How to Find Carriers as a Freight Broker
As a freight broker, it is not likely that you would own trucks like carriers do and would therefore not be able to provide a service to shippers directly. In order to provide a complete solution to customers, finding reliable carriers who can partner with you to transport goods in a timely manner is crucial.
Most trucking companies have a small fleet of six trucks or less, which may make sourcing a challenge. Balancing the capacity of truck fleets with the transport demand of your shippers is an important skill to grasp.
Additionally, some challenges you may face while looking for reliable carriers are trucking rates that are above market rates, mismatched schedules and routes, and poor truck conditions.
All of these challenges can affect any freight broker’s business and their relationship with the shipper. Many freight brokers go through trial and error to amass a group of reliable carriers. However, with the right techniques, this process can be accelerated.
This article will discuss ways freight brokers can find quality carriers and important tips regarding how they can build reliable long-term partnerships with trucking companies.
1. Use Search Engines
The most basic method of scouting carriers who are actively looking to haul loads is searching for them online. You can use multiple search engines to look for carriers that cater to their shippers’ needs.
This method is a hit or miss as most carriers you will find using a search engine will either be smaller trucking companies that may be inactive, or larger ones that may or may not be keen to work with you depending on your freight routes, volume, special requirements, and other criteria.
Larger trucking companies allocate a higher budget to boost their online brand presence and command a larger share of the market. They have the leverage to maintain rates that would typically be higher than the market rate but they offer excellent services, nationwide coverage, more reliability, and higher capacity.
On the other hand, smaller companies lack brand presence and capacity but are usually more competitive, and flexible when it comes to special requirements during deliveries.
Besides using a search engine, you can also use the map function on browsers to look for trucking companies within the shippers’ or your vicinity by looking out for large facilities.
However, this method requires patience and a keen eye to spot facilities that could potentially contain trucks.
2. Search Through Carrier Databases
Like other industries, you can find suitable carriers for your needs by searching carrier databases. These databases hold a variety of information about carrier companies.
They can help you learn how long a company has been in the business, their contact details (the representative’s email address and phone number), how much freight they can haul (the number of trucks they own), and where they operate so you can plan pick-up and drop-off locations accordingly.
Knowing their location also helps negotiate the deal in your favor, as you can offer backhaul trips that might benefit them. You can filter some of these databases according to the type of equipment you require, the size of fleet you need, and more.
Nevertheless, since these databases are difficult to compile, complete, and regularly update, you may have to pay a fee to access them.
3. Use Load Boards
Load boards are online platforms for shippers, carriers, and freight brokers for posting and selecting loads according to their requirements. The carriers on these platforms are actively looking for new loads and are interested in being contacted by shippers or freight brokers.
This makes using load boards a promising approach to finding carriers since you can connect with them and start building a meaningful partnership. There are two ways you can use to find carriers for your business on load boards.
If you already have a load from a shipper, you can post its details on the platform and sift through interested carriers to choose the best one. The second method is to simply look for carriers who have posted their trucks and routes on the platform and get in touch with them.
While both of these methods seem similar, the main difference between them is that the approaching party has lesser leverage during negotiations. Some of the best load boards available are user-friendly, have a wide network of users, and give you excellent customer support.
Load boards are a great way to test out carriers and learn if they would be a good fit for your business. Once you have worked with a carrier, you can assess their performance and services, and invite them to haul loads for you in the future.
4. Ask for Referrals
Asking for referrals can also be an excellent method to establish your freight brokerage. This can help you find suitable carriers for your business, especially if you are starting out.
However, being new to the industry, you would often struggle to identify where and how you can find trusted sources for referrals. Associations like the Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA) can help you get in touch with other brokers in the industry.
It is a healthy and friendly business environment where freight brokers can request referrals from others since there are various industries, niches, and opportunities in the business. As it is set in a healthy competition environment, you can find freight brokers who will help budding professionals in the industry flourish and prosper.
Another way you can request referrals is through truck dispatchers. It might seem counterintuitive for truck dispatchers to help a freight broker, but since they are in touch with several carriers for their company, they might recommend your service to a trucking business when they do not have enough shipments to work with.
There may be times when truck dispatchers are not able to match the required rates, meet the carrier’s requirements, or plan effectively with a trucking company. In these cases, dispatchers can refer you and your business to these carriers.
