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Complete guide to transport management systems

Transport management systems (TMS) have revolutionized the way that businesses can manage and optimize their transportation operations. From simplifying complex logistics to reducing costs and boosting efficiency, the tool has revolutionized the industry. 

Trucking companies and supply chain managers now have countless transport management software options at their disposal. And on one hand, having a plethora of choices is better than being restricted to just a few. On the other hand, though, how can you know which one to choose?

Finding the right one for your trucking business can be a daunting task. We assembled a comprehensive TMS guide to help, complete with links to even more detailed information. Keep reading to learn why you should consider a TMS, how it works, selection considerations and our recommendations for 2023. 

Quicklook: FreightWaves Ratings articles included in this guide

The basics: what is transport management?

Transport management is the process of efficiently managing the transportation of goods from one place to another. This management involves planning, executing, and controlling the movement of freight. It also entails overseeing various back-office processes, like documentation, operational optimization and billing, across all transportation modes. 

A TMS can help a trucking business to reduce costs, find the best routes and build schedules. Transport software solutions have really improved in recent years, delivering greater functionality and flexibility to support increasingly complex logistics processes.

Now let’s get into why you should consider investing in a TMS for your business.

Top transport management benefits 

Manually overseeing logistics is significantly less efficient without modern transport management software for brokers, carriers and shippers. As overall shipment volumes have increased, so has the complexity of tracking and optimizing the flow of goods in transit. A TMS will streamline your supply chain operations in many ways. Our guide to the Top benefits of TMS explains exactly how. 

And if you’re a shipper who isn’t sure how a TMS fits into your business, read How can TMS integration benefit shippers? You’ll learn about the five top reasons why implementing transport management software can increase efficiency and create competitive advantage.

On a high level, here are some examples of transport management system benefits:

  • Streamlined operations
  • Increased visibility
  • Optimized routing
  • Better customer service
  • Enhanced communication
  • Improved inventory management
  • Reduced carbon footprint
  • Risk mitigation 

Connecting a warehouse management system to your TMS

You may now be wondering if it’s possible to integrate a TMS to the technologies you’re already using. To answer simply, yes. And you should! 

Combining your back-office warehouse management software (WMS) with your TMS in particular offers several powerful advantages. These are covered in depth in the FreightWaves article “Can I connect my warehouse management system to my TMS?

The article also will take you through some of the main steps for integrating the two systems. Generally speaking, you’ll have to:

  1. Identify the integration points: Determine the data that’ll need to be shared between the warehouse management system and your TMS. This includes shipment data fields, like weight, volume, dimensions, origin and destination points.
  2. Choose the integration method: There are many integration options, each with their own pros and cons. They include, for instance, API, web services, FTP and EDI. Choose the one that suits your requirements and capabilities best.
  3. Configure the integration: Set up the integration between your warehouse management system and TMS. Make sure to test it thoroughly for data accuracy and completeness. 
  4. Set up automation: Once the integration is set up, automate the data transfer process to reduce manual efforts and errors.
  5. Monitor and optimize: Keep an eye out for any transfer issues or data errors. Continuously optimize processes to get the most out of both technologies.

Once finished, you can streamline your operations, reduce manual efforts and errors, and establish greater control over your supply chain.

How to compare transport management systems

As already mentioned, choosing the right TMS can be challenging due to the breadth of options available. Each has its own unique features, with many designed to meet the needs of a specific industry or type of business. Read How to make a TMS decision to learn all about the top considerations to keep in mind.

On a high level, it’s important to find out how transport management systems compare in the following categories:

  • Amount of time each takes to implement
  • How well they integrate with your existing tech stack
  • Any niche industry or business requirements you may have
  • Short and long term costs, taking into account growth projections and need for scalability

With thorough research, you can save yourself a lot of time, money and stress in the long run.

Top TMS solutions for 2023

Now you know why you need a TMS, how it connects with a WMS and your main selection considerations. If you’re ready to discover the best fit for your business, reviews and recommendations are a good place to start. 

To that end, we’ve compiled our transport management software recommendations in the FreightWaves Ratings article Top TMS solutions for 2023. There you will find the systems we find best across several categories:

  • Small- to mid-sized carriers
  • Freight brokers
  • Carriers
  • Supply chain management suite TMS module
  • Ease of use
  • Free TMS 

There are many terrific transport management systems out there, and you may need different features than the ones we’ve analyzed. Even realizing what you don’t need helps you narrow down the field of options.

Reap the benefits of a TMS implementation

In closing, if you want to be the best transportation company that you can be, you need to implement a transport management system. 

Just make sure that the solution you choose aligns with your company’s goals and objectives. The right one can make your life significantly easier.


Who uses TMS systems?

Any organization that relies on shipping and receiving items in a volume that requires coordination may benefit from transport management systems. Users often include manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, e-commerce businesses, retailers, freight brokers and 3PLs.

What does a transport management system do?

Transport management systems are technology-based logistics platforms used to plan, monitor and optimize end-to-end supply chains. They can streamline inbound and outbound shipping with automated operations based on customizable parameters set by individual businesses. 

How much does a TMS system cost?

TMS costs are difficult to compare due to differences in business models, capabilities, upfront expenses, payment terms, etc. An enterprise-wide TMS license can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $250,000. The final total depends on the system architecture; the more complex the system, the more it costs. Most TMS packages also come with an annual maintenance cost, which is typically a percentage of the initial outlay.

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