Being a carrier can be highly rewarding except when you struggle to find truck loads. And, not just any truckloads, but the right ones: those that work with your schedule and in your preferred lanes. The good news is there are strategies and tools to find profitable jobs that keep you running and expanding, whether you’re an owner-operator or running a fleet of trucks. Take advantage of these 11 suggestions on how to find truck loads for your particular operation.
1. Decide who you want to work with.
Understanding the makeup of your ideal customer is the foundation of your business. While it might be tempting to take any job that pays, not being specific enough can leave money on the table. When looking for the ideal customer, keep in mind the following things:
- Reputation. Working with reputable brokers usually means a steadier payout. There are some benefits to working with customers who might not have a long-standing reputation. Maybe the pay is higher, or you want to build a long-term relationship that might lead to a higher volume or more convenient lanes. If you decide on this route, be sure you understand the risks. The rule of thumb is: be on the lookout for fair-minded brokers who have relationships with the types of customers you want.
- Location. Focus on the geographic area and lanes that make the most sense for you, your equipment, and your lifestyle. Maybe you want to spend more time with your family. Or maybe you want to avoid winter blizzards or severe weather in the Plains states come spring. Maybe you’re not into spending 10 hours crossing Texas. Whatever your preferences, once you’ve mapped them out, look for loads in convenient locations or that can be hauled through your ideal lanes.
- Pricing. The dream, of course, is to find brokers offering well-priced available loads, including some that offer quick-pay and reasonable days-to-pay options. But go beyond the numbers and look at the job as a whole. Does that high-paying load come with hidden headaches? Maybe some lower-rate jobs are in great lanes, or the route circumstances are perfect. Look at the bigger picture when it comes to price.
2. Use a load board.
A good load board is the best tool for your business. But a word to the wise: you get what you pay for when it comes to load boards. While you might not shell out a cent for access to that advertised “free” load board, it could still cost you. Many free boards don’t include critical information such as costs or lanes. Fraud can also be more prevalent on these boards. Scammers can steal a broker’s identity, book a load demanding up-front payment, and take the cash. The best load boards will show you:
- What needs to be shipped
- Origination and destination
- Lanes and handling
- Weight and classification
- And more.
The best load boards will provide information to help you make better decisions, such as:
- Vetting brokers, so you can trust the information you find
- Search by load, truck, or lane
- Truck activity and truck-to-load ratios to help you negotiate better rates
- Best route mapping, including best fuel stops
- IFTA tax calculations
- Real-time updates and rate estimates
To find a reputable, high-quality load board, look for:
- Flexibility. In this case, flexibility means a larger pool of lanes and shipments. It also means access. You want a load board that’s easily accessible, either from your home computer, a laptop or tablet, or your smartphone. It’s also a good idea to seek out load boards with apps that work across multiple platforms.
- Options. As a carrier, you have specific requirements. There are certain types of loads you can carry and geographic areas you prefer. The best load boards offer plenty of information to help you match loads and make decisions, including rates, heat maps (for planning), origin and destinations, and broker ratings.
- Volume. Paying for a load board is an investment that pays for itself. It allows you to find loads from brokers and shippers quickly. Before you sign on with any load board, make sure it offers the types of freight you can haul.
3. Work with a freight broker.
When used in tandem with a load board, freight brokers can be your best friend for snagging the best loads and finding loads in the most convenient lanes for you. Freight brokers connect shippers to truckers and are excellent sources for jobs, especially if you’re just starting. The best part is that freight brokers do most of the legwork for you, from negotiating shipping rates to handling certain administrative tasks. That’s a big help if you’re one of the owner operators out there.
Building relationships with reputable freight brokers in the trucking industry is a smart long-term investment that brings you consistent, quality work. If you’re thinking about partnering with a freight broker, understand the costs. Good brokers should be upfront about commission fees and transportation costs.
4. Get approved for “Book It Now” loads.
If you have a network of brokers you know and trust (and who regularly use your services), Truckstop.com’s “Book It Now”, accessible in the Truckstop Go™ mobile app can save you time and money. Book It Now connects you to a pre-vetted load that fits your equipment, pricing, and lanes without having to search multiple apps or platforms.
