What Is Transportation Management System? The Best Free TMS 2024

Brian Smith
April 12, 2024
12 min
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What Is Transportation Management System? The Best Free TMS 2024
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The heart of small, medium, and enterprise commerce is moving products from point A to B. But transportation can be costly, so you need to make the process as efficient as possible. A powerful TMS (Transportation Management System) can provide the cost saving measures needed for seamless operations. The surge in global trade makes timely, cost-effective logistics solutions more important than ever. Cota Systems™ offers those solutions for carriers with small fleets under 10 trucks and TMS companies.

In this post, we’ll delve into what to look for when seeking effective TMS solutions for SMBs. Let’s get started.

free transportation management system cota systems

What Is a Transportation Management System?

TMS solutions are a specialized software that optimizes and streamlines logistics for transportation operations. Let's address the specifics below:

TMS platforms are designed to optimize transportation operations within a supply chain. They help manage and streamline the day to day of fleets moving products.

Let's expand on the top features of a Transportation Management System:

  • Route Planning: Analyzes and chooses the most efficient routes for carriers which reduces transportation time and fuel consumption. Top TMS providers ensure their software can adjust routes in real-time - in the event of new traffic conditions or weather changes.
  • Carrier Management: The best TMS system provides shippers or brokers to easily communicate with carriers on the road.
  • Load Optimization: A cost effective TMS functions to help consolidate shipments to better utilize resources.
  • Tracking & Visibility: Shipment updates are automated for real-time management of possible delays or re-routing.
  • Analytics & Reporting: Identifying trends and areas for improvement via performance metrics such as delivery times, cost, and carrier efficiency.
  • Documentation: Adherence to standards are top priority for any business. Your TMS solution should help manage the necessary documentation for shipping and compliance.
  • Customer Service: Delivery reliability via a Transportation Management System helps increase your client satisfaction. Your TMS should also provide easy communication access between carrier and shipper.
  • Reliable Integrations: Your Warehouse Supply Chain (WSC) system is one example where seamless integrations can help your business attain synchronized operations.

TMS is a powerful technology that, when executed efficiently, empowers shippers of all sizes to optimize their logistics operations. Any process that isn't automated with smart solutions requires manual input and is open to increased errors. At Cota Systems™, we're well versed in the world of transportation and have introduced TMS software to help both shippers and carriers make more informed decisions about their process.

What's Unique about Cota's TMS Solution?

Cota Systems™ transportation management software provides unique value to both carriers and shippers, creating win-win scenarios in logistics:

For the Shipper:

With our shipping management software, small to medium-sized businesses get access to faster delivery options, while decreasing their spend on transportation. We streamline the process with vetted carriers and LTL (Less-than-Truckload) shipments to help shippers save money on each shipment. Cota Systems™ also offers guaranteed freight quotes for shippers with no re-rates, ever! Our CarrierPro System provides one-click-billing, so shippers can easily pay their drivers upon delivery. The proprietary algorithm facilitates efficient route planning and execution of F.A.K (Freight All Kinds) shipments, and our vetted independent carriers lead the industry with over 99% damage-free Cota System shipments delivered.

For the Carrier:

Easily find loads to fill empty truck space without having to go through a freight broker. By taking on optimized and consolidated loads, carriers are able to eliminate deadheading and make more money per mile on the road. With desktop software for dispatch and a mobile app for drivers, our TMS system ensures seamless collaboration of shipments.

benefits of Cota's transportation management system

Top TMS Features to Look for

Route Planning and Optimization

This is one of the most critical functions of a TMS solution, with several sophisticated processes and technologies involved. By analyzing large amounts of data, including distance, road conditions, traffic patterns, and a business's delivery schedule, a TMS determines the most efficient route for each delivery. In this way, driver's spend less time on the road, leading to lower costs for shippers and dispatchers.

For the Shipper

Fuel is costly, optimized routes that lead to less time on the load, ultimately save you, the shipper, money. A TMS solution that compares carrier routes provides insight on the most cost effective carrier and automates the bidding process. It also opens the door to better negotiations with carriers for better freight rates. At Cota Systems™, we do this on your behalf, in house. Our TMS system allows shippers to choose a Cota Systems™ vetted carrier with the most cost-effective bid based on those factors of distance, road conditions, expected traffic, and more. Due to carriers being vetted by our team, shippers can confidently choose the best option in terms of cost because they know they can trust the carriers bidding on our site.

