Anyone can go to a load board and find a load, but how do you find the loads that are right for you and your trucking business? And what actions can you take so that you aren’t always worried about finding the next load?
If you’re a carrier or owner-operator struggling to find loads that make it easier to run your truck AND are consistently profitable, learn some tips that will help.
1. Decide who you want to work with.
Before you do anything, figure out who you want to be in business with. Figuring out what kind of customers you want to focus on will help you find them. It also means you can better narrow in on your business goals.
Here’s what to look for when deciding who your customers should be:
- Established brokers with a good reputation; if they don’t have a good reputation, make sure you understand the risk involved.
- Reliable loads suited to the lanes you want to run and/or convenient locations.
- Loads are priced fairly and at market value; if a load is under/over, make sure it’s for a reason that suits your needs.
- Quick pay options and reasonable days-to-pay.
- Fair-minded and reasonable brokers and shippers.
- Value-focused that appreciate drivers who provide excellent customer service.
If this list seems impossible, know that there are products out there that will actually help you find the right customers. Truckstop.com’s Credit Stop Broker lets you see a broker’s credit score, experience factor, and risk level, as well as the average number of days it takes them to pay a carrier. Plus, Truckstop.com vets every broker that uses our load board every 90 days.
Pro tip: In general, if a rate is bad, then the broker and load details and/or lane better be good. If the broker is bad, make sure you negotiate for a good load at a good rate. If the load or lane aren’t appealing, the price and broker need to make up for it. Some truckers opt to work with bad brokers to move easy loads to get high rates. Some truckers take a low rate if they love the broker, the load, or the lane. Only you can decide what works for you and your business.
2. Use a good load board.
A good load board is the best tool you can have at your disposal. Use one that provides enough flexibility to support your unique business needs. Make sure it has plenty of volume so you have the freedom to work with who you want, when you want, with the ability to move what you want. (Truckstop.com’s Load Board has hundreds of thousands of loads to choose from!) It should offer the features you need to make the right decisions for your business. Look for options like sorting by rate, origin, and broker rating which will help you find the loads that work best for you. The best load boards will offer tons of features like the ability to create multiple stops so you can plan ahead, along with heat maps so you know where the best paying loads are.
Be careful when using free load boards. Although they are easy on the wallet, they may cost you money in the long run. With less features, higher security risks, and fewer loads to choose from, you may end up leaving money on the table. Learn more about the pros and cons of free load boards.
3. Focus on broker relationships.
It might be hard to hear it, but focusing on having good relationships with brokers can help your wallet later down the road. If it’s a lane you like to run because it gets you close to home or pays well, make sure the broker knows that, then provide the best service you can so they want to go to you in the future. If you’re reliable, provide excellent customer service, and they know you’re interested, they will call you directly instead of posting a load to the board, and that saves both of you time and resources.
4. Search for more than one type of trailer.
Including more than one trailer type will produce better search results. If you focus too closely on one kind of trailer, you may miss loads that can go on various types of trailers. If you have a reefer, you can also run it as a dry van. If you’re only looking for full truck loads, you’re missing less-than-load (LTL) options. This obviously doesn’t work for everything (you can’t haul ice cream on a flatbed), but consider giving it a try when you’re in a pinch. You rely on your instincts every day, so go into situations knowing there is always a way to make it work for you.
5. Try a backhaul search.
It’s no secret you are in a better position when you’re in a location that has more loads coming out of it than going in. Use the features of a good load board to your advantage by entering in the location you are exiting (or thinking about exiting), and leave the destination blank. This will provide a list of outgoing loads you can sort any way you want to – by rate, miles, company, destination, etc. Compare the loads going in and out and decide what locations are worth it to you. And don’t forget to try this tactic to form a plan before you ever even head into a location, then you’ll know what to expect when you get there!
6. Use advanced search features.
A good load board will include advanced search options so you can search by weight, size, commodity, pick-up time, and more. It will help you find the loads better suited to you and your trucking business; it may come with a premium rate or fit into your schedule better. While not all the loads posted will include this type of information, you may often find the better loads if you’re filtering down to your specific needs.
7. Post your truck instead of looking for loads.
Not all loads get posted, and sometimes a load will sit on a load board for a long time before getting picked up. Help brokers find you by posting your truck instead of spending your time searching for a load. For example, do you perform a specialty service? Maybe you’ve got your hazmat certificate or specialize in moving oversized freight. Make it easier for people to find you by getting your information out there. Include as many details about your truck and the services you provide as possible so the right people find you. This has the added benefit of building a customer base because when someone is looking for something specific, they’ll know to come right to you in the future.
8. Make alternate plans.
You’re most likely in a situation in which you can’t rely on just one freight company or lane to run your truck or operate your trucking business. Good load boards provide rate tools, trucks-to-loads information, and heat maps (example shown above) so you can be in the right place at the right time to take advantage of market changes – that all means more money in your pocket! Pay attention to the features in your load board, and use them to your advantage, especially if you find yourself in a situation in which you have to deadhead miles or take LTL options.
9. Talk to your load board’s customer service reps.
If you’re paying for a load board, talk to the people who know it best – the customer service representatives! They can help you navigate the board to best suit your needs and find the best loads for you. They can explain features you may not have known existed. They’re there to provide the support you need to make money, so use them to help you do that.