If your trucking company operates more than a handful of power units, it is time for you to consider using a software technology to help manage your fleet.
Dispatch software offers several advantages to small- and mid-sized trucking fleets. Not only can the software create efficiencies and improve load profitability, it provides the visibility to trucks that is now demanded by many shippers and freight brokers.
Dispatch software’s detailed reporting also helps fleets stay compliant with a growing number of government regulations. On Dec. 18, the U.S. DOT will require most heavy trucks to track drivers’ hours-of-service with electronic logging devices (ELDs). For many trucking companies, a dispatch software system will make it easier to align fleet scheduling with the ELD data and drivers’ availability.
There are hundreds of dispatch software products on the market today for trucking companies. The cost, quality and capabilities of these products can differ significantly.
Below are some things to consider as you seek the right software product for your fleet:
Ease of Use
Dispatch software products vary greatly in terms of their layout and user experience. You need software that makes it easy to spot truck locations, driver availability and trip scheduling. You also want a system that allows you to quickly enter and retrieve orders.
Some software products provide color-coded dispatch boards that allow you to check your fleet’s status at a glance. The screen should be easy to navigate when pulling up orders or contact information. When shopping for software, take time to go through a free demo to ensure that the product is intuitive and easy for you and your team to use.
How well does the software sync up with your accounting and other systems? Since many trucking companies do their accounting on QuickBooks, finding a dispatch software platform that easily integrates with QuickBooks could be essential. Other dispatch software products also provide their own accounting modules that allow you to track your fleet’s payables and invoices.
Depending on the size and complexity of your trucking business, you might consider software that links up with specialized systems. These may include an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, transportation management software (TMS) or a web map service.
As with any potential business partner, the experience and industry knowledge of a software provider are important. How long has the company been in business, and how long has it served the trucking industry? Some of the best dispatch software products on the market today were created by trucking professionals who understand how to manage a fleet. A software product with that kind of industry insight could be easier to use and more beneficial to your company.
You want dispatch software that is reliable and provides real-time visibility to your fleet. Before investing in a product, learn how the software collects information and what kind of data it uses. Does the product rely on just one or multiple satellite providers to track and trace your trucks? Does it allow you to create end-of-day reports and crunch other data that is accurate and up-to-date?
A dispatch software program is only as good as the information it provides. Make sure you know the ins and outs of how your software compiles data.
Some dispatch software companies market themselves as all-in-one providers that perform multiple fleet functions. In addition to dispatch, these functions can include accounting, IFTA reporting, truck maintenance, DOT safety compliance and more. Small- and medium-sized trucking fleets can benefit from a software solution that performs several tasks, helping to reduce headcount and administrative costs.
Pricing can vary greatly for different forms of dispatch software. Some products can cost just a few dollars a month, but may lack the scalability and functionality your fleet needs as it grows. Take time to shop around for a product with the capabilities you need and a pricing structure that is within your budget.
Look for software that is a good fit for the way your trucking company operates. Is it important to have smartphone and Cloud-based accessibility? Could your drivers and dispatch team benefit from a platform that allows for two-way texting? It is also important to know early on how many of your employees and drivers need “seats” to access the software. Adding more users to the software will likely cost your company more money.
The key selling points of dispatch software are that it makes your trucking company more efficient and, ultimately, will save you money. How much you save depends on how well you understand your company’s current and future needs.
Before entering an agreement with a software provider, assess the costs and “pain points” of operating your fleet. Is your company growing too fast for your dispatch teem to keep pace? What is your rate of on-time deliveries and what does it cost—in terms of people, time and paperwork—to maintain that performance? Will switching to ELDs in the next year or so dramatically change the way you do business?
Once you understand your operational needs, you will improve your chances of finding a dispatch software product that addresses those needs and should eventually save you money.