No two trucking companies have exactly the same trucking delivery process. But they all can take advantage of transportation management systems (TMSs) and other technologies.
In this post, you'll learn how to use integration to get the most out of your TMS while preserving your unique approach to doing business.
America depends on trucks. With almost 70% of goods transported by truck, trucks are the preferred way of getting goods from one place to another within the United States. They crisscross the country with almost 11 billion tons of goods per year. The gross domestic product from trucking in the United States is higher than in any other country in the world. And to top it off, driving a truck is the most common job in the United States.
But despite the size of the industry, it's very splintered. Smaller companies with 100 trucks or fewer are popping up all over, competing against the large companies that have traditionally ruled the market.
Let's say you've built your company from the ground up, and you've developed a trucking delivery process that works for the way you do business.
Maybe, along the way, you added a TMS to increase efficiency and productivity. Maybe you discovered later on that it didn't fit all your workflows, but you didn't want to change things just to fit the TMS. It may be a messy process, but it's your process.
Your trucking delivery process may be like nobody else's, but most trucking companies have one thing in common: jobs to be done.
That's the foundation transportation management systems are built on. A TMS has to be generic enough to appeal to lots of logistics firms, so each TMS focuses on the core jobs trucking companies do.
Regardless of size or any other variable, all trucking companies move goods from one site to another. And there are universal jobs they do to accomplish that goal.
See how many of these jobs your trucking company does.
Building the ideal load means matching the right load with the right truck, driver, and route.
Doing this job effectively has a big impact on profitability. It lets you optimize load capacity, control fuel consumption, and choose the best route for the load.
Another factor in building the ideal load is making sure both the truck and the driver are rated for the load they'll be carrying.
Some people would consider this Job #1. You can't run your business effectively if you don't know where your trucks, loads, and drivers are.
These tasks may be boring, but they keep the business running.
In an industry like trucking, which is regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), you can drown in paperwork. But that paperwork proves your trucks have passed inspection, your drivers each have a valid commercial driver's license (CDL) and are maintaining their certifications, and so on.
Some trucking companies keep track of where everybody is by moving sticky notes around on a whiteboard. Others use a spreadsheet. (And if a truck is overdue, they cross their fingers, pick up a phone, and hope that the driver is within cell phone range.)
Some trucking companies use telematics to track a driver's location and hours. Others rely on paperwork the drivers collect at their destination.
Some companies use telematics to make sure the truck is running as it's supposed to. Others learn about a problem when the driver calls from the side of the road.
Some trucking companies use old-fashioned personnel files to store drivers' certifications. Others use whiteboards, with the name of each certification at the top and a list of all drivers who have obtained that certification underneath.
Far too many trucking companies use only a fraction of the features available in their TMS while doing other work the same way they always have.
They decide that changing their processes to fit the TMS workflows just isn't worth it when they're trying to run a business. It's the "square peg in a round hole" syndrome.
That's where integrations come in.
If you're struggling to make your TMS fit the way you do business, you don't have to keep suffering. And you don't have to ditch your current TMS.
Instead, you can talk to a company like Vector—a company that specializes in creating integrations that bridge the gap between your processes and your TMS.
Check out these examples.
On-board telematics eliminate a lot of tedious, non-value-added work, such as manual yard checks.
Telematics also give you a real-time picture of where every truck and trailer is as well as what they're carrying, whether they can pick up additional shipments, whether they're running on time, and so on.
But you're wasting a lot of time if you have to manually enter that information into your dispatch system every day. A custom integration that automatically transfers that information from your trucks' telematic devices into the dispatch module in your TMS would save tons of time.
Your payroll department needs certain information to pay your drivers. Often, it's based on paperwork drivers collect when they drop off loads at their destination.
But sloppy handwriting and lost documents often cause extra work for payroll employees and late payment for drivers.
Document management integration could eliminate all of the obstacles in that process. Drivers could use a mobile app on their personal phones to scan documents onsite and upload them into your TMS.
The TMS would then forward that data to payroll. Payroll employees would still get the information your processes require, but they'd get it in a way that's much more efficient and less prone to human error. And they could do it in real time.
All trucking companies know the importance of proving compliance. So your compliance department probably has paper files on every truck and every employee.
Employee files probably contain information on licensing and certification. Meanwhile, truck files may include the date of the last inspection, maintenance records, and the types of loads the trucks can carry.
And then there are the driver log books, which prove they're abiding by FMCSA's Hours of Service regulations.
What if, instead of scrambling around and bugging employees for their documents, or digging through folders trying to find the right piece of paper, all of those critical documents were available in a searchable database?
Your compliance managers would still manage compliance—just in a much easier way.
If you've been struggling to make things work out between you and your TMS, relax. Find a software development integration company that can help you identify the places where your TMS and your work processes are incompatible. Then ask that company to design an integration that will make those incompatibilities go away—no matter how big or small your trucking business is, or how unusual or special some of your processes may be.
Custom integrations allow you to preserve your unique approach without giving up on the technology that will allow you to grow your business and strengthen your competitive position.
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.