Navigating the trucking software landscape can be challenging. As an asset-based carrier, the right TMS (Transportation Management System) is not just a tool but a strategic partner in driving your business forward.
We've created a comprehensive guide to assist you in making an informed decision.
Before diving into software options, spend some time evaluating your team’s structure and key tasks. Engage your team in this process, to detail out who’s doing what, what’s working well, what’s not, and identify potential gaps. You’ll likely be surprised at certain areas of confusion or overlap!
Within your current workflow, shine a spotlight on areas needing attention or automation. For example, who is handling dispatch today? How about invoicing and driver pay? Are we double-entering our data from a spreadsheet in QuickBooks?
Pinpoint gaps and inefficiencies, and have that list handy when you begin to demo trucking TMSes so you can ask how certain software might alleviate these pain points.
Articulating the problems you aim to solve with a TMS ensures the software addresses your actual needs. Formulate a succinct statement of your goals and their correlation to potential software solutions. For example: “We are wasting time double-entering data into both our Google Sheet (or existing TMS) as well as QuickBooks, and it’s a massive waste of time and rife with errors.”
When exploring options for TMS software for carriers, focus on dispatch, invoicing, and driver settlements. Those tend to be the core three features of growing asset-based carriers that see the most leverage with a TMS. Ease of use and implementation are also key to ensuring software adoption and effective utilization.
Additionally, you may want to spend some time understanding ELD integrations, EDI connections should you need to establish direct links with your largest customers, and how the TMS integrates with QuickBooks.
Choosing a TMS is a long-term investment and partnership. Ensure the provider’s team is accessible and supportive throughout the software's lifecycle.
Do you have a clear escalation contact? Who is your most senior relationship there? Do you feel good rapport with that person, and do you trust that if things go wrong they’ll fix it or die trying?
That’s the feeling you want. Remember that software companies are teams of people, and you want the right team to have your back.
Let’s dive into specific features of carrier TMS software that you should be sure to evaluate with the providers you talk to. Throughout this section, we’ll outline how Truckbase handles them so you have clear examples.
Above all else, we recommend prioritizing dispatch functionality. Truckbase, for instance, offers user-friendly software for small to mid-sized fleets, automating load-building, dispatch, and communication between dispatchers and drivers. For the average carrier, this is 80% of the battle, and thus it’s the place to spend the most time with TMSes. Make sure this feature area is intuitive, flexible, and delightful to use for your team.
We highly recommend having a dispatcher join a demo of the software, especially when reviewing how the TMS provider handles it.
An efficient driver pay system is essential. Truckbase pulls load information automatically, ensuring timely and accurate driver payments. Errors or late driver payments can erode trust and goodwill, so it’s critical that your TMS has this functionality.
Check for flexibility in how you handle accessorials and other pay, such as stop pay or recurring deductions for owner operators.
Modern trucking software like Truckbase streamlines the invoicing process, enabling daily invoicing that looks professional and improves your cash flow. You should be able to issue invoices both from within your carrier TMS software as well as within QuickBooks Online, and see it magically sync to the other system.
Truckbase integrates with over 30 ELD providers, offering real-time notifications and status updates to customers. You want ELD data connected to your TMS data, so that you’re not just looking at dots on a map without any information attached to them – you want to be able to map back truck tracking to specific load and customer information. That’s the key with integrated ELDs and TMS software for carriers.
EDI technology allows systems to translate and feed information to one another. Truckbase supports EDI connections, fostering long-term customer relationships. And most importantly, you want a carrier TMS partner that makes EDI “just work.”
EDI connections are convoluted and can be a black box, and as an asset-based carrier owner you shouldn’t need the technical expertise to drive it. Rely on your TMS provider as a consultative partner to make it happen.
Trucking software should integrate seamlessly with QuickBooks. If you’re an asset-based carrier with fewer than 100 trucks, the odds are you use QuickBooks – and virtually every accounting pro is familiar with it. Truckbase supports both QuickBooks Online and Desktop, ensuring smooth data flow between systems.
