Contributed by Bryan Jones, CEO, Truckbase.com
As asset-based carriers expand and cater to larger, more sophisticated clients, they often encounter the need for EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) to streamline the transfer of load information. Some brokers and shippers even require EDI capabilities to win dedicated lanes. EDI aims to minimize manual data entry, reduce check calls, and ensure accurate data flow between carriers and their customers, including brokers, shippers, and consignees. While the technical aspects of EDI may seem daunting, especially for carriers not specialized in technology, choosing the right software provider to manage these exchanges is crucial for customer satisfaction.
When it comes to EDI for trucking, the technical complexity can seem overwhelming. Carrier teams don’t have time to figure out the technical details of setting up EDI and often don’t care about the nuances of data exchanges. More than anything, carriers want a software provider that can handle the EDI ‘black box’ for them and ensure that the data is clean, accurate, and flowing correctly to ensure their customers are happy.
If EDI is not your core competency, you want a partner for whom it is.
Best 5 EDI trucking solutions
While your transportation management system (TMS) provider should ultimately be the one who handles this black box for you, there are several other types of providers who can do so as well. Here are five reputable providers to keep in mind as you explore establishing EDI connections with your most important customers.
1. Truckbase: The Winning TMS + EDI Combo
Truckbase stands out with its modern TMS designed specifically for regional asset-based carriers operating 10-100 trucks. Its user-friendly software suite, coupled with a consultative approach to integrating EDI into existing workflows, makes it a top choice.
Core features include dispatch, invoicing, QuickBooks integration, driver settlements, ELD integrations, a customer-facing portal, and advanced reporting. Although EDI connections incur an additional fee, Truckbase’s reputation for straightforward and efficient implementation is reflected in its five-star Capterra rating, making it our top pick for a combined TMS and EDI solution.
2. TMW by Trimble: For the largest fleets, with the most robust needs
If you have 500 trucks and up, TMW is likely a TMS you are both familiar with and potentially already using. Their team is capable of adding EDI functionality into your workflows, and tailoring it to your needs. Given the size of the customers they serve, combined with the complexity and age of their product, you should note that this will come with a considerably higher cost and implementation timeline. But as a mega carrier, TMW is an option you should consider.
3. Cleo: A leading EDI technology platform
If you are looking for a pure-play trucking EDI solution that is separate from your carrier TMS, Cleo is a strong candidate. They have deep expertise in trucking, logistics, and supply chain when it comes to establishing trucking EDI connections. That is their core competency and primary line of business. While it is likely to cost as much as if not more than your annual TMS bill, establishing clean and reliable trucking EDI connections is their primary reason for being.
4. Orderful: A modern EDI partner
Similarly to Cleo, Orderful is a newer entrant in the EDI platform space. Founded in 2017, they focus on logistics, manufacturing, retail, and distribution. They boast being able to get you up and running 10x faster than other providers, which can mean you can go live with customers in as few as five days, as opposed to 90 or more days, as is common in this space. Orderful serves well over 1,000 customers, and raised a $19M growth capital round in 2021. Like Cleo, with Orderful you still need a TMS to connect into.
5. GLCS: Your holistic trucking technology consultants
If you’re looking for a trucking technology consultancy that can help you navigate the complex world of EDI, GLCS is a player to consider. GLCS was founded in 2016 by Nate Johnson, a 25-year industry veteran of the trucking systems and technology space. Assessing the various options and helping establish your EDI connections with key customers is a core competency of theirs.
Common trucking EDI transactions
EDI offers multiple standardized transaction types that carriers can leverage to transmit data and document feeds to and from select customers. To provide a few examples, below are several specific yet common EDI transactions used in the trucking space, to give you a sense of how EDI can turn manual data entry and phone calls into automated and standardized processes to streamline your communication, document sharing, and data entry to and from customers.
EDI 204: Motor Carrier Load Tender
This is used by shippers or brokers to offer a load to a carrier. It contains details like pickup and delivery locations, type of freight, weight, and other pertinent information.
EDI 210: Motor Carrier Freight Details and Invoice
Carriers use this to provide an electronic bill to shippers or brokers, detailing the services provided and the charges associated with them.
EDI 211: Bill of Lading
This serves as a receipt of freight services, a contract between a freight carrier and shipper, and a document of title.
EDI 212: Motor Carrier Delivery Trailer Manifest
This provides a list of all shipments on a specific trailer.
EDI 214: Transportation Carrier Shipment Status Message
Carriers use this to update shippers or brokers about the status of a shipment, such as when it’s been picked up, when it’s in transit, and when it’s been delivered.
EDI 990: Response to a Load Tender
Carriers use this to respond to a load offer from a shipper or broker, indicating whether they accept or decline the load.
EDI 997: Functional Acknowledgment
This confirms the receipt of an EDI transaction. It doesn’t necessarily mean the content of the received transaction is accurate or complete, just that it was received.
Benefits of EDI in the trucking industry
In terms of common benefits and reasons both carriers and their customers often have them in place, there are five that stand out:
- Efficiency: Manual processes, such as phone calls, faxes, or emails, are reduced or eliminated. This speeds up communication and reduces the chance of human error.
- Real-time updates: Shippers and brokers can receive real-time updates on shipment status, improving visibility and allowing for better planning and decision-making.
- Cost savings: With reduced manual processes, companies can save on labor costs, paper, postage, and other related expenses.
- Accuracy: EDI reduces the chances of errors that can occur with manual data entry, ensuring that information is more accurate and reliable.
- Integration: EDI can be integrated with other systems, such as TMS or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, allowing for seamless data flow and improved operational efficiency.
Find a reputable trucking EDI solution with a partner you can trust
EDI connections in the trucking industry provide a standardized, efficient, and electronic means of communication between asset-based carriers and their customers, streamlining operations and improving data accuracy. You can’t go wrong with any of the five industry leaders on this list. By prioritizing the features most important to your business, reading reviews, and researching recommendations from peers with similar goals, you’ll soon be able to reap the benefits highlighted above.
EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) enables shipping companies to exchange documents like purchase orders, invoices, and shipping notices electronically instead of on paper. This automated process saves time and costs by eliminating the need for manual data entry.
EDI empowers trucking companies to seamlessly share critical shipment data like pickup/delivery times, cargo descriptions, tracking information with partners. EDI integration optimizes dispatch, billing, customs filing and improves supply chain visibility.
Let’s say a manufacturer sends an EDI shipment order to a trucking company requesting pickup of a load from Chicago to Miami. The trucking company confirms receipt of the order via EDI, and provides electronic proof of delivery once the shipment’s completed.
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