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5 min read

We want to talk about a TMS (yes, we mean ours) that focuses on the outside world, not just on internal processes. Because we believe the future of logistics is collaborative. Like an “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” kind of relationship. (Wait, did we just go there?...Yes, we did.)

Silos are great for storing grain. But ask any of the cows milling around them and the consensus will be they aren’t happy that the contents aren’t being shared. Same goes for storing data in the field of logistics. There’s nothing that turns logistics personnel into raging bulls more than information flows that don’t, in fact, flow.

How to use your TMS for stress-free collaboration with carriers

Collaborating with carriers is obviously a much different ballgame, but with the right TMS it’s a cakewalk. Shippers often want to know how large the connected carrier network is. Valid question. Size matters. But we have to say, it really depends on a few things, as you can see in the image below:

Digital maturity of carriers is also something to keep in mind. (And no, we’re not referring to a fleet of drivers playing children’s video games while waiting at a loading dock). We’re talking about how sophisticated the carrier is at managing its transportation.

Some carriers have geeked out and gone fully digitized, while others still keep a foot in the analogue world, using older methods for planning and communication such as emails and phone calls. Which is totally okay. We can work with dinosaurs, too. When it comes to how collaboration happens, we have something for everyone – from low-level of digital maturity to tech-savvy TMS integration wizardry.

There are two basic flows in collaborating with carriers – sending shipments toward your carriers and, once they have the shipments, getting feedback on the shipment status, such as receiving updates along the route. First, we’ll focus on sending shipments:

Using your TMS to send Smart Emails

Imagine you’re working with a carrier in Italy who only has a couple of trucks and does things the same way he’s always been doing it – the old-fashioned way. If you talk to him about integration systems and portal logins, he’ll say ‘Basta!’

We feel for him, and others like him who aren’t working with a modern TMS. As such, we’ve set up a Smart Emailing system that automatically sends all the details this carrier needs to carry out a shipment once it’s been assigned to him, so he just needs to read it while drinking his morning espresso.

It’s an all-in-one email with information on the load details, pickup location, delivery documents, that he can accept or reject with the click of a button. The only thing needed is an email address. This way of working is also great when onboarding new carriers to get them working with you right away. With Smart Emails, they don’t have to use the IT department to set up an integration between systems and can begin the collaboration quickly.

Carrier Portal

On the digital sophistication scale, this is also low-level. It allows carriers to login and see all the shipments assigned to them and accept or reject shipments within the portal. All the information pertaining to each shipment can be seen here. The carrier can add extra costs or waiting times, book time slots and communicate with the transportation planners or customer service team via an integrated chat function.

Mobile Drive Application

This app sits at the mid-level of digital maturity. DHL, one of our customers, uses this app for their service part logistics. Every day, thousands of couriers use it for carrying out DHL’s shipments. But it’s a closed ecosystem in that the couriers are driving nearly full-time for DHL. This app only works in certain situations, such as when you own your own fleet, but also use external carriers, and you want to use it for your own drivers.


The bigger and more technologically advanced companies are usually in favour of this type of system. It allows you to send shipments from your TMS directly to the system of your carrier, freight forwarder, logistics service provider, 3PL, 4PL, etc. Basically, it’s like logistical telepathy. The carrier knows what you know. Literally, it’s like great minds thinking alike.

We’ve heard of situations where companies had to launch an internal CAPEX project to reserve IT resources before they can start using a new carrier or freight forwarder. And when a TMS system like SupplyStack exists to do it for you, that’s the equivalent of paying for bottled water when standing next to a fresh-water mountain creek.

In-transit Visibility

Now for getting updates once a carrier has received a shipment and it’s en route to its destination. Similar to the process of sending shipments to a carrier, carriers can log in to the carrier portal and provide updates manually, but we don’t recommend this as it’s not really efficient.

There’s also the mobile drive app that carriers can use that provides data on status updates, GPS tracking and ETA updates. However, the most common way is through integration. This can be through either integrating directly with the carrier’s TMS, which is typically the case when dealing with freight forwarders, groupage or parcel carriers with well-documented APIs that can be mined for status updates.

Or, for FTL, LTL and Ocean we can tap into existing real-time visibility providers to capture real-time tracking and ETA updates. Depending on the type of transportation, the type of carrier and the maturity of the carrier, there are different ways to get in-transit visibility.

With TMS collaboration is easy

Variety is the spice of life, as they say. It’s also the grease that gets the squeaky logistics wheel turning. Offering multiple ways of working – Smart Emails, carrier portals, and integration – allows you to collaborate with different types of carriers, helping you broaden your business to include both big and small transport providers. So that size doesn’t matter. But performance does.

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