logistics TMS

The Power of a Logistics TMS in a Competitive Environment: 5 Steps for Brokers to Optimize Carrier Booking

JJ Singh

There’s significant turbulence in today’s transportation industry. Brokers are facing a steady stream of challenges, and many have even closed their doors due to fierce competition and difficulty securing reliable carriers. The urgency to create or secure innovative solutions has never been greater — and the logistics TMS is the first place brokers should search for those solutions.

The Transportation Management System (TMS) is not a new invention. However, the latest iterations of the logistics TMS are helping brokerage firms create a competitive advantage by streamlining operations, saving money, and better serving their customers.

The TMS’s innovative capabilities are particularly helpful in optimizing carrier booking — especially in a competitive environment like the one the industry is experiencing now. With the right TMS logistics system, your organization can reinvent its booking processes.

Continue reading for a breakdown of five simple steps for using a logistics TMS to optimize your carrier booking, and reach out to the EKA Solution team if you’d like to explore our people-first TMS.

In Today’s Supply Chain, Brokers Face Unprecedented Challenges

Some are calling today’s transportation industry challenges a “broker apocalypse” due to the number of companies that have met their demise in recent months. While that may sound dramatic at first reading, this nickname has emerged from the serious difficulties that brokerage firms are dealing with on a week-to-week basis.

First, the sheer intensity of competition has escalated to new heights, forcing brokers to devise and implement strategies that not only differentiate them from their rivals but also deliver unparalleled value to their clients. To survive in this competitive crunch, brokers must offer services that stand out for their efficiency, reliability, and adaptability to changing market dynamics.

Also, the logistics landscape has grown more intricate, requiring brokerage firms to navigate a maze of routes, regulations, and relationships. The winning brokers are finding ways to optimize operations to ensure seamless, cost-effective transportation solutions. This complexity is compounded by operational inefficiencies that plague many brokers, including outdated technology platforms and opaque processes that obscure decision-making and hinder agility.

A lack of operational clarity is another significant hurdle. Without clear insights into their own processes and the broader market, brokers struggle to make informed decisions, often leading to missed opportunities and suboptimal carrier bookings. Overcoming these challenges requires a blend of innovation, strategic insight, and the right technological tools. The next section shares five actionable steps brokers can use to master carrier bookings to navigate these turbulent times and emerge stronger and more competitive than ever.

5 Steps to Optimize Carrier Booking with Logistics TMS

The path to optimized carrier booking through a logistics TMS follows this five-step process. Use these steps to modernize your organization — and how it selects the ideal carrier for any given load.

Step 1: Ensure Effective Carrier Qualification Practices

The TMS is the control center for your selected stack of services. Embedded access to carrier qualification, pricing insight, load posting, truck searches, and load tracking helps harmonize activity into an effective workflow.

Also, integrating real-time data into the brokerage workflow transforms the decision-making process. With instant insights at their fingertips, brokers can source high-quality capacity at fair prices, anticipate challenges, identify opportunities for cost savings, and mitigate risks associated with carrier reliability and performance. This proactive stance fosters a more dynamic, responsive approach to logistics management, setting the stage for sustained success in an ever-evolving market.

Step 2: Establish a Sourcing Strategy

At the heart of optimizing carrier booking lies the critical task of optimizing your approach to market for your freight — a process dramatically enhanced by the advanced features of a logistics TMS. Automated load posting is a given, but you should also expect to identify already proven carriers and extend to them first.  Regardless of whether you want to auto-assign,  post, email offers, run a timed mini-bid, or just offer to a list of carriers that provide more specialized equipment or services, it should be easy for you to cascade your trade so you can manage your time in addition to optimizing your buy.

This starts with the value and protection of the freight, as well as the protection of your customer relationships. Some customers cringe when loads are posted to public load boards, and they will be sensitive when every shipment records a new carrier name at the gate. While there is a lot of general commodity freight, some freight requirements dictate a more selective search of carriers that provides the right equipment and qualification attributes.

With the capabilities of a modern TMS, brokers can tap into a suite of tools designed to streamline every facet of the load planning and execution process, including automated load matching that pairs shipments with suitable carriers. In short, the TMS acts as a powerful engine driving operational efficiency and cost reduction.

Step 3: Acquire Market pricing insight

Seamless communication between brokers and carriers is imperative for success. This step harnesses collaborative tools for use in enhancing communication, which paves the way for more efficient, transparent, and responsive interactions.