Being a successful freight broker is about building good and lasting business relationships. When you build a good relationship with your carriers, they may offer you additional referrals if they cannot meet your capacity needs or have routes that do not match your freight.
5. Use Digital Freight Matching Platforms
A Digital Freight Matching (DFM) platform is a relatively new technology in the logistics industry that matches the available capacity of carriers (trucks) with the available freight (loads) of freight brokers and shippers.
Since it is a rather new type of platform, it may not have a wide variety of carriers to select from. However, this is an excellent method of finding quality carriers with the help of artificial intelligence (AI).
The algorithm of these digital freight matching platforms uses predictive analytics with the help of AI and machine learning to make optimum matches depending on capacity, efficiency, costs for all parties, and service quality.
With a digital freight matching platform, not only would truckers be able to find suitable posted loads, but you as a freight broker can also find reliable truckers within a short amount of time. It offers a feature for you to approve carriers by their ratings and potentially work with them long-term in the future.
There are many benefits of using a DFM as compared to a load board since users can see the freight marketplace changing in real-time, use analytics to their advantage, make payments easily, post reviews, etc.
Tips For Selecting Carriers
Although there are many carriers available who can haul your load, it is highly recommended that you focus on choosing the right carriers for your business.
A few mishaps and dissatisfied clients can affect your business hence practice caution and only choose reliable carriers. Here are a few tips you can follow to select the right carriers for your business
Look at Year Established
It is crucial that you look at the year when a carrier was established in comparison with the growth of its fleet size. This will help you determine if their business is doing well or if something doesn’t feel right about the company.
For example, a carrier that has a small fleet size despite operating for decades could mean that it went through a recent downsizing or has not been growing. If you notice something not adding up about the company, ask the carrier about it.
You should ensure that their business does not have regular issues with clients and has a good performance record.
Check Reviews Whenever Possible
The best way to ascertain if a carrier would be the right fit for your business is to check their reviews. If a trucking company is on a load board or DFM platform, you may be able to read reviews posted by companies that have worked with them in the past.
If you assign a new carrier without checking their reviews or references, you could risk your business’s reputation and shipper relationships. This is why it is best to check reviews and ask for references before engaging in a carrier’s services.
Negotiate Fair Rates
Carriers who are interested in building a long-term relationship with a freight broker will never propose exorbitant or high rates. At the end of the day, rates are important to both parties.
If a carrier suggests rates that are too high, it may be damaging to your business and possibly indicate that they are not interested in working with you. However, if they suggest rates that are too low, it may indicate that the carrier is cutting corners in various areas such as maintenance, resources, or other areas.
Moreover, they could also only be looking for a quick transaction instead of a lasting business relationship.
Ask About Their Regular Routes
As a freight broker, it is crucial for you to know a carrier’s regular routes so you can leverage the negotiations according to your mutual interests. If your shipper requires you to transport freight along those routes, you can ask carriers for lower rates since this approach will also help them save costs.
Having less-than-truckload freight that can be picked up along the way will benefit both parties greatly. You will also find that managing scheduling and routes are easier with this approach.
Inspect Their Equipment
Before working with a carrier, it is important for you to check the quality of services they provide and inspect their equipment. Since the shipper trusts you to find the best type of hauling solution for them, you must ensure that the carrier you choose for their needs is the right one.
You need to also check if they are using the correct type of equipment according to the kind of freight they haul. Inspecting the vehicle beforehand also helps you determine its age, condition, and whether there could be potential delays due to equipment breakdown.
Verify Their Capacity
During initial discussions with a carrier, it is advised to establish the capacity they are able to haul for you. You can check if the load volume they are able to commit to is the right fit for your business plan, or you might have to work with multiple smaller fleets.
Although there is nothing wrong with working with many small fleets, the administrative work for payments, scheduling, and routes can compound. Similarly, there is also a risk when you choose a large fleet for your business since you are putting all your eggs into one basket.
If they decide to stop working with you, it could be detrimental to your business continuity.
Co-Founder & Writer
About the Author
Andrew is a multi-business owner with over 10 years of experience in the fields of logistics, manufacturing, operations, training, and education.
Being the co-founder of freightcourse has given him the ability to pursue his desire of educating others on manufacturing and supply chain topics.