Moreover, carriers often experience a frustration between these two systems: QuickBooks has financial information and reports, and your TMS has all your truck level information. You need a system that can marry those two data sets.
A self-service Customer Portal provides customers with real-time updates, invoice statuses, and estimated delivery times, enhancing professionalism and transparency. Some customers want to login throughout the day – or night. Providing this functionality helps ease unnecessary check calls or back-and-forths with your team, and puts a more professional foot forward for your business. When you can offer 24/7 access, customers tend to be impressed.
A dashboard that offers full visibility and detailed KPIs, filterable by various factors, ensures efficient and effective business growth. In the spirit of “what gets measured gets managed,” you want to ensure that you have access to key metrics and insights from which you can make actionable decisions.
Choosing the right TMS software as a carrier is pivotal for operational efficiency, profitability, and business growth. It’s a big decision. By understanding your needs, evaluating your current workflow, defining clear objectives, researching options, and assessing potential partnerships, you can select a carrier-focused TMS that meets your needs and scales with your growth.
We here at Truckbase believe we stand out as a comprehensive solution, offering a range of features tailored to the unique challenges of the trucking industry. Interested? Book a demo with us to get started.
When you combine the power of your TMS, ELD tracking data, and EDI connections to pipe directly into your customers’ systems, your operating model transforms into one of service and efficiency.
Before we can arrive at how ELDs, EDI, and a TMS can help you win more high paying loads, better retain customers, and yield massive operational efficiencies, let’s talk about the natural evolution of an asset-based carrier from an owner-operator living off of load boards to a 50-truck fleet with multiple contracted lanes. And let’s look at it through a software and technology perspective, and how those needs evolve as you grow.
The Humble Beginnings: Starting Out
As you start out, there’s no need for a TMS. It’s just you, and you’re wearing every hat. You may have set up QuickBooks Online to send invoices to your broker or shipper, or your factoring company handles the invoicing process for you. Factoring might also improve your cash flow for a small fee, as you scrape by to get your name out there and build a quality reputation as someone who delivers on-time, every time, with no issues.
The Growth Phase: Building a Small Fleet
As your business and cash flow grows, you gradually add a few more trucks and figure out the best ways to use load boards. At this stage, you might have earned a dedicated lane or two after building relationships with shippers and brokers. As you get up to five or more trucks, you have to delegate all the driving since running the business is now a full-time job.
You begin to feel the strain of being spread too thin. You’re serving as the sole dispatcher for your fleet, leading all sales efforts, processing all invoices, negotiating insurance, handling all fleet maintenance, and building customer relationships. This is a big transition for an owner operator, and starts to mark a shift. You may start to think about bringing on a full-time dispatcher or investing in software and technology to increase your efficiency.
Up until this point, a cobbled together system likely works just fine:
The Turning Point: Need for a Dedicated System
A key catalyst for needing to overhaul your technology stack is when you add staff members. Typically in the 5-8 truck range, it makes sense to hire a full-time dispatcher or office manager. This varies based on load volume, route complexity, and administrative complexity, but that’s a common range where it begins to make financial sense to have some focus on that full-time. At this stage, you likely also have a part-time bookkeeper to help manage invoicing, accounting, factoring, and perhaps some insurance-related items.
You’ve graduated from being a solo operator–you now lead a team. And you have escalating business complexities to manage as well. With multiple people operating in a Google Sheet and over text message or WhatsApp, the way you’ve been working starts to break down – and wear you down. It’s time to upgrade systems.
You evaluate various TMS’es, and choose the right one for you. After the implementation, onboarding, and training period – which can be anywhere from a few weeks to a few months – you are fully up and running and using the TMS as your core operating system. All your data is in there, and your team is in there most of the day. Simply having this single source of truth combined with rich automations saves you countless hours per week, helps you get paid faster, keeps your dispatching process streamlined, and ties directly into QuickBooks. A massive pressure valve has been released, and you’re ready to start scaling again without even adding more headcount.
