When it comes to freight software features, your transportation management system (TMS) should have a small core of key features — and these features can make the difference between successfully implementing a new TMS…
And failing utterly.
We already discussed 5 key features to keep an eye out for when researching transportation management systems for your business, which you can read here, but we wanted to expand on the topic.
The entire point of any piece of freight software is to save you time and money — period.
It’s “the reason for being” for all transportation management systems: to take repetitive manual tasks and automate them as much as possible.
The goal isn’t just efficiency and increased productivity, though those are two very tangible benefits of a TMS. Rather, you want to increase productivity and efficiency while also reducing mistakes.
One very visible place this happens is with carriers — efficient management of carriers is incredibly important to the long-term success of your business, making carrier management a critical freight software feature.
Carrier partnerships can be the difference between success and failure in this business. The best transportation management systems out there include some form of carrier management as an out-of-the-box feature.
That means it’s not an add on — it’s not extra, and you shouldn’t be paying more for it. If you’re looking at some new freight software, and carrier management isn’t included in the TMS, walk away.
A robust carrier management function will include the following:
The goal here is to stay on top of your carriers — to be able to generate reports and see if carriers are meeting service levels, for example, or to find out immediately if a carrier has lapsed on their insurance (or been dropped entirely).
The only way to truly know where you stand (and where your staff stands, and your customers stand) is to examine metrics.
True efficiency is next to impossible to reach without specific, defined metrics, metrics that guide decisions and allocation of resources. It’s one of those freight software features that seems like it should be par for the course…
And reporting often is included in many transportation management systems — but fully customizable reports may not be (though it’s absolutely a feature of Brokerware™).
Customizable reports are more than just the important metrics that you need (although that, of course, should be included). You also want to be able to customize reports for your staff, for carriers, even for vendors — without data meant for your eyes only reaching another party.
That’s why customizable reports are so critical — they let you easily (and regularly, and automatically) create reports with the exact metrics that each party needs.
You probably don’t have to be sold on the importance of load management.
One of the biggest difficulties with many transportation management systems is user friendliness (or rather, the lack of user friendliness).
While Brokerware™ is often lauded for being one of the simplest systems out there, we know that a lot of freight software out there transforms load management from a tedious manual task into a frustrating electronic task.
If your TMS doesn’t allow you to manage loads from quoted status to delivered (and everywhere in between), it’s time to look elsewhere.
Many modern transportation management systems can even automate the entire process, either through EDI or through more modern web services. They should also be able to generate (and allow the retrieval of) a variety of electronic documents, even pulling those documents from a carrier’s website to display on your load profiles.
This includes bills of lading, which can easily be overlooked (but which are probably the most important document in the entire process, legally speaking).
That being said, they can be an excellent solution in a pinch, and for a broker who is just starting out, load boards can be a steady source of business (and a place to cut your teeth and make a name for yourself).
No matter how far along your business is, or how often you need to use load boards, being able to access load boards from within your TMS makes the process much easier. Depending on the quality of the integration, you should be able to quickly and easily sort through possibilities based on a variety of variables.
The stress of managing dozens of loads each day (or more) can be overwhelming — having to worry about the insurance status of your carriers is the last thing you need.
Your transportation management system needs to be able to easily, simply, and accurately show you if there’s an insurance issue of any sort with any carrier. If you’re using load boards, this becomes an even more critical feature, helping you pick the most reliable carrier, every time.
This type of integration should go beyond a simple display of insurance coverage (or a lack thereof) — a robust TMS will be able to alert you when there’s an insurance issue with carriers.
If not, you could be missing out on significant opportunities to automate, increase productivity, and increase the efficiency of your operations.
Brokers operate on margins, and the wider you can make those margins, the more profitable you can become — and you can widen those margins with a handful of critical freight software features.
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