TMS Software for Carriers: How to Choose

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.
Published on
October 26, 2023
min read

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.

Step 1: Who’s Doing What? Understand Your People, Process, and Technology Today

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.

Step 2: Clarify Your Goals and Problem Areas

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.” 

Step 3: Investigate Carrier TMSes and Their Core Features

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.

Step 4: Evaluate the People Behind the TMS – It’s a Partnership

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.

Key Features to Evaluate in TMS Software for Carriers

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.

Dispatch: Your Lifeblood

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.

Driver Settlements: Building Trust and Goodwill

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.

Invoicing: Accelerate and Automate How You Get Paid

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.

ELD Integrations: Real-Time Load Tracking

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: Support Direct Customer Integrations

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.

QuickBooks: The Accounting Giant

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.

Customer Portal: Self-Service Dashboard

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.

Truck Level Profitability: Full Fleet Performance Visibility

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.

You’re Now Ready to Choose Your Ideal Carrier TMS

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.

Schedule your demo today to understand how Truckbase can help.

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