What is a Transportation Management System (TMS) and Why Should You Use One?

Patrick O'Loughlin Feb 18

A Transportation Management System, commonly referred to as a TMS, can be a powerful tool in tracking and optimizing your supply chain. If you are able to access all the necessary information for your shipment(s) in one place it can lead to success in the present and the future.

Whether you ship as part of a large company with a vast network, a medium sized company that ships to different parts of the country, or a small business that ships moderately, a TMS can help you stay organized while helping you make better shipping decisions so your dollar can go further.  

In this post, we will define what a TMS is, we will give you a few reasons why you should use one, and how to get started with a TMS today.

What is a TMS?

A TMS is a specialized tool for Shippers to communicate directly with Freight Carriers. It allows you to quote, track, and analyze your shipments using information from multiple sources in one central place. Instead of quoting, tracking, and analyzing information from many different sources, you are able to see that information in one place. Not only does this save time, it also minimizes confusion on what information pertains to what shipment. 

A shipper is able to input the information for a shipment to ensure it is correct to quote and eventually book a shipment. The necessary information for this would be: origin and destination addresses, desired shipping date, number of pieces in the shipment, dimensions and weight of each piece, the commodity, the shipment’s Freight Class, points of contact in case any more information is needed, accessorials needed, etc. 

Carriers can provide quotes for the requested shipment instantly through the TMS and give an estimation on how much time is needed to complete the shipment. If acceptable, the shipper can choose to move forward with a specific carrier’s quote to ship the goods to where they need to go. Once booked, a Bill of Lading (BOL) and all other necessary documents will be produced and distributed to the necessary parties involved.

Why is using a TMS important?

A TMS is an important tool for shippers and carriers to ship more effectively. This is done by ensuring all parties have the necessary information in order for your freight to depart its origin and arrive at its destination without any trouble. An effective TMS should allow you to quote and track your shipments from one central site. In order to receive an accurate quote from a carrier, the carrier must have the correct information. 

Information is king! A lot of information travels between shippers and carriers for a single shipment. If you are using a Third Party Logistics Company (3PL) or a Freight Broker, then all that information must also pass through them to get to the carrier. Relaying that information over the phone or over email takes time and in some cases pieces of information will change erroneously, similar to when you played the game “Telephone” and hearing how different the message is from the start to the finish. Mistakes like these are common and contribute to freight being delayed, or worse, lost. 

That being said, you may prefer to input all this information yourself or someone you trust to ensure the information is accurate and goes through a level of screening before being booked. Changing this information after a load has been booked can be difficult and costly over time. Inputting the correct information into the TMS ensures the correct information is passed onto the carrier and in turn the carrier can provide accurate information on the load to the shipper and points of contact. 

The ability to quote your shipments with multiple carriers instantly could be the biggest upside to using a TMS. Comparing quotes instantly with multiple carriers will allow you to make better shipping decisions according to your needs. For example, if you need a shipment to arrive at its destination by a certain day to meet a strict deadline, you can compare quotes for guaranteed shipments across different carriers. Or you can evaluate if the standard shipping time for each carrier will get your freight where it needs to go with time to spare and a few dollars saved.


Transportation Management Systems have and will continue to improve the shipment of goods throughout the world. A great TMS will not make your company the next big thing, but it will definitely get your company’s product that is the next big thing to where it needs to go more reliably and for a lower cost. 

Ask me how I can help you make that next step today to help you move your next big thing!