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Using TMS to improve carrier-shipper relationships

June 3, 2022
Today's technology has the ability to provide fleets with a better understanding of shifts in freight markets as well as the potential to help them reduce truck driver detention time.

Over the last two years, players in the supply chain have been forced to do more with less, with some turning to transportation management systems (TMS) to help address ongoing capacity constraints. 

From where Ken Sherman, president of IntelliTrans, sits, technology works at its best when capacity is tight. IntelliTrans offers a software-as-a-service-based TMS that provides shipment execution and visibility across rail, truck, intermodal, barge, and ocean shipments. The company also manages freight for its customers by intervening with carriers, overseeing the dispatch process, auditing, and paying freight bills, monitoring in-transit shipments, analyzing performance, and automating spot-market processes.

Within the IntelliTransTMS, motor carriers can utilize a dock scheduling solution, where the carrier can set up loads for pickup ahead of time and based on selected timeframes. Sherman noted that when this functionality is deployed at a shipper facility, the loads subject to detention can be reduced by 77% in a given month.

“The TMS can capture four events at the shipper facility: Gate in, dock in, dock out, gate out,” Sherman told FleetOwner. “By capturing those events at the shipper side, we can show how much they should get paid and for how many hours. When carriers invoice the shipper, it’s easy for the shipper to audit it, which means the carrier gets paid faster.”

See also: More data sees TL volumes in retreat, spot market in freefall

In addition, TMS can be used to automatically calculate fuel, driver pay, and all the other costs that drive fleets' income statements. Lately, Sherman has also noticed some of his shipper customers posting fuel surcharges on the welcome page of their systems so carriers can calculate their costs upfront.

“The technology has been available, and it’s getting more and more deployed, but what slows it is the willingness to collaborate,” Sherman said. “When we are integrating with carriers, we say, ‘How do you want to be integrated?’ They can send us the data within their system so they can control the on-off switch. That’s the most common thing we see.”

The TMS also allows fleet owners to decide how they want to comply with shipper demands.

“We say the behavior the shipper wants to see is this: It’s up to you to use one of these channels to comply with that behavior—give me proof of pickup information, proof of delivery information, and give me an update every two hours in between,” Sherman pointed out.

Data within reach

Another trend within the industry has been the drive to bring all relevant fleet management data into one place, according to Manoj Parmar, product manager for Axele TMS. Today, many fleet managers are using different sets of technologies to run their operations, and bringing all that ELD, routing software, load, and payment data into one user interface is a goal for fleets and software providers alike.

“Give them all the tools in one place and make it accessible to them on the cloud,” Parmar said. “Trucking is a 24/7 operation. A driver may be finishing a load at night and need some help, so the dispatcher may want to connect with him. If the driver can access a dispatcher with their mobile phone, dispatchers won’t have to sit at the office all the time.”

Fleet managers also are looking for more ways to benchmark themselves against the market. Through McLeod’s LoadMaster and PowerBroker solutions, the company’s newly launched MPact Pro gives fleets and brokers market analysis of their shipping lanes along with the ability to benchmark against similar fleets.

By extracting more elements from the data on loads that actually moved, MPact Pro breaks down nationwide truckload lanes in more depth so fleets can create a step-by-step picture of capacity and volume in markets and evaluate the ever-shifting rate landscape. MPact Pro offers analysis about both buy and sell trucking rates—and the ability to benchmark and visualize the results against their own operating history.

“Not every load is a good load,” Mark Cubine, VP of marketing for McLeod Software, told FleetOwner. “Not every customer is a good customer, regardless of the length of the relationship and regardless of the price of a load. A lot of these companies don’t understand that.”

Aside from making fleet operations more driver-centric, utilization of the right TMS and software can give fleet managers a better understanding of shifts in freight markets and can help prevent them from leaving profits on the table. 

About the Author

Cristina Commendatore

Cristina Commendatore was previously the Editor-in-chief of FleetOwner magazine. She reported on the transportation industry since 2015, covering topics such as business operational challenges, driver and technician shortages, truck safety, and new vehicle technologies. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut.

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