Running a trucking business and working as an owner-operator can be highly fulfilling, but can pose challenges if you struggle to find truck loads. Finding suitable loads for your trucks that fit your schedule and preferred routes is important in reducing truck driver expenses and maximizing overall profitability.
If you’re a dispatcher, own a trucking company, or are an owner-operator, you need continuous and profitable loads to run your business and keep expanding. You can use load boards, work with a freight broker, negotiate directly with shippers, and employ many other techniques to make your trucking business successful.
This article will teach you how to find and book truck loads, as well as help you determine which methods are best for your business. You will also learn about some of the most important aspects you should consider while booking loads and a case study that will help you understand the process better.
Ways to Find Truck Loads
There are many easy ways for owner-operators and trucking companies to find truck loads to keep their business running profitably. We have listed them in detail below.
1. Freight Brokers
Working with freight brokers is a great way to find suitable loads for your preferred routes. Freight brokers connect truckers and trucking companies with shippers and can be an excellent way to generate revenue, especially if you are new to the industry.
Freight brokers handle most of the groundwork for you, such as negotiating rates and performing administrative duties. Working with a freight broker allows you to bring in consistent revenue.
However, freight brokers charge a commission and may own the contract directly with the shipper. In this scenario, trucking companies and owner-operators are typically subcontracted.
2. Load Boards
Load boards are another great way to find a comprehensive range of loads for your trucking business. In the past, load boards used to be in physical form at truck stops, where people would post the type of load they had and their carrier requirements.
Load boards have been digitized now, and you can easily find a great online marketplace that connects carriers, shippers, and brokers with trucking companies and owner-operators.
Load boards are a great resource for trucking companies, as they allow you to search and filter loads and routes according to your preferences. You can view loads according to their type, size, weight, current location, destination, and handling requirements and ensure that the shipper or broker is reliable through verified ratings and reviews.
- Additional Resource: Best Load Boards
Negotiating directly with the shippers is the best option if you want to build a long-lasting business relationship and expand your network in the trucking industry. You can avoid broker commissions and load board fees and directly work with shippers that match your requirements of volume and routes.
This allows you to earn higher profits and learn more about the industry. However, this method will require you to manage everything on your own, which can be a lot of work and you’ll also need to actively engage in building these relationships.
Consistent loads are often awarded after a bidding process which can be time-consuming, and you will spend most time negotiating and waiting for responses.
Instead of contacting shippers directly, trucking companies can also get in touch with dispatchers and reduce the time spent negotiating and networking. Dispatchers help you save time and can allow you to focus on achieving loaded miles rather than drowning in paperwork.
They help carriers and owner-operators with paperwork, billing, accounting, other administrative tasks and even finding and allocating loads. However, dispatchers charge fees for their services which makes them similar to freight brokers.
5. Large Trucking Companies
Small trucking companies, owner-operators, or those new to the industry may find it difficult to connect with industry leaders since most networks are exclusive to only experienced and established companies.
Since larger and established companies have built trusted and mutually beneficial relationships with partners over the years, new companies may feel a disadvantage stepping into the industry.
Nevertheless, a good relationship with larger trucking companies and partnering with them to carry truck loads can benefit small trucking companies and help them gain industry insights and allow them to network with other professionals.
You can also attend events and join associations to keep up to date on the latest happenings and begin expanding your trucking business steadily.
6. Digital Freight Matching
Digital Freight Matching (DFM) platforms offer truckers the ability to connect with shippers through machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). This allows owner-operators and trucking companies to get matches in real-time.
More advanced DFM platforms can connect through transport management systems (TMS) via EDI or API that enables seamless load matching. Apart from connectivity, most digital freight matching platforms also include other innovative features such as in-app payment processing, invoicing, backhaul load recommendations, and more.
Carriers looking for a consistent workflow can find regular loads by registering as government contractors. Federal, state, and local governments need authorized carriers to haul goods all across the country and beyond.
When registering as a government contractor or partnering with an organization that already is one, you will be eligible to obtain government contracts. Working as a government contractor has many benefits.
The first advantage is that you can easily rely on trusted freight matching with guaranteed loads. Moreover, you will only get to work with truck drivers authorized to carry these loads, meaning there will be significantly less bidding competition.
However, you should take note that government contracts are typically awarded to more established and renowned trucking companies that are fully licensed and have a proven track record.
Considerations When Booking a Truck Load
To ensure you are getting the right amount of compensation for a trip and transporting goods safely, you need to account for all factors involved before booking a load.
Markets change depending on the time of day, destination, weight, freight type, and even weather conditions. Consider the following points carefully before you begin negotiating the final price.
