What does nearly every item in your home have in common? Chances are each of them – from your morning coffee mug to your bedside lamp -- spent time being transported by a truck from one destination to another before arriving on your doorstep.
When you think of the transportation industry in these terms, it’s easy to understand how massive it is. In fact, the trucking market in the US alone was valued at nearly 800 billion dollars and employed nearly 1,000,000 drivers in 2019.
That’s a lot of logistics to manage, from where a shipment needs to be picked up, to who’s driving it in what truck, to how the customer will be kept apprised of the arrival date. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are also documents to be signed and uploaded, invoices to be sent, compliance updates to report and multi-stop routes to be planned.
This complexity is why nearly every trucking carrier and broker uses some form of transportation management system (TMS) software. TMS software allows companies to both manage and have visibility into the multiple systems, customers and employees involved in moving freight.
But not all transportation management systems are equal.
Moving goods around the globe is a sophisticated business that requires detailed tracking, reporting and visibility across the supply chain. Doing that successfully and efficiently means that disparate enterprise platforms need to be able to talk to one another. This helps in many ways, but a few common use cases include:
The best TMS software are able to integrate with these other major platforms, such as warehouse management systems, customer relationship management systems (e.g., Salesforce), ELD/telematics (e.g., Geotab), transportation management systems (e.g., Sage), accounting systems (e.g., QuickBooks) or fleet management systems (e.g., Samsara).
Any good TMS should have the ability to link multiple systems, whether they be SaaS or on-premise, through an API. This integration capability is crucial as it vastly streamlines the ability of the company, its workers and its customers to function efficiently. It can, for example, allow all order data to be synchronized with the system of record, so all teams can act on important orders or action items. Or, the integration of systems can mean that all order, tracking and documentation is centralized and readily available for those who need it.
Did you know that Rose Rocket seamlessly integrates with other technologies like accounting softwares and telematic and compliance devices? See how easy it is to run your entire business from Rose Rocket.
Visibility is another critical feature in any TMS platform. Ideally, that visibility isn’t just for the carrier company and its employees, but also for the customer. Most modern software has an interface where customers can login to access a range of information, and TMS software should be no exception.
From a customer standpoint, they should be able to do things like place an order, request quotes, track shipments, manage account details and opt-in for notifications. As one of Rose Rocket’s customers said before choosing our software, “You can order a pizza and get live tracking, but when you send a million-dollar piece of freight, you don’t get visibility.”
For the shipping companies, brokers and third-party logistics (3PL) vendors, visibility should include important KPIs such as shipment statuses, on-time percentages, orders by destination, shipment weights, overdue accounts, compliance status and much more.
A TMS with good visibility allows you to track and trace freight in real-time, 24 hours a day.
It’s a given that any new TMS software should be cloud-based, but we’re including it on this list anyway. Cloud TMS software lets businesses focus on their core strengths and leaves the management of servers, data security, software upgrades and data center management to the technology experts.
Cloud software – as opposed to software that’s loaded directly onto computers and servers at the workplace – is accessed through the internet. This means that if a particular computer crashes, no data is lost. It also means that drivers can access data through a mobile phone, customers can see their accounts from any computing device, and the company doesn’t have to invest in a team of software engineers, data center managers and costly hardware.
It also enables seamless integration with other SaaS and on-premise software platforms through an API, as mentioned earlier.
In the quest to get freight from Point A to Point B, there are a myriad of other operational, fleet management, customer communication, employment and compliance tasks that need to be completed each and every day. A quality TMS will be able to handle the lifecycle of an order, do it quickly and in an automated fashion, so you can continuously improve efficiency. It should help you reduce the hours spent on day-to-day tasks, accomplish more with the same number of staff, and spend time growing your business.
As an example, rather than take up staff time answering calls from customers looking for real-time updates on orders, customers can access their data directly through the TMS software. Rose Rocket’s customer, Wainwright Trucking, was able to reduce its inbound call volume by 75% by giving customers access to their portal!
Another client, Tex Williams of Zepto Solutions, reported, "Before Rose Rocket, I would spend 3-4 hours every night not only billing everything for the day but putting in the orders for the next day. With Rose Rocket, I am in and out in 30 minutes, and my orders for the day are done."
Other possibilities for improved efficiency include reducing paperwork with consolidated invoicing, digitally uploading BOLs from your drivers' phone, quickly responding to spot quotes, setting automated alerts for missed pickups or at-risk shipments, or uploading manifests for drivers that are already on the road to minimize any impact.
When you’re juggling so many logistics, customers and shipments, it’s sometimes hard to see the forest from the trees. One of the TMS software features that can significantly impact your bottom line is the ability to identify trends and easily synthesize vast amounts of data into actionable changes that will grow your business.
Look for a TMS that can generate a wide range of reports and track important KPIs. Bonus points for platforms that can display that data in an easy-to-understand dashboard.
Your KPIs might include transportation times, including expected versus actual times; freight cost per unit shipped; percent use of trucking capacity; driver safety scores; driver turnover ratios; percentage of loaded miles; or maintenance expense per mile.
The transportation industry is one of the most highly regulated, complex industries in the world. We’ve touched on a few of the most important features to look for, but if you’re still wondering what is TMS software and what it can do for you, please contact us to learn more.