The Best is Yet to Come with Transportation Management Systems

I conducted my first research study on transportation management systems (TMS) back in March of 1999. Although TMS solutions had already been around for some time, the emergence of the Internet and the dotcom era opened a new and exciting chapter in the market. Many startups were launched at the time, but many of them ultimately failed or were acquired by larger competitors. Client-server and PC-based applications gave way to web-based solutions, which ultimately evolved into the first wave of enterprise software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications. And over time, standalone TMS applications focused on a single mode, transportation process, or geographic region have transformed into “platform solutions” that address a broader spectrum of transportation management capabilities in a smarter and more integrated manner.

Fast forward to today, almost 20 years later, and we find ourselves again in a new and exciting chapter in the TMS market. Companies across all industries are reshaping their transportation networks and strategies, driven by (among other things):

  • The explosive growth of e-commerce and omni-channel fulfillment;
  • Customers demanding more timely and accurate visibility to shipments, as well as shorter lead times, more frequent shipments, narrower time windows, and lower costs (with “free” becoming the norm for consumers);
  • New transportation and customs regulations around the world;
  • Rapid advancements in technology, including cloud computing, mobile technologies, Internet of Things, machine learning, drones, and driverless trucks.

These trends, in turn, are defining and shaping the innovation roadmap for TMS vendors, and they’re also fueling a new round of mergers and acquisitions (see Kewill and Leanlogistics coming together as BluJay Solutions) and triggering a new wave of startups entering the market (see last week’s announcement about the launch of Haven TMS).

What hasn’t changed, which still surprises and disappoints me, is the large number of companies, both large and small, that still don’t use a TMS (see my recent post, “Stuck at 33%: The True State of TMS Deployment,” for more on this topic).

How will transportation management systems and the TMS vendor landscape continue to evolve in the months and years ahead? What new capabilities are vendors introducing and how are companies using and deriving value from a TMS? How are user needs, requirements, and priorities changing? Which industries, geographies, and customer segments are driving market growth? What advice and lessons learned can companies that have already deployed a TMS successfully (and continue to derive value from it) offer to companies that are just getting started?

Those are just some of the questions that we at Adelante SCM — at the request of our shipper, third-party logistics (3PL), and vendor clients — will explore in a new TMS research initiative we are launching this summer. The primary objectives of the initiative are:

  • To provide prospective and existing USERS of transportation management systems with ongoing insights, analysis, and advice about the vendor landscape and the latest developments in the market, with an emphasis on new product innovations and “Profiles in Excellence” case studies.
  • To provide VENDORS of transportation management systems with insights, analysis, and advice about user needs, requirements, and priorities, and to provide aggregated visibility to demand trends by industry, geography, company size, and other segments.

To be clear, we are not sizing the TMS market and we are not calculating and reporting market shares; we’ll leave that effort to others. (In our experience, market shares are a minor consideration for users when evaluating and selecting vendors and the numbers are sometimes questionable.)

Also, the output of this research will not be a static report, but an ongoing service delivered via and We will provide more specifics about the service soon, but our plan is to launch the service this summer (the research process is well underway and you can visit the landing pages now for a preview of what’s to come).

If you’re interested in getting notified when we officially launch, please SIGN UP and we’ll include you in our future communications.

Also, our plan is to have you, the supply chain and logistics community (both users and vendors), define our research agenda. So, when you sign up, please submit at least one question about transportation management systems that you’d like us to consider in our research moving forward. Simply put, your questions will help us align our research with your interests.

It’s been a great 18+ year journey watching the TMS market grow and evolve, and in many ways, the best is yet to come. What will the next chapters in TMS bring? I’m excited to find out together.

P.S. If you’re a TMS vendor and haven’t been contacted yet to participate in the research, please contact me.

P.S.S. What is a transportation management system? That’s a great question, which we plan to address in more detail in our research. It’s also a question with a different answer today than 30 years ago. That said, here’s our working definition for the purposes of our initial research:

Software applications (on-premise, Cloud/SaaS, hosted, online, mobile app) focused on helping shippers and/or third-party logistics providers to plan or execute one or more processes in the transportation management lifecycle, across one or more modes, including (but not limited to) procurement, optimization, routing and scheduling, load tendering, track/trace, freight audit and payment, freight forwarding and brokerage, and business intelligence and analytics.