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Buyer's Guide

by Eileen O'Loughlin,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: March 23, 2017

Trucking accounting software, also known as transportation accounting software, is used by fleet management companies to integrate various accounting and transportation-specific tasks, including:

  • Automating core accounting
  • Tracking and reporting on driver expenses
  • Assisting with tax compliance
  • Monitoring fuel costs
  • Managing depreciation for fleet equipment
  • Organizing payroll

We’ve created this guide to help prospective buyers in the trucking industry evaluate the various accounting products on the market and choose the best solution for their business.

Here we'll cover:

What Is Transportation Accounting Software?
Common Features of Trucking Accounting Software
Evaluating Transportation and Trucking Accounting Software
Market Trends to Understand

What Is Transportation Accounting Software?

Trucking companies have specialized needs when it comes to accounting. Not only do they need to manage their books, bill and invoice clients and manage equipment depreciation, but they also have to keep track of inventory, heavy machinery and extensive travel for their drivers.

Therefore, aside from standard accounting features like general ledger, accounts payable and accounts receivable, these accounting systems will have freight, per-mile and other transportation-specific pricing, and will support driver and vehicle tracking, reservations and dispatch and mobile solutions to facilitate driver-dispatcher communication.

Aside from standard accounting features like general ledger and accounts payable/receivable—the inventory, heavy machinery and extensive travel associated with transportation and trucking presents unique challenges and needs. Software dedicated for this industry will have freight, per-mile and other transportation-specific pricing, and will support driver and vehicle tracking, reservations and dispatch and mobile solutions to facilitate driver-dispatcher communication.

Common Features of Trucking Accounting Software

Look for the following features in a transportation or trucking industry accounting software program:

Core accounting “Core accounting” is an umbrella term that encompasses the basic accounting functions required to run a business. This includes general ledger, accounts receivable, accounts payable and bank reconciliation.
Fixed assets Fixed assets include any machinery and facilities owned by a business and in operation for longer than a year. Systems help manage inventory, tax compliance, insurance costs and track depreciation for trucks and other fleet equipment.
Expense management Allows drivers to capture business expenses due to travel (including mileage, lodging, food etc.), create expense reports and submit claims to management for reimbursement.
Financial reporting Automates the process of running financial reports including expense reports, profit and loss (P&L) statements and balance sheets. Increases transparency into financial records and allows for more accurate data tracking.
Payroll An integrated payroll module can help track driver expenses, wages and benefits and simplify tax preparation. Features such as direct deposit help streamline the payment process so employees are paid promptly and the wages are available for immediate use.
Safety and compliance Between fuel taxes and other surcharges and restricting driver hours, transportation software helps improve compliance in this heavily regulated industry. This includes driver qualification, physicals, drug screens, MVRs, remedial action and flags to the dispatcher for drivers not in compliance.
Fleet maintenance The Department of Transportation—as well as the business itself—wants every accident and maintenance detail to be reported. Fleet management modules make it easy to report accidents, process claims, schedule repairs and routine maintenance and track the value for tax and financial management purposes.
Reservations, routing and dispatch Software designed specifically for the transportation industry usually includes dispatching capabilities, which allow the user to integrate load orders, plan routes, optimize trips and estimate costs to support rate quoting. Additional modules like flight tracking can provide estimated plane departure or arrival times, and passenger vehicles like airplanes or limousines will benefit from a reservation system that can manage customer profiles, send email confirmations and even accept online requests.
Mobile solutions Mobile solutions are critical for effective communication between the drivers and the corporate office. Mobile features for transportation and trucking will let the dispatcher send orders, pickup and delivery information and route maps to the drivers’ smart phone or onboard GPS. Then, trip/freight status can be electronically sent back to the dispatcher (with GPS verification), while the driver uses a smart phone to scan and send load documents and trip reports.

Evaluating Transportation and Trucking Accounting Software

Various fleet management organizations use transportation accounting software, including:

  • Long-haul shippers and local delivery fleets
  • Public transport, such as metro buses and taxi companies
  • City utilities and waste management
  • Law enforcement

Transportation accounting software automates many of the dispatching and fleet management tasks, freeing up your drivers’ and dispatchers’ time. When selecting your software, then, the first thing to consider is any frustration employees experience at routine or mundane tasks, as well as the places you’re spending money that’s not directly producing revenue.

Specific questions to ask when evaluating these systems are:

  • Do you carry passengers or freight?
  • Do your customers need to make reservations? If so, do you want them to be able to do that online?
  • How complicated is your routing? Would you benefit from an automated routing solution?
  • Do your drivers already have smart phones or GPS to integrate as part of your mobile solution?
  • How many vehicles do you have?

Answering these questions will help you narrow down the list of trucking accounting products and focus on those best suited for your business.

For example, if you’re a taxi or car service company and your clients are the cargo, you’ll want to look for a transportation accounting solution with a passenger app. This will allow clients to hail a taxi from their smartphone, but will also allow passengers to pay through the app when the ride is over. This reduces ride-theft and streamlines the payment process.

If you manage a shipping company, you may want to consider a system with telematics capabilities. Telematics software records data on your employees driving habits, including average speeds, fuel usage and braking tendencies. This can provide you with insights into traffic routes and fuel costs, helping you to cut expenses and encourage good driver behavior.

Market Trends to Understand

Prospective buyers should keep the following market trends in mind as they evaluate trucking accounting solutions:

BYOD: The practice of allowing employees to use their personal mobile devices for work-related tasks (i.e., laptops, smartphones and tablets) instead of corporate-issued technology is having a profound impact across industries. While helping to cut IT spending on hardware, critics have raised concerns about possible security issues. As the trucking industry is especially reliant on mobile devices and applications, it’s an interesting trend to consider and fleet managers should carefully weigh the pros and cons before deciding on a course of action.

On-demand truck services: Also known as “Uber for trucking,” these apps help connect shippers with licensed carriers. The shippers gain access to trucks and GPS services and carriers can fill the empty space in their trucks and reduce the number of “empty” miles a trucker drives. Read more about this service here (fourth idea from the top).

Apps for truckers: Mobile applications aimed at the transportation field are having a big impact on the industry. These include alternative maps apps, such as Path Pro, that target truckers, highlighting weigh stations, rest areas and other trucker-specific locations of interest; KeepTruckin that helps users track miles and time they are driving to stay in line with government regulations; and, NOAA Radar that helps keep drivers informed of weather patterns in their areas.

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