The feature gives you all kinds of data from the broker, so you have accurate load details with the flexibility to book at any time, day or night. This means you know exactly what to expect before hitting the “okay” button. Book It Now is free for carriers. Just fill out the email template to let brokers know that you’re qualified, ready, and able to help them out. Access Book It Now in Truckstop Go, the new mobile app for Truckstop.com load board subscribers. Download it for free from the App Store and on Google Play.
5. Analyze information.
Data is king when it comes to finding your next load. Quality load boards should offer in-depth information, such as broker contact info and location, rate trends, lanes, and type of loads. The Truckstop.com Load Board offers highly accurate and current data, making it easier to figure out costs and profits for every load.
6. Run a backhaul search.
Running a backhaul search means you’re working backward. In other words, you’re looking at the destination to see what kinds of outgoing loads might need transport. You can get a list of truckloads to sort by rate, miles, and shipping company. Many carriers find backhauling extremely valuable, especially when more loads are coming out than going in. It’s also a smart way to break into new lanes.
7. Sell yourself.
When asking yourself how to book truck loads, be proactive rather than reactive. Let brokers and shippers know that you’re available for hire and can deliver their goods on time. Do you have a hazmat certificate? Do you specialize in moving heavy freight? Don’t keep it a secret! Head to your favorite load board, post your truck, and add as many details as possible to help others find you with their most important search terms.
8. List more than one type of transport.
Just because you drive a reefer, flatbed, or dry van doesn’t mean you can’t do a little cross-cargo listing. Consider using your refrigerated truck to haul dry goods if there aren’t any perishable goods to carry. Or, maybe your flatbed can haul other heavy items. Obviously, it won’t work for everything. You can’t carry ice cream on a flatbed. But with a little creative thinking, you might find extra loads you hadn’t considered before.
Also, if you restrict your search to only full truckloads, you could be missing out on less-than-load (LTL) options. Will you be paid less for that job? Maybe. But you’ll also be building good customer relationships for the future, and you can fill your truck with other LTL loads to make more money and be profitable on that haul.
9. Negotiate directly with shippers.
By negotiating directly with shippers, you can avoid paying commissions to brokers. This can be profitable, but it’s also a lot of work. Finding shippers with consistent lanes and predictable volume may be difficult to find, and they’re likely already working with a carrier. Most consistent loads are committed to contract carriers and may even be awarded using a bidding process. For owner operators, small carriers, or mid-sized carriers, you may be locked out of this process.
Most high-volume shippers also require trucking companies to submit tends electronically using a transportation management system (TMS) to standardize bidding. Finding and negotiating with shippers directly can be done, but you need to think about how much time you want to spend cold calling and following up.
10. Register as a government contractor.
Private companies aren’t the only ones on the hunt for drivers and haulers. Government organizations also outsource transportation needs. We aren’t just talking about the federal government, either. Local city governments need things hauled, as do county municipalities and state agencies. In every part of the country, a government entity needs to move something. The only challenge with these jobs is that you need to register as a government contractor, which requires a few extra steps.
If you want to avoid the paperwork and other requirements, consider partnering with a company that already has a government transportation contract.
11. Work with truck dispatchers.
Trucking dispatch services are another route to finding the right brokers and shippers. Some dispatchers go a few steps further, offering administrative assistance in accounting, billing, and collections. While you’ll have to pay a bit extra for these, you get time back that you can spend focusing on loaded miles or with family.
Sign up for the Truckstop.com load board to find and book truck loads.
Book your loads faster with the Truckstop.com Load Board
When it comes to figuring out how to book truck loads, a little creativity and forethought can go a long way. Build relationships and use the Truckstop.com Load Board Pro to find loads posted for trucks. Book them faster with Book It Now, which connects you with brokers who need your services. Whether you’re new to the industry or have been hauling for a while, follow these to keep your truck moving and make more profit. Get started today.