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Transportation Insight (TI), a provider of tech-enabled logistics and brokerage solutions, has unveiled a free transport management system (TMS) aimed at small and mid-sized shippers.
This follows the launch of its Beon digital logistics platform this month, giving a single access point to the networks and services of TI and sister firm Nolan Transportation Group (NTG).
According to TI, the new TMS simplifies access to the TI and NTG networks via API, web and mobile applications. Their networks cover some 85,000 carriers, but shippers can bring their own carriers on board through the new system.
It also connects shippers with TI’s AI-enabled technology and services and is designed to help them find capacity and manage shipments, offering instant quotes, rate comparison, simplified order creation, automated tendering, tracking and financial tools.
Geoff Kelley, president & COO of TI Holding, said: “This free TMS was built for an underserved market we specialise in, the small- to mid-sized shipper, giving them intelligent technology to better utilise their own carrier network while also tapping into our larger network providing scale and density, with data intelligence to make smarter, more informed decisions, at no cost.”
Free TMSs are becoming a bit of a feature of the market. Freight tech firm Loadsmart is making the Kamion TMS, acquired in November, available to its trucker customers free of charge for a month’s trial.
According to Loadsmart, the acquisition was made to “help carriers increase efficiency and profitability and enable more informed decision making” through its connection to its own platform. The TMS offers intelligent dispatching, driver management general accounting and integration with the major ELD providers.
“Free TMSs have been around for some time,” said JP Wiggins, VP of logistics at TMS provider 3Gtms. “Different players are using them to draw shippers or carriers to their platforms or networks”, he added.
Shippers that employ a 3PL usually can get a TMS free from their logistics provider, he pointed out, adding: “Many 3PLs embed a full TMS to the shipper, but the 3PL is paying for it,” he said.
On the whole, free TMS offerings that are not connected to other functionality work for customers with fairly basic needs. Shippers wanting pricing and booking functionality with a dozen or more carriers, or that look for more sophisticated optimisation features, usually have to pay, as those are costly for providers to integrate and maintain, according to Mr Wiggins.
A free TMS is not likely to be digitally integrated with a user’s supply chain processes, he added.
He noted that shippers’ needs had changed over the past couple of years, especially with regard to parcel and LTL traffic. As parcel carriers cannot handle their business, they are looking to do more consolidations, and they are looking for new carriers, especially regional operators, he said. Demands for brokerage are also going through the roof.
“We’re seeing just a massive spike in brokerage,” said Mr Wiggins. This is in response to the surge in owner-operators on the trucking scene, as many drivers have left trucking firms to strike out on their own.
“If you want access to that capacity, you have to bring a brokerage process in somehow,” he said.
Moreover, there is the broad trend to digitise as much functionality as possible.
“Everybody wants it connected, so the business flows without manual intervention, or as little manual intervention as possible,” he said. “They want a full digital transaction.”
TI is working on a multimodal enterprise TMS, which it intends to release before the end of the year. This will enable shippers of all sizes to manage traffic across modes, with advanced automation and AI features, said CTO Brian Work.
TI has not indicated if that new TMS will be free, but the company is unlikely to home in on TMS development as a commercial focus in its own right.
Mr Wiggins is not fazed by the proliferation of free TMS offerings in the market, as these do not cater to 3Gtms’s target group.
“We’re very much focused on the 3PLs, as well as the shippers that want to act as their own 3PL. There’s a lot of features in the 3PL world that we’re coming to market with,” he said.
At the same time there is a drive to simplify things as much as possible, he said, adding: “These are complex TMSs that used to be massively expensive to install, but the going price is one-fifth of what they were ten years ago, so that means we need to be simple, cheaper, faster, nimbler.