Map Out Your Trip
To ensure a trucking business generates good revenue and operates without loss, you will need to pay more attention to routes and trips. Shorter trips can be cheaper to operate and easier to manage for drivers
However, they tend to be less profitable. Longer trips can be more extensive, but they can bring in more profits for the company. It’s also important to understand more about freight lanes. A freight lane is a route that a carrier takes on a regular schedule.
Niche or regular lanes provide stability and ease of mind to the driver, carrier, and shipper. They can help a trucking company build a consistent and trusted image and prepare for possible issues beforehand.
On the other hand, going on trips that pay more but follow unfamiliar routes can cause problems with load rate calculation and preparation for unforeseen circumstances.
Perform Backhaul Trips
A backhaul trip is the return trip of a truck from its destination to its origin. Finding the best backhaul for your trip is important since the profits from the first load will be used to pay for the round-trip’s fuel and the driver’s pay, while the backhaul trip will help you gain profit for yourself, your company, and your driver.
Planning for it smartly can allow you to save on fuel and other transportation costs and generate greater revenue. This is why you should always check routes or your chosen broker’s customer base for the most appropriate backhaul trips.
Check Payment Terms
Before booking a truck load, it is important to check all the payment terms and costs related to the trip. If you are working with a freight broker, you will have to account for their commission as well as fuel costs, driver costs, and other types of trucking expenses.
Running a successful trucking company means maintaining a healthy cash flow. You need to understand the shipper’s or broker’s payment terms carefully and know exactly when you will receive payment.
Remember that a high-paying trip may impact your business and cash flow if you receive the payment later than expected, especially with increased expenses.
Practice Due Diligence
When working with a freight broker or directly with shippers, the main thing to consider is whether they are reliable and trustworthy. Certain freight brokerages fail to pay out or delay payments to trucking companies.
When choosing a freight broker, look for any warning signs by looking them up in an official company register, licensing bodies, or national freight associations. You may also assess them through online reviews.
Freight brokerages that your factoring company reviews will have a record of payments and past issues that can help you decide if you should stay away or take the job.
You can begin working with a brokerage company confidently after ensuring they have a strict and direct setup process, a good reputation, and a reliable customer base.
Ensure Suitable Load Types
There are many types of loads that a trucking company can handle depending on the equipment and types of trucks they own. Dry vans, semi-trailers, flatbeds, and refrigerated trucks are the most common types of carrier vehicles present.
Whereas less-than-truckloads (LTL) and full truckloads (FTL) are the types of loads that are categorized according to weight and overall dimensions. Having the right equipment for loading and unloading freight (pallet jacks, lift gates, etc.) and the correct type of truck is necessary to ensure the cargo remains protected.
Be Flexible with Your Equipment Usage
Being flexible and open-minded with the loads your truck carries can make your company more reliable for shippers. Flexibility in this aspect will allow you to accept higher-paying loads quickly and find more opportunities for backhaul trips.
For example, you can use a refrigeration truck (also known as a reefer truck) to carry dry or frozen goods for the backhaul trip. You can use the cross-cargo listing to find more loads for your carrier trucks and stand a better chance of getting truck loads.
Study Market Trends and Rates
Market rates can change frequently, so it is crucial to stay updated to avail the best compensation for your trips. When you are up to date regarding the recent market and consumer trends in the region, you can use bargaining chips to negotiate the best price with brokers.
Following the trends of other trucking companies and being present on professional networking websites like LinkedIn and even Facebook groups can help you learn about events and keep up with recent news.
The following case study featuring a small fleet trucking business from New York will help you better understand how truck loads are booked and the freight transportation process.
After checking a freight broker’s background, a small trucking business in New York contacts them to find cargo that needs to be delivered to Atlanta. The trucking company also needs to run a backhaul trip with goods utilizing the same equipment (reefer) used for the first trip.
The freight broker finds a shipper (a pharmaceutical company looking to transport medicines) that meets the trucking business’ requirements and offers a price to them. They also suggest a backhaul trip for the same carrier truck (reefer) that does not include freight commonly transported with this type (dry goods: toiletries).
The trucking company accepts the trip after researching routes and prices and ensuring the cargo (dry goods) is compatible with their truck (reefer). They understand that flexibility with different freight and their own equipment can help build a better reputation and remain more profitable.
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Co-Founder & Writer
About the Author
Andrew is a multi-business owner with over 12 years of experience in the fields of logistics, trucking, manufacturing, operations, training, and education.
Being the co-founder of freightcourse has given him the ability to pursue his desire to educate others on manufacturing and supply chain topics.