How to Use Load Boards: An Instructional Guide
According to the United States Department of Transportation, trucking accounts for approximately 65% of all freight and is still on a growth trajectory. Traditionally, the trucking industry has always had a vast marketplace or platforms that serve as hubs to connect shippers and service providers.
The only difference now is that most of these sources of information have shifted from traditional and physical spaces to the digital realm in the form of modern load boards.
A freight load board has become an indispensable aspect of road freight. This powerful online platform enables trade and goods exchange by closing the communication gap and hosting brokers, shippers, and carriers under one centralized platform.
With this tool, carriers can find loads and improve schedule management to minimize layovers and maximize profitability. Similarly, shippers and freight brokers can find carriers faster and more conveniently.
In this post, we’ll share an easy-to-understand guide to using load boards, so that you are able to connect with shippers, brokers, or truckers effectively.
1. Find A Suitable Load Board
Today, you can find various types of load boards online. Most of these platforms are designed specifically for carriers and brokers. Like most web-based services, load boards may charge a subscription fee for the information and functionality they provide to all parties.
Some load boards are free to use for carriers. However, they may charge carriers a processing fee for booking loads through the platform. In either case, both paid and free load boards allow shippers and freight brokers to post loads.
Carriers can then bid for loads based on their routes, type of cargo, equipment suitability, and other factors. In many cases, brokers or independent truck dispatchers also bid on loads and then outsource the shipment to their private carrier networks.
In other cases, freight brokers who own trucks may even use load boards to gain the best value and complement their business operations. If you’re looking to leverage a load board to find loads, you need to select one or maybe even multiple ones that best suit your use case and business model.
For this, we have created a comprehensive guide where we review the best load boards for shippers, freight brokers, and carriers on the market.
What to Look out For When Selecting a Load Board
Load boards offer several benefits to carriers. For most carriers, load boards simply provide added convenience through increased visibility of available loads in the market.
It’s also used as means to supplement core customers, especially when the market slows down or new carriers enter the area. Whereas for a few carriers, a load board is thoroughly integrated into their business operations where advanced features such as billing, factoring, and even reporting are utilized.
Ideally, you should figure out why you or your logistics business requires a load board. The following are general criteria you should consider when selecting an optimal one:
- Account Types
- User Interface
2. Register & Login To Your Preferred Load Board(s)
Once you’ve found the best load board for your needs, the next step is to register your company or yourself on it. Doing so will get you access to the available loads in the market.
Moreover, by creating your profile and setting up your business details on the platform, you can help prospecting brokers and shippers find and assign you to move their cargo for them.
However, if you’re looking to register on multiple load boards, make sure you weigh the pros and cons of doing so.
By opting for multiple platforms, you can enjoy greater exposure and reach. Different businesses that are potential clients will have different preferences when it comes to load boards.
Hence, they may not be able to leverage your expertise and services if you’re not on the platform they registered on. Furthermore, different load boards offer different blends of features and functionalities.
Some specialize in load posting and management while others offer more options for compliance check and truck search, live freight tracking, and load search and booking.
One major downside of using multiple load boards is the administrative burden. Depending on the size and scale of your operations, you may need extensive human resources to manage load boards and plan freight schedules accordingly.
Also, leveraging multiple load boards could possibly add to your financial burden as you would have to pay the cumulative fees recurrently.
3. Post or Search For Loads
When it comes to using load boards, carriers, shippers, and freight brokers each have different functions. For instance, shippers use a load board to post loads when they’re looking to move freight from one specific location to another.
In contrast, truckers use these platforms to find and book loads since they provide the necessary services to move goods and products to their respective destination.
Brokers, who are essentially middlemen in the freight process, use these platforms to do both – post and bid. They can post loads on behalf of shippers and bid on behalf of carriers based on their routes and fleet.
How to Post Loads on Load Boards
Posting loads on a load board is a relatively straightforward task. However, the task requires clarity so brokers and truckers can understand every aspect of the shipment, from cargo types to cargo ready date, or delivery locations to timelines.
Most platforms provide a simple user interface in which shippers or brokers can search the dashboard for an option to post loads (usually indicated by a plus sign or “Post Load” text).
The following is a list of important details you should include when posting your load:
- Cargo Details
- Pickup Details
- Delivery Details
- Additional Instructions
- Freight Rates
How to Search Loads on Load Boards
Most load boards come with a dedicated search window with advanced filtering capabilities that allows truckers and brokers to search loads easily. They can filter their search results based on different factors, including:
- Maximum Weight
- Maximum Length
- Pickup Date
How to Read Load Boards
Reading load boards is usually the most complex aspect of leveraging these platforms, especially when starting out. However, once you get used to it, it intuitive and becomes easier.
