In the ever-evolving realm of asset-based carriers, the right TMS (Transportation Management System) software can help you take your operational efficiency, profitability, and business growth to the next level without adding proportionate headcount to your team. Moreover, the best carrier TMS software will make your team’s job easier and make their work more enjoyable.
As carriers evolve, so do their software needs, and no two carriers are identical. Some are divisions of 3PLs or have brokerage arms, some work solely off of load boards, some handle specialty freight for a few customers, and some only service dedicated lanes.
Whether you're a young and emerging fleet or an established regional or national player, the right software can make all the difference. Here, we evaluate the top five carrier TMS software providers as we head into 2024, assessing their strengths, target audiences, and unique offerings.
- Truckbase: The gold standard for modern carriers. Truckbase (www.truckbase.com) emerges as the top choice for asset-based carriers, particularly those with fleets ranging from 10 to 100 trucks. Designed and built with modern technology, Truckbase offers an intuitive, cloud-based platform that both dispatchers and drivers rave about. It is currently the highest-rated carrier TMS on Capterra, the leading software review site. Its core strengths lie in dispatching, invoicing, and driver settlements, complemented by seamless integrations with ELDs and QuickBooks. For fleets that have larger repeat customers and dedicated lanes, Truckbase’s white-glove EDI capabilities make it easy to offer this service to your customers help to differentiate yourself, win more contracts, and compete on service quality while improving operational efficiency. With a responsive customer support team and a rapid development cycle, Truckbase is the go-to solution for fleets focused on growth, efficiency, and ease-of-use.
- TMW Suite: The veteran for large carriers. TMW Suite by Trimble has long been a staple in the trucking industry. With its extensive history, TMW offers a comprehensive feature set tailored for mega carriers. However, its older codebase can sometimes translate to a less intuitive user experience compared to newer entrants. While its vast capabilities cater to fleets with many hundreds to thousands of trucks, the software demands a significant financial and time investment. Much like McLeod, TMW's strength lies in its customization, but potential users should be prepared for a steeper learning curve and meaningfully steeper price.
- AscendTMS: The free TMS. AscendTMS is often referred to as "The Free TMS" and offers a cost-effective solution for micro carriers that are on a tight budget. While it provides basic TMS functionalities, its user interface has seen limited investment, which might affect the overall user experience. However, its zero-cost offering makes it an attractive option for startups or smaller fleets. Users should be aware that while it's free to start, its price increases quickly as you grow and add functionality. So, it may end up costing you more and require more staff to manage than other modern options..
- Axon Software: Comprehensive TMS with built-in accounting . Axon Software stands out with its unique offering of having its own accounting software. However, this built-in accounting system is notably clunkier than mainstream options like QuickBooks that you can easily integrate with your TMS. This can make it a challenging transition for accounting teams, as it is a less ubiquitous software suite and thus requires more onboarding and training for you and your finance and accounting staff. While Axon provides a comprehensive set of features such as dispatch and driver settlements, it still requires a significant amount of manual data entry, contrasting with the automation capabilities of platforms like Truckbase.
- Google Sheets: The DIY approach. For startups, owner-operators, or those on a tight budget, Google Sheets offers a basic yet functional solution. As a web-based spreadsheet tool, it allows for real-time collaboration and can be accessed from anywhere. While it doesn’t have support for complex macros like you may experience in Excel, it is far easier to use when you have multiple team members working out of a single sheet. Tech-savvy users still can harness its capabilities to create custom dispatch workflows, and comment functionality allows you to communicate among your team within specific cells. However, its generalist nature means it lacks the specialized features of dedicated TMS solutions, making it best suited as a temporary or starter solution.
Choosing the right TMS software hinges on understanding your fleet's unique needs, size, and growth trajectory. From the modern and efficient Truckbase to the comprehensive yet clunky Axon, carriers have a range of options to consider. By weighing the specific requirements against each provider's offerings, carriers can make an informed decision that propels their business forward.