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.