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Shipper booking a load on a tablet
January 3, 2023
Your 2023 New Year’s resolution? Embrace freight APIs
I want “more accurate information.” There should be a “better integration.” It just needs to be “way easier to book.” These are the concerns shippers have today when they are under pressure to find the best rates and appointments and get their loads where they need them on time.

They are common pain points and reinforced by industry data. When B2B International surveyed shippers, nearly 30% of respondents said the reason they try new freight service providers is because they are looking for a simpler way to book.

The encouraging news is that the freight industry has come a long way to address the challenges, but one tried and true capability continues to change the shipping game: APIs.

What are APIs?
At its most simple, an API (which stands for application programming interface) is a way for two systems to integrate, or, in other words, “talk to each other.” You probably use them every day.

For instance, when you check the weather app on your phone, it is likely using an API to “talk to” a source of weather data such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Instead of having to sort through raw NOAA data, it is quickly presented to you through the app in an easy-to-understand format.

For freight, APIs give shippers an automated way to integrate a transportation management system (TMS) with a freight provider so they have access to quotes, tendering, tracking, and other data. Depending on the shipper, it might makes sense for the freight provider to integrate with a TMS they often use. For others, who have their own software, the API can connect them directly to their carriers.

Either way, there are many benefits for shippers:

They grow with you
A pinch point for businesses, especially growing ones, is logistics. Sales and marketing may be humming along upstream, but bottlenecks can develop further down when it comes to fulfillment and transportation. That’s when APIs come into play. Because they directly connect the shipper with carriers, they can scale with a growing business.

Consider the situation where a shipper has multiple loads to pull quotes for. In the past, this would typically be done by hand, one at a time. The shipper would email quote requests out to carriers, wait several hours, then compare them all before deciding who to tender to. With APIs, shippers can click a few buttons to submit a collection of requests and get prices back to compare them in real time.

They keep you fast
If there’s a sole benefit that technology as a whole has delivered for logistics, it’s speed. What was once done by pen and paper and then largely with email, can now be digitized. APIs reduce many of the cumbersome touch points through the load tendering process to improve efficiency.

When searching for quotes and entering information about the load (commodity details, delivery location, etc.), APIs can provide results in seconds. Afterwards, once the shipper secures a rate, they can then immediately accept the booking. This is especially critical during dynamic periods where variables such as prices are in flux. In the past, this process would likely have been done one-by-one, a time-consuming task.

They make life easier
The day-to-day life of a typical shipper is busy. They have countless tasks to juggle and constantly need to know where their loads are. That’s why 41% of them say the ease to book shipments is a top five attribute when considering a freight provider, according to the research from B2B International. APIs offer flexibility to an otherwise rigid process.

Shippers oftentimes have urgent changes to loads and APIs help make those changes smoothly and swiftly. For example, if the pickup and drop-off locations for a shipper’s load switched, an API integration lets that update be made easily. If that load needs to be canceled, that can also be done directly with the carrier via the integration.

Plus, with APIs, there is convenient access to the electronic paperwork shippers need to keep their administrative responsibilities and supply chain flowing: bills of lading, proofs of delivery, and invoices.

What about EDIs?
A similar integration known as EDIs (electronic data interchange) is also used that allows shippers to leverage standardized data exchange services to tender and track loads. While EDIs have been the long-standing industry standard for tendering, APIs are quickly gaining traction because of their many advantages. In short, EDIs were a significant development, but APIs are the latest step in the evolution of freight.

Going forward
APIs continue to evolve and advance in an effort to make a future where everything is connected. If you’re a current Amazon Freight customer and want to explore possible integrations, contact your sales rep or freight-sales@amazon.com.
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