Following a search, you would come across a list of available loads in a tabular format with each column outlining specific details related to the shipment. Below, we’ll list down what you would typically view as a user, explain what each column header means, and how to read them:
- Rate – The freight rate is the price that a shipper or broker is willing to pay to move cargo from one place to another. Alternatively, if you are a shipper or broker user, the rate you are viewing would be the offer rate of a carrier (trucker).
- Company – The Company column represents the list of companies in the table offering or requesting freight services as per the search results.
- Equipment – The equipment column outlines the types of trucks used or required to transport cargo such as Flatbed, Flat Step Deck, etc.
- Origin – This represents the city and state where the cargo needs to be picked. up.
- Destination – This represents the final destination of a load, which is also incited by the name of the city and state.
- Special Requirements – The special requirements may either specify specific handling requirements detailed by the shipper or broker or advertise carriers with special labor or handling capabilities.
- Distance – The distance column represents the overall distance between the origin and the destination (indicated in miles).
- Action – Finally, the action column allows shippers or brokers to refine and pick the best carrier for their shipment based on the factors above. Whereas, as a carrier, the action column would display an interactive button for you to bid for a specific load.
How to Bid for Loads on a Load Board
Bidding is one of the most crucial stages of operations for load board users. As a carrier, once you search for loads based on requirements, you would find a column with an “Action” or “Bid” button.
This button will allow you to bid on that particular load which will send a notification to the respective shipper or broker to enter a negotiation phase. Here, you have to be careful.
You don’t want to bid an amount that’s too high for the shipper. Similarly, you don’t want to incur a loss, especially if you have no backhaul loads. Hence, you should plan and calculate all costs associated with a particular shipment before bidding.
If your bid is selected, you can proceed further to the rate negotiation step with the shipper or broker.
4. Negotiate the Rates
Negotiation is common practice in the trucking industry, regardless of whether you’re a broker, carrier, or shipper. However, not every platform is equal when it comes to facilitating negotiations between the parties.
Fortunately, some load boards offer an advanced user interface with powerful features designed specifically to simplify and accelerate the negotiation phase, such as:
Some load boards display ratings to carriers, brokers, and shippers based on reliability, cost, performance, payment practices, and other factors. As a user continues to utilize a load board, companies that have worked with them are able to rate them based on delivery experiences.
User ratings can help cut the negotiation time as good user ratings may be perceived that the other party is reliable and offers the best value possible. For instance, shippers are less likely to negotiate for too long with carriers with excellent ratings and vice versa.
Some load boards offer users an average estimation of freight rates based on routes, shipment types, loads, and other factors. Shippers, carriers, and brokers can use this information as a reference when negotiating rates.
Doing so will help them make a quicker and more informed decision as they can use this amount to demand fair value from the other party. An example would be that carriers can demand better rates than the estimated average if they provide better services and delivery times.
Similarly, brokers can check and negotiate the lowest acceptable rates to increase their overall commission.
Some load boards display freight rate trends for certain loads and routes within a specified timeframe. Using this information, carriers can adjust their rates for different times of the year to stay competitive and demonstrate flexibility.
The idea is to ensure shippers get the best value from carriers based on the latest market rate. Hence, shippers can use rate trends to find the best time to ship their goods.
Trends may also be useful for carriers finding loads for a particular route that can lower their truck expenses per mile. Once the final rates have been negotiated and agreed upon, the freight operations can commence with the carriers dispatching their trucks to pick up and deliver the cargo.
5. Setup Additional Services
As mentioned earlier, many paid load boards offer more functions than just finding loads and available carriers. Many renowned platforms in the market offer round-the-clock customer support with experts ready to answer all queries related to freight rates, routes, carriers, brokers, and more. Some go beyond and offer a mix of additional services, including:
Billing is an essential aspect of a freight contract. Having a built-in billing module that handles billing can accelerate the transaction process and enable teams to send invoices and settle payments quickly.
Factoring is an arrangement provided by certain load boards to carriers (truckers) to receive payments for their services faster. This is an excellent feature, especially for new truckers or small carrier companies with limited cash flow.
By getting paid immediately, they don’t have to disrupt or halt operations simply due to the lack of capital. Shippers still get to enjoy their payment terms, as the load board provides the escrow service.
Load boards offer an extensive range of report types all parties can leverage to optimize logistics and make better decisions. The most common reports include fuel consumption, revenue per mile, load statistics, power lanes, on-time performance, and freight accruals, among many others.
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.