For the Carrier:

Your time on the road is valuable - the more of it spent sitting idle in traffic, the less money per mile you make. Optimized route planning allows you to take the 'road less traveled' while considering real-time traffic changes, weather conditions, and even inspection stations on route. Lower mileage per load equals more revenue you take home! More than revenue, decreasing the stress factor on your trip is priceless.

Cota Systems™ allows both shipper and carrier to benefit with increased revenue from several avenues with the use of accurate mapping tools and planning.

Real World Scenario

Let's explore how "Efficient Delivery Services," a distribution company, enhanced its operations with a Transportation Management System (TMS) focusing on route planning and optimization.

Before Using TMS:

  1. Drivers often took longer routes or encountered traffic delays.
  2. The lack of optimized routes led to increased fuel costs and delivery times.
  3. Scheduling was challenging, leading to inefficiencies in fleet utilization.

After Implementing TMS:

  1. The TMS provided the most efficient routes, avoiding traffic and reducing travel distance.
  2. Drivers could complete more deliveries in less time, thanks to optimized routing.
  3. The system allowed for better scheduling, ensuring trucks were always on the most efficient routes.

The Impact:

Reduced Fuel Consumption: Shorter, more efficient routes meant lower fuel costs.

Faster Deliveries: Improved route planning led to quicker delivery times, enhancing customer satisfaction.

Increased Productivity: Drivers could make more deliveries per day, improving overall operational efficiency.

Route Planning and Optimization with transportation management system

Carrier Management

A good Transportation Management system should offer a detailed repository of carriers with TMS functions that include performance metrics - enabling well-informed decision-making.

For the Shipper:

When you choose the right carrier for the job, you'll notice top tier efficiency and damage-free deliveries. Your TMS features should allow you to choose a carrier that offers the best value for your specific needs - balancing cost and quality. With access to a broader network of carriers, shippers are able to be more selective during negotiations. Once you've chosen a carrier, a TMS allows for tracking and evaluation throughout the delivery process, leading to higher accountability for the service provided. As mentioned above, Cota Systems™ takes on the administrative task of vetting carriers. We also streamline communications between carrier and shipper as well as provide tracking and evaluation metrics for the duration of the agreement.

For the Carrier:

As part of the TMS network, carriers are provided with increased opportunities and increases their visibility amongst shippers. Smoother interactions via TMS providers also allows carriers to create better relationships with clients, leading to long-term partnerships. Inefficiencies in freight contracts are reduced with transportation management software, like Cota System's one-click-billing. Not to mention feedback received from shippers creates a new transparency that carriers can use to enhance the services they offer shippers with consistently new insights on shipper expectations.

Real World Scenario

Let's take a look at how a Transportation Management System (TMS) dramatically improved operations for "LogiCorp," a medium-sized logistics company.

Before Using TMS:

  1. LogiCorp's trucks were only 70% full on each trip.
  2. Each truck made 5 trips a week, traveling 200 miles per trip.
  3. Total weekly distance for the entire fleet: 50,000 miles (50 trucks each covering 1,000 miles).

After Implementing TMS:

  1. The TMS helped increase the truck load to 90% on average.
  2. Thanks to more efficient loading, trucks needed fewer trips – down from 5 to about 4 per week.
  3. New total weekly distance for the fleet: 40,000 miles (50 trucks each covering 800 miles).

The Impact:

Fuel Savings: Less mileage meant significant fuel cost reductions.

Reduced Wear and Tear: Fewer miles also meant less wear on the trucks.

Environmental Gain: With fewer miles driven, the company's carbon footprint shrunk.

efficient carrier management with a transportation management system

Load Optimization

Load optimization involves the efficient utilization of available space within a truck. When shippers send out a shipment that doesn't fill a truck, they're still paying for that unused real estate. Likewise, when carrier's head back from a delivered shipment with an empty trailer, they're paying out of pocket for that mileage. Load optimization is key for both parties to increase their revenue.

For the Shipper:

According to industry sources, companies using TMS can expect savings of approximately 8.5% on their freight costs, with the range typically falling between 5% and 15% annually. Sending out less-than-truckload shipments costs you, the shipper, money. Consider the amount spent on overhead for goods sitting in the warehouse as well as the cost of sending out a half-empty truck for a delivery. 

Optimizing loads ensures that shippers are consolidating where possible to minimize spend and enhance operations. These shared truck loads need not be sourced from a single shipper - making it ever-more enticing. The right transportation management system will consolidate loads from one to several shippers seamlessly, allowing them to share the cost of the mileage on their freight. At Cota Systems™, we take further steps to ensure that your load, while shared, isn't handled more than necessary. For example, if your load is the last to deliver, then it's the first load. This ensures it's only loaded and unloaded once, as opposed to several times on the carrier's journey.

