which generalizes the definition of periodicity in PVRP and will be
discussed further in Section 5. They first relax the problem by separating the decisions which schedule customers
from those that create routes, creating two different problem relaxations. They then use subgradient optimization on a
Lagrangian function which incorporates both of these relaxations to develop lower bounds on the solution. At the end
of the Lagrangian phase, with the use of feasible solutions
constructed along the way, a branch and bound procedure is
used to close the gap between the upper and lower bounds.
They apply this approach to two interlibrary loan examples
from a related application, as well as to one of the instances
from the old data set modified to include service choice in
the objective.
Francis and Smilowitz [42] present a continuous approximation of the formulation presented in [43] by aggregating

some of the data and approximating the discrete model with

continuous functions. By utilizing decomposition methods,
the continuous approximation can be solved quickly, allowing it to be useful for larger problems. Francis and Smilowitz
[42] state that this approach is not intended to replace discrete approaches. Rather, it is intended to provide quick
solutions that can be used to guide design decisions. Francis
and Smilowitz [42] apply this approach to a 100-customer
instance from the old data set. Although they do not produce
a new best-known value, their approach is competitive.
Mourgaya and Vanderbeck [66] develop a model designed
to simultaneously address two objective criteria: balance
of the workload across trucks, and regionalization (creating routes that keep vehicles/drivers in familiar areas). The
authors then use a DantzigWolfe reformulation and column
generation to solve the relaxed problem. Insertion heuristics
are used to price out columns, with an eye toward balancing the two objectives under consideration. On completion
of the LP solution phase, the resulting solution is rounded
to produce a feasible solution to the PVRP by heuristically
exploring the branch and bound tree. Mourgaya and Vanderbeck [66] test this approach on some of the instances
from [30]. Although this approach does not produce routes
with smaller overall cost, it is competitive with the approach
of [30] when workload balancing and regionalization are
Baldacci et al. [9] have arguably demonstrated the greatest success with exact approaches for PVRP. They present a
new IP for the problem and three relaxations based on this
formulation that are used to generate strong lower bounds for
the problem. They then use these lower bounds, along with
information from a related dual solution, to reduce the solution space in such a way that no optimal integer solutions are
eliminated, resulting in a tractable IP. This IP is then solved
exactly. They report both solutions and lower bounds for the
old canonical instances. The lower bounds produced are on
average within 1% of optimality, best-known values are produced for five instances, and the best known at the time of
publication of [9] is matched for the majority of the remaining
Kang et al. [59] present an IP formulation and an exact
solution approach for MDPVRP. They assume, however, that
each vehicle can service at most one customer per day, thus
the routing component of the problem is completely removed.


Many variants of the PVRP have been studied. Here, we
will discuss some of the variants beyond the PTSP, PVRPTW,
Intermediate facilities provide a location other than the
depot for a truck to renew its capacity. For example, if a
truck is collecting goods, such as in waste collection, an
intermediate facility would be a place for a truck to unload,
such as at a waste treatment plant, before resuming pickup
at other customers. The first paper on the PVRP-IF is by

Angelelli and Speranza [7]. Even with intermediate facilities, the objective they consider is still the minimization of
the total length of the routes. The authors propose a tabu
search approach. The discussion of the application of the
PVRP for collection of slaughterhouse waste in [26] also
involves intermediate facilities for disposal of waste due to
the use of small capacity vehicles. Hemmelmayr et al. [56]
consider the PVRP-IF as well, offering an exact formulation
and proposing a solution method based on variable neighborhood search and dynamic programming. The authors also
consider variants of the PVRP-IF where capacity limits are
placed on the intermediate facilities.
Another related problem with a location component is
the periodic location-routing problem (PLRP). The PLRP
requires decisions about which depots to open, in addition
to the routing and assignment decisions typically made in
the MDPVRP. The motivation for this change in formulation is the impact that the location of the depots can have
on the routing costs. The PLRP was introduced by Prodhon
with a memetic algorithm offered in [76] and a hybridized
evolutionary algorithm described in [74] and [75]. The use
of variable neighborhood search for the PLRP is studied in
Variants that introduce new constraints include the PVRP
with reassignment constraints (PVRP-RC) introduced in
[52]. Companies often have existing routes, and they are solving for new routes because of the addition of new customers.
They want to minimize the change in service to the existing
customers. PVRP-RC limits the number of customers who
are moved from an existing service pattern to another service
pattern. Rademeyer [77] examines the assignment routing
problem with nominated delivery days (ARPNDD) in which
customers are assigned to a delivery group and must remain
in that delivery group for the entire planning period. Alonso
et al. [5] consider a variation of the PVRP where vehicles can
make multiple trips per day and include limitations on which
vehicles can be assigned to which customers. Parthanadee
and Logendran [69] add limitations to the capacity of the
depots in the MDPVRP. The authors also deal with customer
demand for multiple products, fixed supply at the depot of
each of these products, and scheduled replenishments of the
products to the depot. The capacity limitations can potentially cause customers to receive deliveries of certain products
from different depots. In the MDPVRP in [64], constraints
on which resources can be matched with which customers, as
well as resource-dependent work hour restrictions, are also
An important category of variants is those which change
the objective function, possibly in conjunction with constraints. Most of the solution approaches described so far seek
to minimize total route cost or some related metric, but some
consider very different objectives. Gaudioso and Paletta [45]
present a heuristic designed to minimize the fleet size. Vahed
et al. [90] present a heuristic designed to minimize fleet size
subject to a maximum route duration. In [17], the authors
try to identify the minimum number of vehicles required to
serve customers with periodic delivery requirements under