While you can track your trucks via your ELD provider – whether you use Samsara, Motive, Verizon, or any of the numerous alternatives – you realize that your tracking data needs to sync to your TMS. Ensuring that your TMS can integrate ELD data so that you can marry load information with reliable truck tracking capabilities unlocks another major headache, and provides for easier and more robust notifications that you can now automate sending to your customers based on preset parameters. You’re really starting to lead from the front and “wow” your shippers.
As you win larger and larger contracted lanes, those more sophisticated shippers often demand EDI connections, which entails translating and piping your load data directly from your TMS into theirs, and vice versa, to avoid double entry on both sides and provide them with real-time visibility into their load statuses.
The Power Trio: TMS, ELDs, and EDI Unleashed
It’s at this stage that you can truly evolve into a next-level carrier. Having a modern TMS that integrates ELD data for seamless truck tracking within a single system, and combining that with direct data pipes via EDI into your customer’s TMS is the holy trinity of carrier technology. You’ll be able to scale your operation from 10-50 trucks without adding headcount at nearly the same rate, you’ll be able to win and retain higher quality lanes, and your customers will never want to leave you because of your bidirectional data feed that joins you at the hip. Before, you were a vendor. Now you’re a partner.
This trifecta further unlocks massive time savings and automations, such as one-click order requests from the customer to you, one click “Accept” or “Reject” options on your side, and automatically turning an order request into a live load with a driver dispatched – all without entering a single piece of data manually. And from there, providing your customer the ability to track the load in real-time all the way through to proof of delivery.
In the fast-paced world of trucking, staying ahead means embracing technology. Leveraging the triple threat of TMS, ELDs, and EDI connections requires you first get to a certain scale in terms of trucks, team size, and administrative intensity. Once you’re there, tying these three powerful tools together will bring your trucking business to the next level, and you’ll be able to reap the rewards of what it feels like to run a thriving and highly profitable fleet.
Whether you have five trucks or fifty, no one has a team with excess time. Managing a growing business and balancing that with profitability means your team is virtually always at capacity, and you tend to hire when your team is over capacity. And, training new hires on your systems is a major endeavor when you’re a small business.
When done right, finding the right trucking software can be a transformative endeavor. Great software providers can open your eyes to what’s possible. There are always more efficient and effective ways to manage your business and your customers. Software, when done right, should be a huge unlocking function for your drivers, your dispatchers, your back office staff, and you as an owner.
“Truckbase is the most intuitive and easy software I’ve found after evaluating over 20 TMS providers. Any dispatcher can pick it up within 30 minutes.” -Tom Herlache, Owner of Herlache Truck Lines
But why do so many software implementations become overwhelming, time consuming, and frustrating with months of training?
At Truckbase, we have always aspired to build the easiest-to-use TMS for small trucking companies. Period. We serve growing fleets that have a minimum of five trucks and span upwards of fifty. We believe great software lies in the art of balancing powerful features with simplicity.
Because Truckbase was specifically built with (and for) small family-run fleets, we believe advanced features are only as useful as they are usable for busy dispatchers and operations managers. After all, software is meant to save time (not add more work to your plate).
Trucking software often becomes too complex to use for several reasons:
You are too busy, and your customers and team members are too important, to be spending countless hours implementing, learning, and operating in clunky software. Focus on prioritizing ease of use when selecting trucking dispatch software for your growing fleet has cascading benefits.
For any growing trucking company, endless check calls are often considered a necessary evil. They eat up your dispatcher's time, and your drivers can’t stand them. While there are valid reasons for frequent check calls (and they help build trust with brokers), there is a better way.
Twenty years ago, this would all have to be done manually, and the only way to solve it would be to add dispatchers, which reduces your profitability and doesn’t scale well. In today’s world, it is possible to reduce your dispatcher’s workload by 30% and eliminate check calls entirely through live tracking software and automation.
