This profile is one of three features profiling small fleets/independents who've brought on one among several relatively new TMS platforms to help manage the business. Find the anchor piece for that series at this link.
Troy and Heather Baumgartner weren't expecting a whole lot more than a good time with their impromptu visit to the Walcott Truckers Jamboree this year in Walcott, Iowa, not far from their home base in the town of Rowan in the state. What they found, though, were reps of the Lynks TMS, or Transportation Management System.
"We’d been trying to find a system we could do everything in," said Heather, who handles the back-office work for the one-truck business. She and Troy, who went out on their own with authority this year after years leased with a 2018 Peterbilt 579, wanted a multifunctional system, most importantly, "that was cost-effective for a one-truck company."
At about $50 monthly for them, what they're getting is an effective invoicing and tracking tool, as well as a replacement for three pieces of software for which they'd been spending upward of $300 monthly all told, including dedicated expense-tracking and accounting software the pair used.
Previously, they spent a great deal of time reconciling Troy's expense entries after he came home from the road. Now, with the Lynks smartphone app and the software's cloud-based approach, Troy's expenses entered from the road are instantly visible to Heather in the office.
Accounting functionality within the software is "not overly complex, but it doesn’t need to be" for a small trucking company, noted Lynks Director of Operations George Thellman. "A 5,000-truck fleet would be using something different, but this is better than the six Excel spreadsheets" he knows many small businesses are utilizing to track and assess income and expenses.
The Lynks TMS was launched commercially earlier this year, as Thellman described in this past edition of the Overdrive Radio podcast. In addition to the accounting functionality the Baumgartners noted, setting up customers within the system allows a small carrier to speed up invoicing, collections, dispatch and customer management to spend more time and attention where it's needed.
Heather Baumgartner noted that some days she might save upward of a whopping four hours' worth of work time now that their TB Trucking business has had a few months setting up and learning all the possibilities therein.
"I was more skeptical than Troy was" initially about Lynks working for the company, Heather said. Yet she described it generally as quite "user-friendly" and intuitive in its layout. Customer service, too, has been stellar thus far, she added. "What helps the most is the people they have behind the system. I’m a big email person" when it comes to communications, recognizing time differences across the nation, busy schedules of customers and vendors, and etc. "Every single time we send an email" to Lynks with a question, "we get an answer back on the phone."
After she'd gotten the pair's central customers -- among them today are Landstar agents well-known to Troy from his prior years leasing there -- and pickup/delivery locations entered into the system and the first load dispatched, invoiced and paid, "we didn't know how to close the invoice," Heather said. Their Lynks rep "walked us all the way through how to switch it to paid status. I don’t know if you understand how important that is. When someone’s willing to take that much time, that itself is amazing."
Functionality within the Lynks TMS, Thellman noted, too, is aimed at easing the burden of managing business processes as fleets grow, easing the digital handoffs between carriers and a growing customer base. Ease of location sharing has helped, Heather said, manage delivery-time expectations from customers as well as delivering peace of mind to her directly, to an extent, about her husband's progress on the road.
So many customers "like to know where their load is" anymore, said Troy.
The cloud-based nature of the system means that, "anywhere I am I can get on there," including in the mobile app, "and do what I need to," Heather said. For instance: "Send a note saying we’re expecting to be there at such and such a time directly to the customer, rather than having to call them."
The Lynks TMS is "also capable of setting up the customer so they can see where I’m at" live, Troy added, "which we like."
And it's now "much easier to keep up with where he's at," Heather said. Gone are the boxes of paper receipts and reports she typically kept multiple copies of. The pair trusts the integrity of cloud-based system, with records available at any time, anywhere, with little more than an Internet connection, ultra-convenient when Heather works from the passenger seat of their 2018 579.
Lynks is working to expand functionality beyond just accounting for fuel stops and state miles into actually allowing for the creation of IFTA reports from within the system, Troy said. With a connection to Troy's Motive ELD system, he and Heather are looking forward to the ability to output state mileage directly from there to Lynks and pair with his fuel purchases, create IFTA reports with the push of a button and go on down the road.
Next step for the Baumgartners -- growth, which the streamlined back office enabled by Lynks will help facilitate, Heather said. "We’re planning on adding a truck next year," with a little cooperation from the freight markets.