As technology continues to aid in the transformation of the logistics industry, cargo and freight agents evolve alongside by partnering with third-party logistics (3PL) providers that provide sophisticated transportation management systems (TMS). Access to a robust TMS can help shippers improve efficiency, reduce costs, address security and sustainability issues, and help them make smarter business decisions. And ultimately, choosing the right 3PL partner and TMS can significantly impact an agent's success.
It's important to note, however, that features vary from one TMS to the next. So, to help you get started on your search for the ideal 3PL partner, we've compiled a list of 10 top characteristics great TMS agent portals share.
What is a freight TMS?
A freight TMS is a software solution that helps freight agents and brokers manage their customers' day-to-day freight shipping tasks. Like a shipper TMS, this software helps automate and streamline many freight shipping tasks like rating, booking, tracking, documenting and more. It also allows freight agents to eliminate time-consuming backend tasks like data entry, allowing agents more time to build relationships and grow their book of business.
Characteristics of Top TMS Agent Portals
1. Real-time, end-to-end shipment visibility
When you're in shipping and logistics, every day is a race against the clock. Shipments need to get from point A to B safely and on time, so you need constant visibility of your shipment no matter where it is in the supply chain. Make sure that your 3PL of choice offers end-to-end, real-time visibility within their TMS so you can stay up to date with all your shipments.
2. Predictive analytics tools
The shipping industry can change in a split second with weather conditions, trade embargoes and more wreaking havoc on your plans. Before TMS technology, shippers and agents had to predict industry trends on their own. But now, predictive analytics tools use real-time data to detect patterns and help shippers make better business decisions. Be sure that your selected TMS is constantly updating and predicting industry trends.
3. Cloud-based system
When choosing a TMS, it's important to select a cloud-based system that will allow you to connect to external systems easily and effectively. With a cloud-based system, you'll gain access to carriers, shipping solutions and tracking capabilities from the convenience of any device. That means you can address changes and challenges from practically anywhere, allowing for real-time communication and collaboration.
4. Multi-platform integration
For 3PLs with top freight TMS capabilities, gone are the days of manually transferring information between common shipping platforms. Industry-leading 3PLs will allow for multi-platform integration, allowing agents and shippers to link their frequently used platforms and access all their data in one convenient location. Save time and energy with a TMS that will allow you to integrate and access data on one consolidated platform.
5. Customer self-service portal
As a freight agent or broker, your job is to help shippers find and manage their shipping solutions, but that doesn't mean you should be entering every data point for them. Look for a TMS with a built-in customer self-service portal — allowing your customers to enter their own data not only frees up your schedule to grow and maintain your business relationships, it also allows you the flexibility to find better solutions for all your shippers' unique needs.
6. Route optimization software
Inclement weather, wrecks and road closures are just some of the unpredictable factors that can affect a shipment - but there's always another route! Don't overlook the importance of route optimization software in a TMS. You need a TMS that can adapt to changing conditions in real time and identify the best possible route to get your customers' shipments where they need to go quickly and safely.
7. Artificial intelligence and machine learning technology
With recent leaps in the quality and abilities of AI learning, it is important that your freight TMS uses AI and machine learning to develop algorithms, predict events and even identify issues within your supply chain to provide you with a better insight into your shippers' processes. As a freight agent, utilizing an automated, advanced TMS can help you make smarter decisions for your customers.
8. Access to a Vast Carrier Network
Choosing the right carrier is one of the most important parts of scheduling a shipment — so make sure you and your shippers have a wide network of trusted, pre-vetted carriers at your fingertips. Partner with a reputable 3PL that has industry connections with the industry's top carriers and that also offers a great TMS so that you and your customers can easily and efficiently book shipments. Plus, you'll rest easy knowing your customers' freight is in good hands.
9. Automated Freight Audit and Payment
Wish you had more time to build your book of business, but you routinely find yourself stuck doing back-office tasks like paying freight bills and manually handling freight audits? You need a better TMS! A good TMS platform will have the capability to autopay your freight audits and invoices. Just set it and forget it. Want to switch back or change your settings? No problem! Many TMS platforms on the market will allow you to adjust your autopay settings to make for the best experience for you and your customers.
10. Digital documentation
Leading 3PLs provide robust digital documentation features in their TMS technology. Access all your documents in one convenient location including freight quotes, bills of lading, invoices, shipping labels and more. Plus, some TMS platforms will even let you combine documents like invoices into one collective document to help keep you organized!
GlobalTranz TMS: A Transportation Management System from GlobalTranz
At GlobalTranz, we offer best-in-class freight shipping solutions for business shippers across North America. Our freight TMS software for both shippers and agents allows you to rate, book, ship and track your shipments all in one convenient location.
We offer a platform that gives agents oversight of their customers but also an interface for their customers to use for self-service. You can even access all your documentation and invoicing from one integrative platform with a single login. Plus, with industry-leading freight agent training and world-class support, we'll be behind you every step of your shipping journey.
Reach out today to learn more about becoming a freight agent with GlobalTranz.