NETWORKS2014DOI 10.1002/net


the assumption that all customers receive full truck shipments. They refer to this as the vehicle minimization for
periodic deliveries problem (VMPD). Related is the work
by Delgado et al. [32] where the authors look at minimizing
the labor requirements associated with the periodic supply of
products to customers from a warehouse. When a customer
comes to the warehouse to pick up product, labor is required
at the warehouse to load the vehicles. The number of customers who arrive at the same time affects the amount of
labor required. Thus, the pickup day for each customer must
be determined along with the timing of the pickup so as to
minimize the amount of labor needed.
Some authors change the objective to be one of maximization of profits rather than minimization of costs. As
mentioned in section 3, Goncalves et al. [50] model how
to extract oil from wells in Brazil using mobile units. Each
well has a minimum time between visits to collect a reasonable quantity. Their objective is to maximize the amount of
oil extracted which impacts which customers are visited and
when. They refer to this variant as the period bump mobile
units routing problem. Baptista et al. [11] also focus on a
profit maximization objective.
Other changes to the objective include the addition of
other costs besides travel costs. Gulczynski et al. [52] propose the PVRP with balance constraints, but balance is
actually modeled in the objective. Imbalance is defined by
the difference between the largest number of customers on
a route and the smallest number of customers on a route
in the solution. The objective becomes the total travel cost
plus a penalty cost for imbalance to encourage workloads
among drivers to be similar. The PVRP with service choice
is introduced in [43] and [42]. In this problem, the delivery frequency for customers is chosen by the model. Each
customer has a minimum delivery frequency but higher frequencies, which translate to better service, are rewarded in
the objective function. A multiobjective PVRPTW is considered in [3] to reflect a competitive situation. In a competitive
environment, the arrival time at a customer relative to the
arrival time by a competitor may impact the amount sold
to the customer. Thus, they consider an objective that minimizes travel costs and maximizes sales, as well as balances
the amount of goods distributed by the different vehicles. A
multiobjective PVRP is also considered in [86] but with more
of a focus on workforce management. Their objective considers factors such as consistency of assigning the same driver to
serve customers, as well as mileage costs, and they examine
the tradeoffs. The variant of the PVRPTW in [14] includes
overtime costs, costs for violating time windows, and costs
for idle time, in addition to travel costs.
Some papers consider problems with more flexibility than
the traditional PVRP. For example, in [24], a single vehicle is
not required to serve all of the demand at a customer, and in
[23], customers may be visited by more than one vehicle on
different routes. Danandeh et al. [31] look at the open PVRP
where vehicles are not required to return to the depot at the
end of the day. Mourgaya and Vanderbeck [66] focus strictly
on the assignment of customers to days for delivery subject to


NETWORKS2014DOI 10.1002/net

frequency limitations and do not precisely define routes. The

focus is more on balancing the quantity collected than on minimizing route costs or fleet size. Francis et al. [43] precisely
examine the value of flexibility in periodic routing problems. Besides service choice, they also examine the impact of
restricting a customer to be served by one driver versus multiple drivers, the impact of a greater number of scheduling
options, and the impact of flexibility in the delivery quantity
to customers, while restricting that all demand is eventually
served. They also examine these tradeoffs computationally.
Patrolling and data gathering has created several extensions of the PVRP. As mentioned in section 3, Giger [48]
examines planning tools for use with unmanned underwater
vehicles. Since vehicles have sensors that perform different
kinds of readings, visits by multiple vehicles to the same location may be required to collect the needed data. This makes
the problem more challenging. Almiani et al. [4] consider
the routing of mobile gateways to collect sensor data as well.
They introduce the periodic mobile multigateway scheduling
problem. Unlike the PVRP, the frequency for visiting each
customer is determined as part of the problem solution due
to constraints on information gathering needs. Fargeas et al.
[38] study the persistent visitation problem, where the goal is
to determine the rates at which customers should be patrolled,
rather than to assign specific days, and is subject to limitations
on the fuel available in the patrolling vehicles.
Very little work on the periodic routing problem specifically addresses the stochasticity that can occur in practice.
One of the few exceptions is [83] who study the periodic routing problem with stochastic demands (SPRP). They consider
the stochasticity of customer demands in the determination of
visit frequencies and delivery quantities. The differentiation
with the IRP is that inventory costs and customer capacities
are not considered.
Related is the area of periodic arc routing problems. In
periodic arc routing problems, as discussed in [47], each
required edge of a graph must be visited a given number
of times over a specified planning period. They often arise in
residential waste collecting and street sweeping applications.
Chu et al. [2022], Groves et al. [51], and Mei et al. [65] also
consider the periodic arc routing problem.
As this review has indicated, the body of work on the
PVRP is extensive. It has been applied in a diverse array of
contexts and has been solved with a wide variety of solution
methods. With the increasing use of recycling, home healthcare, and remote sensors, we expect that the countries and the
contexts in which the PVRP can be applied will continue to
grow. Recent trends indicate that study of the problem is shifting more toward its variants, as many growing applications
require changes to the classic PVRP, and solution methods
must be developed that deal explicitly with these additional
constraints or alternate objectives. The number of papers
on multiobjective versions of the PVRP reflects the growing importance of considering many cost factors beyond just

mileage in the true evaluation of a route plan. We anticipate

that more complex objectives and more operational flexibility
will be a growing trend in the PVRP literature. Surprisingly,
our review found little work on variants of the problem that
explicitly address the stochasticity of customer demand or
travel times. We see this as another area rich in possibilities
for further study.




The authors would like to thank Ning Zhou for her
assistance with the bibliography.













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