No Such Thing as Pre-Onboarded Carriers from TMS Providers

Take it from a marketing guy.  Performing cost benefit analysis to decide which TMS solution to implement? Understand this!  There is NO SUCH THING AS PRE-ONBOARDED CARRIERS!  It’s a head fake.  A brilliant piece of marketing designed to entice.  In fact, the notion of “pre-onboarded carriers” is designed to make shippers think this critically important and detailed process of onboarding freight carriers into your system can be standardized or otherwise easily bypassed.  Fact is, this is simply not true.  Here’s the straight dope on pre-onboarded carriers and why cost-conscious shippers should run the other way when they are met with this spurious claim from a prospective TMS solution provider.

My momma always told me, “If something seems too good to be true, it probably is”.  This piece of advice holds true in this instance as well.  For those unaware, let’s define what we’re talking about here.  As any shipper knows, one of the more labor-intensive tasks associated with implementing a new TMS solution is the process of “carrier onboarding” which involves capturing a shipper’s unique business requirements related to EDI communications.  This detailed information is used to ensure that EDI transmissions between the shipper and their base of carriers share the same fields and convey the appropriate information, bi-directionally between both parties.  Properly onboarding carriers in a TMS is by definition, a labor-intensive and challenging process.

The idea that a TMS provider has a list of thousands of pre-onboarded carriers suggests that shippers can deploy the TMS solution and immediately be able to effectively communicate via EDI with those carriers already “pre-onboarded” and avoid spending the time and effort during implementation to onboard carriers.  It is sold to shippers as a time and money saving, value added service.  But it is complete BS.

In reality, the thousands of “pre-onboarded” carriers these TMS providers boast on adhere to a textbook conception of what a shipper’s business standards and requirements may involve.  We’re talking plain vanilla 204 tendering, 214 status updates, and 210 invoicing.   Unless your operations are 100% aligned with the standard configuration of the “pre-onboarded” carriers in these providers’ system, you’re going to have to spend significantly more with the provider to “customize” your EDI connections with all carriers.  Here are some examples:

Regarding EDI 204 for tendering, does your operation require any specific details when tendering such as:

  • Equipment type?
  • Temperature setting?
  • PO reference numbers?
  • Pickup or delivery reference numbers?
  • A notes field or any other special tendering requirement?

If you need to transmit any of these details in your 204, a pre-onboarded carrier will not be sufficient for your need.

Regarding EDI 214 for status updates, does your operation rely on information beyond the simple check call?  Do you use 214s for transmitting appointments?  For applying reason codes to late arrivals and departures?  Do you think a “pre-onboarded” carrier configuration aligns to your exact specs for status updates?

How about the EDI 210 for invoicing?  Are all your specific financial line items going to comport exactly with a preconceived onboarding template?  How about when it comes to stop level versus shipment level charges?  Seems unlikely that the template applied to thousands of “pre-onboarded” carriers would align in any way with your requirements in this area.

Lastly, regarding the EDI 850 for transmitting order information from your ERP system into your TMS; this particular integration point is absolutely customer-integration-specific!  Few businesses on the planet share the same exact order parameters.  How is it possible any TMS provider could make this connection for each unique client/business using a single, standardized template?  (It isn’t!)

So what does it all mean?  What it means is that there are no shortcuts when it comes to configuring and deploying a TMS solution that intends to succeed at achieving the goal of spend control, operational visibility, cost savings and supply chain efficiency.  This marketing scheme is designed to reel in shippers with a promise that cannot be kept.  Once it quickly becomes painfully clear that pre-onboarding is a façade, the TMS provider is ready, willing and able to charge hefty fees to “customize” your carrier EDI requirements and to engage the laborious testing required to ensure accuracy.

Instead, we recommend choosing a provider like UltraShipTMS with a solution that includes actual, client-specific carrier onboarding and testing in the implementation fee for a one-time, calculable cost. A few extra dollars and days in the beginning of a TMS project far outweigh the costs incurred through wasted time and “billable-hours” experienced by those shippers who fall for the magic beans story of “pre-onboarded” carriers.