By using an enterprise resource planning software package from TMW Systems for both its trucking and brokerage divisions, Cleveland-based All Pro Freight Systems has instant visibility of all the loads in its system.
During the past two years, shrinking margins for truckload and less-than-truckload carriers have caused many fleet owners to halt their investments in rolling assets. Instead, many have been pursuing “asset-light” strategies in brokerage and third-party logistics.
Like a growing number of companies today, All Pro Freight Systems offers both asset- and nonasset-based transportation services. Growth in the brokerage side of the Cleveland-based company continues to outpace its fleet division; today, annual revenues are $35 and $25 million respectively, says Christy Murray, director of business development.
Because fleets and intermediaries share many of the same operational and accounting processes, software providers in the transportation industry have developed base systems that fit the needs of both types of companies.
All Pro Freight uses an enterprise resource planning software package from TMW Systems for both divisions. Dispatchers on the fleet side have instant visibility to the available loads in the brokerage division, while all accounting, finances and operational data from both divisions are integrated into one system for reporting. “It makes for a much more efficient operation in the back office,” Murray says.
To continue to grow a nonasset business in today’s highly competitive trucking market, companies must become more specialized and efficient in the services they offer. The latest software tools can help accomplish this by using information assets to automate the communications and transactions necessary to move freight using someone else’s equipment and drivers.
In the past, intermediaries relied on the telephone and fax to conduct routine business. Today’s management software systems enable intermediaries to automate many of the steps involved in finding capacity, tendering loads, updating delivery status and other transactions.
For several years, McLeod Software has offered a feature called the Private Notification Network (PNN) with its PowerBroker II system for brokerage and third-party logistics providers. McLeod users can tender loads to their private list of carriers automatically according to the lanes and ZIP codes carriers prefer. As soon as a customer order is entered into PowerBroker, PNN sends out an e-mail or fax notification to the private list of carriers to ask if they have a truck available, says David Custred, director of sales services.
With Aljex Software’s Web-based Transportation Intermediaries Network (TIN) system for freight brokers, users can find an available truck using a Smart Search function. A dispatcher enters a ZIP code pair to locate carriers that have transported loads for the broker in the past. The search feature also can bring in available trucks from various online load boards.
Once the list is created, a user selects the carriers he wishes to offer loads. TIN automatically e-mails or faxes the load to the selected carriers. Carriers can accept the load by clicking on a link in the body of the e-mail; this communicates to the server, which sends an e-mail to the dispatcher and confirmation e-mail to the carrier. Carriers also can click on a separate link to add available trucks in other lanes or to see a list of all available loads from the broker.
“We make (communication) as easy as possible,” says Tom Heine, president of Aljex Software.
In addition to facilitating transactions through automatically generated fax and e-mail, some intermediaries use carrier-focused Web portals that allow an intermediary to give their private group of carriers secure access to a Web page to search for loads and conduct other routine business.
The latest version of PowerBroker II from McLeod Software, released in October, has a Web portal in the optional Internet module that allows an intermediary to let carriers see its latest load offers and allows the carrier to accept or reject them online. The Web portal also lets clients extend offers to multiple carriers in a bid-type process. Once a carrier is assigned to an order, the order automatically moves through the system. The carrier can login to the Web portal to enter load status updates as the load progresses, Custred says.
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