“Truckbase has exponentially increased our back office efficiency. They’ve helped us streamline our processes as we evolve from a company with just a couple trucks into a larger organization.” -Bruce P., VP Bumpa & Sons Trucking
Check calls refer to calls and emails from a freight broker to a carrier looking for status updates on a load. For larger fleets with dedicated dispatchers, these calls and emails will often go to the dispatcher who then needs to call or text the driver. The broker can have a range of questions: Where is the driver? Have they been loaded? What is the ETA for the load? Can you send the bill of lading?
While some brokers will only make 1-2 calls a day, there are some agents who have been known to ask for updates every 15-30 minutes. This eats into your dispatchers’ valuable time.
When your tool of choice is the phone or two-way radio, you are limited by time. A check that reveals no issues is complete wasted motion. You are also more prone to miscommunication, which can lead to routing mistakes and further inefficiencies, which may in turn impact customer satisfaction. The more you can reduce the “all clear” types of back and forth, the more time you can save your dispatchers, and the more you can reduce errors, the more efficient your whole operation will be – and the happier your customers will be.
There are 4 main ways a trucking company can manage their check calls in 2023:
While ELDs and other GPS tracking systems provided a valuable first step in being able to see where a truck is, a fully featured dispatch software (or TMS) enables trucking carriers to deepen customer trust and to fully eliminate check calls through automation.
Modern trucking dispatch software solutions like Truckbase achieve this through five primary areas:
“Truckbase is the most intuitive and easy software I’ve found after evaluating over 20 TMS providers. Any dispatcher can pick it up within 30 minutes.” -Tom H, Owner of Herlache Truck Lines
A live tracking link is a unique link that you can send to your customers via email to view all relevant information on the load as well as the location of the load.
Trucking dispatch software like Truckbase provides all the relevant information and documentation your customer may want for that load in addition to the location.
The addition of the other documents provides you more control over what gets shared (e.g., stop sharing the truck location after the load has been delivered). It also provides more information than a simple GPS tracker because check calls often include additional questions, such as “is the driver loaded?” or “can you send a copy of the bill of lading?”.
With modern dispatch software solutions like Truckbase, dispatchers are able to view and access their truck location and other ELD information through their dispatch software (or TMS). The dispatcher can rest assured that they will be automatically alerted – and the driver in turn – if there are any issues that arise. Thus you can now leverage your dispatchers to do higher level human intervention that is both more stimulating and more impactful, than having them do rote checks.
When considering implementing live tracking, it’s important to think about your driver’s preferences for tracking on their phone vs. the truck. While phone-level tracking may seem simple, do they have any privacy concerns about tracking on their device? Are they comfortable with remembering to actively turn tracking on their device for every load? Are they comfortable with technology and using multiple apps on their phone when different customers request tracking through different apps?
In addition, do you wish to provide tracking to customers who don’t have a 3rd party tracking system in place?
Providing live tracking through an ELD integration with a TMS system allows you to provide more reliable tracking and simplify your driver’s experience with your technology.
Last, while some software systems only allow you to integrate with their own ELD or provide integrations with 1-2 ELDs, dispatch software like Truckbase allows you to connect with 30+ different ELD devices. This is key because it provides more optionality if you wish to change out devices in the future.
As you grow beyond solely relying on load boards and begin to have dedicated customer relationships, a dedicated customer portal serves two overarching functions: it reflects a degree of professionalism and reliability to your customers which gives them increased confidence in giving you their business, and it can dramatically reduce customer-facing calls by allowing for self-service status update checks. By providing them similar visibility into the progress, tracking, and real-time updates that your dispatchers can leverage, your customers can rest assured that all is on track and they’ll be notified instantaneously if anything is amiss. Transparency is key to building trust and deeper relationships with customers, and they don’t want to waste their time any more than you do.
Tying to the customer portal, the logical extension of real-time tracking is providing real-time updates as needed. These are tunable to the extent you would like more or fewer, positive or negative. Know where your trucks are, get updates on when the driver arrived at the shipper, is loaded, in transit, etc.
Being able to configure these updates for different customers helps with identifying issues with detention, builds customer trust, and can improve your carriers’ rating with brokers.