Logistics TMS platforms often include features specifically designed to improve direct communication with carriers. These features can include integrated messaging systems, forums for discussion, and channels for immediate feedback. Such tools are tailored to promote open and streamlined communication, ensuring that any queries or concerns can be addressed promptly. These tools also increase the sense of partnership between brokers and the carriers they work with regularly.

Step 4: Use Data-Driven Insights for Negotiation

Step four elevates the strategic dimension of freight brokerage by emphasizing the use of data-driven insights for negotiation. In an industry where margins can fluctuate significantly, the ability to negotiate effectively based on solid data is a significant competitive advantage. Leveraging the analytics capabilities of a logistics TMS enables brokers to access a wealth of information on carrier performance, market trends, and pricing dynamics — insights that are critical for informed decision-making and strategic planning.

Armed with data-driven insights, brokers can approach negotiations with carriers from a position of strength. This allows brokers to foster mutual understanding and find common ground. Insights into carrier reliability, cost structures, and market conditions enable brokers to negotiate rates and terms that reflect the true value of the services provided, ensuring fair deals that benefit all parties involved.

Step 5: Automate for Speed and Accuracy

The final step in optimizing carrier booking revolves around the automation of tasks that traditionally require manual intervention from your team members. Given the often frenetic pace of the logistics industry, speed and accuracy are imperative for survival and success. With the right logistics TMS in place, you can use automation to:

  • Streamline the booking process: Automating the booking workflow allows brokers to drastically reduce the time it takes to match loads with the best-suited carriers.
  • Enhance efficiency and accuracy: A modern logistics TMS enhances operational speed, allowing brokers to respond to market demands and customer needs with unprecedented agility while also minimizing discrepancies and misunderstandings.
  • Reduce manual workload: By automating routine and repetitive tasks, your team can devote more time and resources to strategic decision-making and customer service, enhancing the value they bring to the logistics chain.

This fifth and final step is where your organization gets to move faster and do more, allowing your business to scale and reach its full potential. In many cases today, automation is driven by the integration of artificial intelligence into platforms. As you explore different logistics TMS options, carefully review and consider how AI is being used to automate processes.

Tackling 2024: In the New Year, Brokers Face Many Risks

After the mayhem of a rapid downshift in the demand for trucking capacity in 2023, freight brokers must manage the consequences of rising fraud, financially stressed carriers, and an uncertain economy.  Cass Freight Index shows that freight shipments and expenditures continued to fall in early 2024, and the industry continues to experience escalating demand for transportation services alongside a stark shortage of available trucks and drivers. The results have been intensified competition for limited capacity and a dire need for strategic, technology-driven solutions.

In this challenging environment, the role of technology, particularly the adoption of a logistics TMS system, has emerged as a key to survival and success. These systems are both tools for operational management and strategic assets that enable brokers to navigate troubling times through data-driven insights, predictive analytics, and streamlined communication channels.

The ripple effects of e-commerce growth also continue to reverberate through the industry, bringing new opportunities but also introducing new challenges. The surge in online shopping has catapulted the demand for last-mile delivery solutions, pressing brokers to innovate and adapt to the nuances of e-commerce logistics. This evolution requires a shift toward more agile, technology-enabled strategies to optimize delivery routes, manage the increased volume of shipments, and meet the heightened expectations of consumers for speed and reliability.

There’s also a growing spotlight on sustainable practices and environmental initiatives in freight brokerage. Moving toward a more sustainable future for the industry is undoubtedly the right thing to do, but it does increase the complexities that brokerage firms deal with on a consistent basis.

The journey ahead will be difficult. But, for brokers that embrace innovation, adaptability, and strategic foresight, the opportunities for growth and leadership in the logistics industry are boundless.

Stay Competitive With a People-First Logistics TMS System

Freight brokerages need modern technologies to be competitive now and remain competitive in the future. At EKA Solutions, we’ve taken a different approach to building a logistics TMS that can support the modern needs of brokers.

Our platform leverages technological innovations and the emergence of tools like artificial intelligence, but it was designed with people in mind. Behind every technology and every automated workflow is a real person who’s managing the work. Our platform empowers automation, efficiency, and savings — while offering an interface and capabilities that make life easier and work more effectively for the people behind the platform.

To learn more about our people-first TMS, contact EKA today.

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