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Guide to buying the right shipper TMS for your business

Transporting goods efficiently and cost-effectively is critical for businesses today, but managing logistics in-house can be complex and resource intensive. Implementing robust transportation management system software can optimize your shipping operations and provide a high return on investment. 

This guide will walk you through the key factors to consider when selecting the right shipper TMS solution for your unique business needs.

And when you’re finished reading, check out the other articles in our ‘Shipper TMS’ series:

What is a shipper TMS?

Shipper transportation management system software (TMS) is used by companies that need to ship products (known as shippers) to manage and optimize their shipping operations. A TMS solution automates processes like shipment booking, load consolidation, routing, carrier management, shipping documentation, and tracking to make the process simpler and more efficient. 

Key features of a shipper TMS platform include the ability to compare carrier rates, generate optimized routes, manage carrier profiles, produce shipping labels and documents, provide real-time shipment visibility, and analyze shipping data through reporting and analytics. The goal of a TMS system for shippers is to improve logistics efficiency, reduce transportation costs, gain transparency into the shipping process, and save money. 

Top transportation management systems are typically offered as a cloud-based software-as-a-service platform that handles shipping needs from order to final mile delivery. Leading software for transportation management in logistics is provided by TMS companies like Truckbase and Trimble.

How does a TMS system work?

A TMS in logistics works by connecting to various back-end systems like ERP, accounting software, warehouse management systems, etc. to gather relevant order, shipment, and inventory data.

The shipping TMS then uses this data to automate processes like shipment planning, execution, and freight audit. For planning, it can suggest optimal carriers, modes, routes and rates for a shipment based on business rules and historical data. Once the shipment is booked, the TMS shipping software tracks its status and provides visibility through proactive alerts about delays or issues.

The shipping management system also generates documents like labels, bills of lading, customs paperwork. It monitors invoice accuracy and enforces business rules like freight classes to ensure optimal spend. Reporting and analytics within a TMS supply chain management platform gives insights into carrier performance, costs, trends and opportunities for improvement.

TMS software providers connect with carriers through EDI, API integrations or online portals to exchange booking, tracking and billing information electronically. Built-in workflow tools allow easy management of processes like claims, disputes and approvals. Transportation management systems are often cloud-based, providing access to shippers and carriers via web and mobile.

By centralizing and automating the shipping process, TMS systems for shippers improve efficiency, reduce costs, enhance compliance, and provide end-to-end visibility. The transport management software allows making data-driven decisions to optimize the supply chain.

11 tips for finding the best TMS software

With so many TMS management options on the market, narrowing the right one to meet your specific needs and objectives may seem daunting. Here are the most important tips for finding the best transportation management systems :

  1. Clearly define your TMS service requirements and pain points. What shipping volumes do you have? What modes do you use? This helps match TMS capabilities.
  2. Look for a TMS tool that supports integration with your other logistics systems like WMS, ERP, etc. API and EDI capability is key.
  3. Ensure the transportation planning software provides optimization tools for load consolidation, route planning, mode/carrier selection. This drives efficiency.
  4. Check that the transport management system software offers online load booking, shipping document generation, customs clearance and tracking capabilities. TMS automation is key.
  5. Seek advanced reporting and data analytics to gain insights into freight spend, carrier performance, shipping trends, etc.
  6. Look for SaaS-based TMS options for lower startup costs, quicker implementation and lesser IT involvement. Cloud-platforms are preferred.
  7. Evaluate transportation software that’s configurable to your workflows rather than forcing business process changes.
  8. Look for a TMS application offering relevant transportation vertical expertise that matches your needs.
  9. Choose a freight TMS with mobile access so you can manage shipments on-the-go.
  10. Check that the logistics TMS provides excellent ongoing support and has resources to train your staff.
  11. Review the total cost of ownership over three to five years, not just startup fees. Ongoing costs matter.

Following these tips will help select the right TMS company that maximizes logistics efficiency, visibility and cost control.

How much does a transportation management system cost?

Here are some typical cost factors in a TMS purchase:

  • Software license fees: For on-site TMS freight platforms, this entails an upfront license purchase. Could range from $10,000 for a basic system to over $100,000 for more robust transport management solutions.
  • SaaS subscription fees: For a cloud-based TMS, there are monthly/annual subscription fees instead of a license. Around $1,000-$3,000 per month is typical.
  • Implementation and integration: Can cost $50,000 to $300,000+, depending on the complexity of integration with other software systems.
  • Mapping and set-up: Additional fees to map workflows, configure settings, test integrations. May be $10,000 to $40,000.
  • Training and support: Ongoing costs for training users on the software, helpdesk support, etc. Around $5,000-$20,000 per year.
  • Customization: Modifying the software to meet unique business needs costs extra. Between $40-$150 per hour typically.
  • Maintenance and upgrades: Annual fees for ongoing maintenance, bug fixes, updates: around 18-22% of license cost.
  • Transaction-based fees: Some TMS logistics companies charge per shipment, per carrier integration, etc. These add to variable costs.

Overall, for a mid-size company, the total cost for implementing TMS software for shippers and using it for three to five years could easily be $200,000+ when factoring all expenses. Going with a SaaS model reduces startup costs.

Reap the benefits of a shipper TMS

Selecting and implementing the right transportation management system is a strategic investment that can significantly improve your logistics operations. Be sure to thoroughly evaluate options, involve key stakeholders, and align on requirements before choosing the best transport management software. Next, develop an implementation roadmap that includes integration with existing systems, testing, training, and change management to drive user adoption. Taking these steps will help you maximize the value of your new TMS solution.


How many shippers use a TMS?

According to industry estimates, around 40-45% of global shippers currently use some form of transportation management system (TMS) to manage their logistics operations. Among larger companies shipping full truckload volumes, TMS adoption rates can be as high as 70-80%.

What is a TMS in shipping?

A transportation management system (TMS) is a software platform that helps shippers manage, plan, execute, and optimize their domestic and global shipments across modes like full truckload, less than truckload, parcel, rail, and ocean.

Why do shippers need a TMS?

Shippers need a TMS to improve efficiency, reduce freight costs, gain visibility into their supply chain, and better manage orders, transportation, and logistics providers from a centralized platform. A TMS automates processes and provides data-driven insights.

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