Similarly to customer updates, your driver updates will tend to be more frequent and more detail oriented than what your customers require. With these as well, tools like Truckbase can automatically ping your driver with relevant updates or change delivery destinations and requirements. If they need to rest to remain compliant, they can be alerted automatically.
Check calls remain a key frustration and barrier to growth for trucking companies, especially for those growing quickly. By harnessing the power of dispatch software like Truckbase and its various automations, you can meaningfully reduce check calls for your dispatchers, drivers, and customers. Improve the satisfaction of all involved, and scale your business without breaking your team.
This guide outlines the process for selecting the right TMS and trucking software for your business, based on your unique needs. It’s important to keep in mind that there is no such thing as a “best” trucking software for the industry. There are various factors that make certain software options better for your fleet than others:
Typically, we see trucking organizations revolve around five core functions: customer relations (sales), dispatch, operations & finance, maintenance, and compliance. In large fleets, these tend to be distinct teams. In smaller fleets, fewer team members tend to wear multiple hats, so you might have one or two team members working on booking loads & dispatch and a few team members covering all other operations.
Regardless of your team’s size, the first critical step is to simply list the key tasks and responsibilities of each of your functions. We recommend doing this as a team, using sticky notes on a wall or making notes on a whiteboard. You often will surprise yourself with a number of gaps and areas for improvement. Even ahead of selecting software, this process can reveal eye-opening improvement areas for your team to get more efficient and be more effective in working together.
Here is a list of questions to go through while mapping out your current workflow:
If you don’t know what you’re solving for, you’re unlikely to be satisfied with a software implementation. Go through the following list and develop a short description of your goals and timeline for a software system.
Are you trying to…
Once you have identified the top 3-5 priorities, you can then start to identify solutions. We recommend writing this down in 1-2 sentences, so you have a clear sense of what your goals are.
Here are a few examples of statements of goals and how they map to potential software solutions:
“I’m looking to support our growth from 5-50 trucks, and move off of cobbled-together tools without breaking the bank or getting bogged down in a lengthy implementation process.”
“My business is increasingly based on direct relationships with customers as opposed to solely relying on load boards. I’m looking to professionalize and build trust with customers, and I want to get more dedicated lanes with a few major brokerages.”
“Manual data entry takes time away from booking loads, and duplicating data across systems means lost BOLs and loads”
“As we grow, dispatching and communicating with drivers is getting too painful. I need a system to manage it all in one place.”
It’s possible to spend over $100,000+ on trucking software if you want a highly customized suite that has enterprise features you’ll ever need and can help you scale to 500+ trucks. If you’re a smaller fleet, there are several options that are dynamic, cloud-based, and adaptable as you grow from 5 to 50 trucks and beyond.
For a few helpful lists of trucking software, here are three worth reviewing:
One thing to keep in mind is ease of use and implementation. The worst software is the one that doesn’t get used because your team can’t figure it out. For smaller fleets especially, ease of use is directly related to how successful a new software will be for your team.
As you review different trucking software providers, here are a few areas to evaluate. Keep in mind what your goals are. For the areas you’re looking to improve the most, does a specific provider have great solutions?
Here are a few features to consider for each functional area:
When selecting a trucking software provider, the team you have access to is critical. Are you going to be handed off from a salesperson immediately after you sign? Have you met and vetted your account manager? Do you have access to a contact who can resolve issues as they arise?
It is crucial to ask for references and thoroughly examine customer reviews. Choosing a software provider is not just a transactional decision but a long-term investment. The best software providers treat their customers like partners.
Reviewing online feedback from other users offers a broader perspective on the provider's reputation, overall customer satisfaction, and potential challenges.
Requesting references allows you to gather valuable insights from existing clients, enabling you to assess the software's performance, ease of use, reliability, and customer service. By reaching out to references, you can gain firsthand information about the provider's responsiveness, professionalism, and their commitment to further improvements to the software.
This comprehensive evaluation of references and reviews ensures that you make an informed decision, establishing a strong foundation for a lasting partnership with a trucking software provider that aligns with your business objectives and provides ongoing support and value.