Transportation Management Provider: How to Choose The Best One

12/01/2021

Transportation Management Provider: How to Choose The Best One

Using transportation management software (TMS) is a powerful way to gain control and visibility over your supply chain. But trying to decide which transportation management provider to use can be overwhelming. There are so many different software platforms available and providers who offer transportation management software. How can you choose the best software and provider for you?

When starting your search for a transportation management provider, there are several questions you should ask yourself: 

  • Do I want a cloud-based TMS or otherwise? 
  • What capabilities do I want from the TMS? 
  • Do I want a Managed Services option? 
  • Am I looking for more help than just technology when it comes to my logistics? 
  • Most importantly, do I want to buy the software outright or outsource?

BREAKING DOWN THE TWO TYPES OF TRANSPORTATION MANAGEMENT PROVIDERS

On a high level, there are two different types of companies that offer TMS products. There are software companies whose sole purpose is to develop and sell TMS software. Then there are third-party logistics (3PL) companies that offer TMS software as one element of the many other logistics and transportation services they provide. 

There are differences and advantages to working with each kind of transportation management provider. Particularly, sourcing your TMS through a 3PL provider can have some major benefits, especially for small- to medium-sized businesses.

In the past, implementing a TMS was usually out of reach if your company was not of a certain size. However, advances in transportation management software have made it an option for more companies than ever.  

For this reason, deploying a TMS can be a new experience for small- to mid-sized companies. And working directly with a software provider can be intimidating if that’s the case. Additionally, logistics may not be a core focus for smaller companies, so they might need an extra hand in determining their best solution.

TRANSPORTATION MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE COMPANIES

The transportation management software of today is nothing like it was years ago. However, implementing a TMS will often make it the new backbone of your supply chain. And if you’re looking to purchase software outright versus outsourcing with a 3PL, you’ll soon realize that not all transportation management software companies offer the same thing. 

When shopping around for your own transportation management software, you’ll want to look for these capabilities:

  • Rating and contract management
    • This will help you with managing freight rates, sourcing, contract management, and bid RFP tools.
  • Order planning
    • This will help you with routing, optimizing your delivery processes, integrating your delivery data, and getting a granular view of all transportation stages.
  • Optimization
    • This will help you by offering more comprehensive load-building tools so you can identify opportunities to reduce costs, whether through consolidation, multi-stops, zone skipping, pool distribution, or other methods.
  • Load Tendering
    • This helps you by automating tendering, managing your carriers, and helping turn quotes into loads.
  • Tracking
    • Simple enough, this helps you by giving you end-to-end, real-time visibility.
  • Reporting
    • This gives you more insightful data into your processes, so you can review expenses, carrier performance, and more to find what’s working and what’s not.
  • Financials
    • This helps you by helping automate financial operations.

According to Intek, these are some of the top transportation management software providers:

3GTMS

BLUEJAY

CLOUD LOGISTICS

DESCARTES

JDA

KUEBIX

MANHATTAN

MERCURY GATE

ORACLE

SAP

TMC

TMW

TRANSPLACE

A TMS ALONE MAY NOT BE WORTH IT

Just like buying QuickBooks doesn’t automatically make you an accountant or purchasing Adobe Creative Suite doesn’t make you a graphic designer, purchasing a TMS outright doesn’t automatically make you an expert in how to use it. 

To start seeing the benefits of transportation management software, you’ll need a team of experts to use it. You’re going to need to build out a team of transportation management software specialists who can expertly use, read, and pull reporting from your new TMS. Unfortunately, the amount of expertise and support needed can be difficult to find, establish, and maintain. 

This is where you might find a greater benefit to using a transportation management software provider who does more than sell TMS software.

MAKING A CASE FOR A 3PL PROVIDER

You might think 3PL companies only handle arranging freight, but they offer so much more and can be an ideal transportation management provider.

TRANSPORTATION MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE

A 3PL can be an excellent option for a transportation management provider. Not only do you gain access to their TMS technology, you know that they will know the software inside and out as most make use of it themselves. You’ll have access to experts who know how to make use of all the tools and reporting. Additionally, many offer Managed Services with their transportation management software, meaning you could have a team of TMS specialists ready to help you from Day 1. No worries over finding, training, and retaining your own in-house team.

ACCESS TO THEIR RELATIONSHIPS

Outside of their transportation management software, you’ll also gain access to a 3PL’s relationships. This includes their carrier, vendor, and technology relationships. So, whether you need them or not, it’s still good to know that should the time come where you need some extra help, you have a 3PL on your side to support you through their built industry connections.

EXPERTISE

Often, 3PLs have seen it all. They’ve most likely worked with many different companies, freight, and complicated situations. They’ve faced supply chain disruption, tight turnaround times, and transportation inefficiencies. Having a logistics expert like a 3PL on your side can be an exponentially significant benefit. It can be near impossible to source the type of knowledge and consultative expertise a 3PL has without directly working with one. 

CUSTOMIZABLE SOLUTIONS

Generally, a 3PL will work with your team to deploy a system that specifically meets your needs, while a software company is more likely to offer an “out of the box” solution. That’s perfectly fine if you know exactly what you are looking for. But for smaller companies with less logistics experience, it can be overwhelming. A 3PL can help fill the knowledge gaps and ensure your investment is valuable and will have ROI.

This difference can also have an impact on the cost of implementation. Software companies tend to consider a customized solution as more work for their implementation team, which translates into person-hours, and into higher implementation fees for your company. On the other hand, an experienced 3PL can guide you through the process and advise the best options for your company, and that’s not considered an additional service. Again, this may not be required for companies with very experienced and knowledgeable logistics departments – especially if they have implemented a TMS before – but it’s extremely valuable for businesses who may be doing this for the first time.

TRINITY LOGISTICS COULD BE THE TRANSPORTATION MANAGEMENT PROVIDER FOR YOU

Trinity Logistics is an excellent example of a 3PL that offers a TMS to its customers while also offering many other services.

At Trinity, we understand everyone’s needs are different, which is why we offer a highly configurable system. To start, we offer you three main options in transportation management software:

  • Software-as-a-Service (Saas)
    • Looking just for transportation management software? Through this option, you’ll get the tech, support, and account management. 
  • A managed TMS
    • Looking for a TMS and some additional support? Through this option, you’ll get TMS technology and operational support to offload your day-to-day processes.
  • An Integrated outsource TMS
    • Want to fully outsource your transportation management? This option gives you the TMS plus a fully outsourced logistics team with an integrated partnership.

If none of those three options fit your business’s needs, we can further customize a solution for you, so you get exactly what you’re looking for. No matter your unique needs, you’ll gain access to our best-in-class technology backed by superusers with logistics expertise. And through our People-Centric service, you’ll gain valuable insight, support, and knowledge for your company’s logistics management. 

GET A FREE SUPPLY CHAIN ANALYSIS TO SEE WHAT SOLUTIONS WE HAVE FOR YOU

NOT LOOKING FOR THE FULL TRANSPORTATION MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE EXPERIENCE?

We understand committing to a transportation management provider is a big change. That’s why we also offer you Trinity’s Customer Portal, exclusively for shippers working with Trinity. There’s no commitment or additional charges and you’ll get to experience a sample of our TMS technology. Through the Customer Portal you can track your Trinity shipments, request quotes, view your invoices and historical quotes, all in one place.

START SHIPPING WITH TRINITY TO GAIN ACCESS

Author: Christine Morris