For the Carrier:

Deadheading (driving with an empty trailer) is not a favored term in the carrier universe. A great TMS system ensures a carrier's trailer is always full - using algorithms to accurately manage loads to and from any destination. At Cota Systems™, helping carriers make more per mile by avoiding half empty trailers and deadheading is a priority. Make more money per mile by perusing through our dedicated (and free) loadboard, LoadBoost™.

Cota Systems™ specializes in providing guaranteed freight quotes for LTL (Less-than-Truckload) shipments. With our dedicated leaderboard, LoadBoost™, we offer opportunities for truckers to achieve higher earnings per mile. We also facilitate collaboration among small carriers, allowing them to share trailer space and consolidate cargo. In turn, small to medium-sized shippers benefit from shared trailer space and lowered shipping costs.

Notably, Cota Systems™' TMS, with its unique algorithms, analyzes factors such as weight, volume, and delivery requirements to optimize the allocation of goods across shipments. This capability is particularly advantageous for businesses lacking dedicated logistics departments or small to medium sized businesses looking to streamline transportation costs and maximize efficiency.

Real World Scenario

Imagine "GoodsTransport Inc.," a logistics company, facing challenges with underutilized truck space before implementing a Transportation Management System (TMS).

Before Using TMS:

  1. GoodsTransport Inc. was loading trucks only up to 65% of their capacity.
  2. This resulted in more trips to transport the same amount of goods.
  3. The company had to deploy more trucks than necessary, increasing costs.

After Implementing TMS:

  1. The TMS helped in better planning and combining shipments.
  2. Truck loads were optimized to 85% capacity on average.
  3. Fewer trucks were needed for the same amount of goods.

The Impact:

Efficient Use of Space: By optimizing each truck's load, the company used fewer trucks for the same deliveries.

Cost Savings: Fewer trucks on the road meant less fuel consumption and lower operational costs.

Environmental Benefits: Optimizing loads also meant fewer emissions, contributing to environmental sustainability.

efficient load consolidation with a transportation management system

Freight Tracking and Visibility

Tracking and visibility via a Transportation Management System benefits both the shipper and carrier. The ability to easily share shipment updates enhances efficiency and communication.

For the Shipper:

A key feature of a Transportation Management System is live shipment tracking that provides an accurate ETA and real-time location updates. With automated alerts for events like delays or successful deliveries, it enhances system efficiency. TMS platforms provide portals for shippers to track the movement of goods in real-time. Not having to reach out to your carrier for updates is more than a time saver, it provides supply chain transparency. This consistent insight allows shippers to proactively manage inventory and reduce safety stock levels when needed.

For the Carrier:

When carriers use Freight TMS platforms, they increase their proposition value to shippers. Offering tracking data to shippers builds trust and can lead to longer-lasting relationships with shippers. It also increases communication efficiency where carriers are not actively checking in and yet providing valuable information that shippers appreciate. Another benefit of using Freight TMS for tracking and visibility allows carrier arrival to be expected. This can significantly lower delays at loading docks and reduce the likelihood of incurring detention and demurrage charges.

Reporting and Analytics

Reporting and analytics with user-friendly dashboards and drag-and-drop functionality provide a personalized view in a transportation management platform. TMS solutions should include tracking and analysis of KPIs such as on-time delivery, carrier performance, and transportation costs. It also utilizes historical data to predict future trends and optimize decision making processes.

For the Shipper:

This data is valuable for shippers as they identify trends, inefficiencies, and opportunities for cost savings. These data driven decisions stem from TMS carrier performance reports, inefficiency trends in the supply chain, and data concerning inventory bottlenecks. Empowered with these insights, shippers are able to implement targeted improvements across all levels of transportation logistics. Strategic planning and forecasting helps shippers save on inefficiencies and focus on improvements that increase KPIs.

For the Carrier:

Providing reporting that shippers care about, not only increases a carrier's value, it also provides carrier's with key opportunities to increase their efficiency. Monitoring adherence to service level agreements (SLAs) and customer expectations allows carriers to better the services they provide clients, and ultimately bid successfully on more loads. Look for features in your TMS that provide insights into market trends, customer segments, and even competitor performance - ultimately allowing you to position yourself strategically in the load bidding process.

Cota Systems™ excels in data-driven insights. We analyze key performance indicators (KPIs) like those mentioned above. Our specialized TMS offers detailed expense breakdowns for identifying cost-saving opportunities, promotes data-driven decision-making, performance evaluation, and continuous improvement in transportation operations.

