Transportation management systems (TMS) revolutionized the trucking industry. From scheduling loads, carriers, and drivers to finding the best routes, transportation management systems handle critical tasks faster and more efficiently than even the most experienced logistics professionals.
In light of those successes, widespread adoption is making it increasingly harder for companies without a TMS to compete. And that trend shows no sign of slowing. In fact, the United States TMS market is expected to reach almost $200 billion by 2025.
Technologies like TMS don't just stop; they keep evolving. And the next logical step for transportation management systems is to go mobile via an app. After all, mobility is the bedrock of the trucking and shipping industries.
With a TMS iPhone app, drivers can access essential features of the company's system while on the road. Some companies even share the app with vendors and customers, giving them custom dashboards so they can access the information that matters most to them.
In this post, you'll learn how transportation management iPhone apps can extend your TMS capabilities throughout your entire transportation process.
You have two primary choices when it comes to incorporating mobile capability into your transportation management system:
Off-the-shelf apps tend to be cheaper, but they may offer a lot of features you don't need. Also, they may not include your company's dream features.
Custom software, on the other hand, can be expensive, especially if you're working with a developer who's used to serving enterprise-level organizations. Fortunately, more and more developers are working on niche apps that serve a particular market.
If you search the App Store for "transportation management for iPhone," you'll get a whole list of apps that address different aspects of the trucking industry. Some of them are designed to let carriers bid on shipments or calculate the best routes, and others handle just about every aspect of transportation management.
A word of caution, though: Some of the best apps are designed to work with a particular transportation management system. If you're using a different TMS, you can scratch those off your list right away.
For the ones that remain, take a close look at the features and think about whether any of them really fit your needs. The right mobile app could provide tremendous benefits, so this isn't the time to settle for something that's almost right.
Custom apps used to be expensive. However, a growing number of development companies have turned their attention to specific niches. That's because it's more efficient to develop an app when most customers share common needs. Developers often take a modular approach, giving customers a choice as to which combination of features best fits their needs. These developers can also create custom integrations so that everything done on the mobile app syncs with the main transportation management system.
The built-in capabilities of today's smartphones help developers offer their products at affordable prices. When the phones themselves have features like GPS, scanners, cameras, Bluetooth capabilities, etc., developers can keep costs down by building on those assets.
Whether you're considering buying an app from the App Store or working with a developer, ask about integration before anything else. Because if you already have a TMS system, buying an app that can't integrate with it would be like buying an old 45 record to play on your iPod. They both play music, but they require completely different platforms. And those platforms don't communicate with each other.
If the app can't seamlessly integrate with your TMS, it's probably not worth the investment. You'd end up with two parallel systems that don't talk to each other, which would probably be more trouble than your old paper-based systems.
Once you've got the basic question of integration covered, it's time to look at what's possible: What can a good TMS mobile app do, and which of those capabilities are most important for your business?
Capturing proof of delivery is how trucking companies get paid. That usually involves drivers signing off on a lot of paperwork. Unfortunately, things like illegible handwriting and forms that never make it back to headquarters make the process inefficient.
A driver with a TMS mobile app can simply scan the paperwork. The app would then route it through the TMS system to the proper person or department. If some customers use QR and barcodes, mobile TMS apps can handle those, too.
And if you want to make things as fool-proof as possible, you could design a custom workflow for each customer. What would that look like? Here's an example:
When the driver logged in at the point of delivery, the app would launch the appropriate workflow, pulling up a list of documents, signatures, etc., demanded by that particular customer. Behind the scenes, everything would be routed to the right place. For example, the workflow's final step could be generating an invoice once all of the right documentation was uploaded and verified.
Things don't always go the way they're supposed to. When something goes wrong, the outcome could depend on what the driver does. If the driver arrives at the point of delivery, for example, and discovers that some boxes were damaged en route, the driver could use the app to launch a specific workflow, including tasks like photographing the damage, collecting signatures and damage reports from the recipient, and more. That kind of on-the-ground capture of information could make resolving problems like damaged deliveries a cinch.
Accidents offer another good example. Drivers could use the app to take pictures, upload police reports, etc., all of which would automatically be entered into the TMS. You could even have an accident reporting workflow that would guide the driver through the necessary steps.
Many parts of the country have weak cell reception, which could create a problem if you're relying on documents uploaded by drivers. Look for a mobile app that lets the driver complete all of the usual tasks offline and then uploads the documentation automatically once the phone reconnects to a cell or WiFi network.
Mobile apps are also great for sending two-way notifications. A driver who is stuck in road construction could send a notification about the delay so that someone at headquarters could get in touch with the customer. And the routing department at headquarters could notify drivers of traffic delays, sending them alternate routes based on real-time data.
Maintaining proof of compliance for all of the regulations that apply to trucking can be difficult and time-consuming. A mobile app can simplify that process by using GPS and time stamps to verify drivers' logs, for example. A driver could also pull up the app if asked to show a commercial driver's license or proof of certification for carrying a particular type of load.
In this post, you learned about options for adding a mobile app to your TMS. We also covered some important things you should consider when researching solutions.
Transportation, logistics and supply chain, and trucking are all things that are inherently mobile. Doesn't it make sense that your TMS should be mobile, too?
This post was written by Patti Podnar. Patti is a Copyblogger-certified content marketer experienced in writing for a variety of industries: logistics and supply chain, industrial internet of things, IoT, digital transformation, sourcing and procurement, retail, etc. The thing that enables her to write about such a wide variety of topics is a deep understanding of how content should drive business goals.