Cota Systems™ CarrierPro™ TMS provides essential metrics for carriers and shippers covering: 

  • Freight cost per unit shipped.
  • Transportation time.
  • Rate of returns due to shipment damage or error.
  • Order picking accuracy.
streamlined Reporting and Analytics transportation management system

Documentation, Customer Service, Integrations

Historically, truckers and shippers worked via a paper trail, a much less reliable option than digitally stored documents and automatic data collection. By using a Transportation Management System, users can easily scan, send, and receive important documents like BOLs (Bill of Lading). Carrier's are also able to track earnings and keep tabs on expenses.

Expect excellence when it comes to customer service from your TMS provider - whether you're a carrier, shipper, or broker. Also look for helpful integrations into any current software you use if the feature you require isn't provided by your TMS system.

Impact of a Good Transportation Management System on Supply Chain Efficiency

Here are some ways TMS software providers can streamline your systems and increase your efficiency. 

Agility in Operations: Respond immediately to changes in supply, demand, and other market conditions. 

Enhanced Collaboration: Centralize communication between truckers, loaders, managers, customers, suppliers, and partners.

Inventory Management: Get real-time access to inventory levels and shipment statuses.

Strategic Planning: Leverage historical TMS data and insights to make future plans regarding strategies and investments. 

Sustainability: Use transportation management algorithms to find the fastest, most fuel efficient routes.

Global Expansion: TMS solutions help you manage transportation through multiple carriers, modes, and countries.

Environmental Sustainability: Track your carbon footprint throughout the shipping cycle.

increased supply chain efficiency with a transportation management system

The Cota Systems™ CarrierPro™ Transportation Management System for Carriers & Shippers


If you’re looking for a comprehensive, yet easy to use, dispatch and transportation management system, you need our CarrierPro™ one-stop TMS solution. 

Boost your Revenue: Reduce wasted miles and deadhead trips with LoadBoost™.

Increase Efficiency: More full loads mean more income and less wasted time.

Improve Communication: Bookings and document transfers syncretized with the CarrierPro™ mobile app.

Streamline your Dispatch Procedures: Our free system has the same TMS features you'll find in the systems that large carriers use.  

Integrate your load boards: Sync your favorite load boards with Cota Systems™ loads to make the most out of every trip. 


Want a faster, less expensive transportation management system? Here’s what you get with FreightPro™.

No Re-Rates or Hidden Fees: Unlike other TMS providers, we give you transparent pricing up-front to make budgeting and planning more effective.

Reduced Transit Time: We help you avoid inefficient hub & spoke shipping with direct shipments from trusted carriers. 

Proprietary Algorithm: Our transport management system gives you significantly reduced transport time.

Safer Shipping: With our TMS solutions, your shipments arrive on time and with 4x less damage than competing systems. 

On-Time Shipments: Cota Systems™ TMS features include advanced tracking and monitoring technology as well as an expert carrier selection to prevent delays. 

Lower Costs: You get direct shipments, consolidated loads, and competitive rates with independent carriers.

Cota Systems™ Transportation Management System

Resources from Cota Systems™

Beyond our TMS solutions, we pride ourselves in being a top provider of value filled resources for carriers, brokers, and shippers. Everything from downloadables like our extensive CDL Pre Inspection Checklist, to dive into the industry's most important topics such as how to avoid double-brokering. Our resources are extensive and include tips to help cost-efficiency and revenue increases for all parties involved. Here are a few notable favorites:

Final Thoughts

For TMS providers, the key benefits of an effective Transportation Management System include:

  • Network Visibility and Data Consolidation.
  • Reduced Transportation Costs.
  • Scalability and Adaptability.
  • Maintaining Compliance.
  • Better Communication and Collaboration.
  • Environmental Sustainability.
  • Lowering Risks.

Not only do you receive the benefits above, but there are more advantages of choosing Cota Systems™ as your TMS provider. These include:

  • Freight factoring which ensures carriers have instant access to funds.
  • Better per mile earnings and better freight for truckers and carriers.
  • Faster access to money with Quick Pay.
  • User-friendly platform for tasks like load assignments.
  • Effective communication with real-time tracking and instant updates.
  • Intuitive interface for carriers, brokers, and shippers to engage seamlessly.

Our Cota Systems™ Mobile App and the LoadBoost™ load board are free, allowing carriers to make more money with fewer bumps in the road! Additionally, you'll receive quality customer support from Cota Support. We'll work with you from the beginning to the end. We provide training resources and ongoing support that's always available to users. 

Cota Systems™ lets you harness cutting-edge technology and provides solutions to the most crucial aspects of transportation management.

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