As many as 400,000 owner-operators are driving on America’s roads. One of the most important parts of being a successful owner-operator is getting a steady flow of loads. Figuring out how you’ll get owner-operator loads can greatly impact how much you can earn regularly, and it isn’t always easy.
If you’re starting as an owner-operator, it can take time to find a steady source of loads. Some truckers find loads through personal networks or by signing contracts, but these aren’t the only options available.
Thankfully, technology has made finding loads faster and easier than ever. You can access load boards, freight brokers, and other services over the internet to find loads that suit your business goals. Ideally, you’ll have enough well-paying loads lined up to make a significant profit by the end of the year.
Here’s how to get loads as an owner-operator.
7 ways to get more loads as an owner-operator
1. Use owner-operator load boards.
Load boards like Truckstop.com help you find available loads that fit your freight type. You can even find specialized loads. For example, if you have a Hazardous Materials Endorsement (HAZMAT) on your CDL, you can search specifically for HAZMAT loads in your desired start and end locations. With an industry-trusted load board like Truckstop.com, you can even use decision tools like truck-to-load ratio and truck activity by origin and destination to negotiate the best rates possible.
By making a name for yourself on load boards, you can become a trusted carrier to top brokers and shippers, expanding your business.
2. Work with a freight broker.
If you’re having trouble finding contracts with shippers on your own, you can also work with a freight broker. Freight brokers connect you with shippers who have loads to move.
Brokers help find you work, so you don’t have to work only with shippers directly. They’ll determine the loads’ rates, match you with loads in specific locations, and connect you with loads that work for your schedule.
Remember that brokers take a percentage of profit from each load as a fee for their services. Most brokers charge between 15% and 25% for each load. That might seem like a lot, but the fees are often worth it if it means avoiding idle time.
3. Contract with a dispatching service.
Dispatchers might manage your schedule directly or reach out to you when they receive a call for truck services. There are two ways to work with dispatchers: You can hire your own or use a dispatching service.
Hiring a dispatcher internally only makes sense if you operate multiple trucks under your authority, and you need someone to manage multiple drivers at once. If you’re on your own, it may make more sense to work with a dispatching service.
Dispatching services connect you directly with shippers or brokers while also doing administrative work you may not have time for. Keep in mind that you have to pay for these services. Dispatchers might not always have steady work available for you either, so you might get steadier work being proactive on a load board as well.
4. Source directly from local shippers.
Sourcing directly from shippers in your area isn’t always possible, but it is an option. If you can form relationships with shippers, you won’t have to split your profits with a broker or pay anyone else to find loads for you.
If possible, use your professional network to find opportunities with nearby shippers. In some cases, you may have to bid against other drivers to get opportunities. It can be challenging to find shippers who don’t contract out consistent lanes with established carriers and companies.
5. Lease on with a company.
Leasing on with a trucking company can be a good way to move from being a company driver to an owner-operator. In this arrangement, you own your authority, but the company is responsible for finding you loads. They may even cover some expenses for you, such as fuel and insurance.
There are some downsides to this arrangement. You don’t have as much independence, as the company will tell you the days and times you have to work. You’ll have to take loads from the company, which can limit your ability to earn money elsewhere, and you’ll need to agree to their payment terms.
It can still be a more reliable way to find loads, especially if you’re starting as an owner-operator.
6. Register as a government contractor.
The government often outsources its shipping and hauling needs, so opting to haul government freight can open more load opportunities. You can deliver loads for almost any type of government, whether it’s a local government, state, federal, or a specific branch, such as the Department of Defense (DOD).
The easiest way to get government contracts is to partner with a company that already hauls government freight. But if you want to maintain your independence, you can register as a government contractor yourself.
For more information about becoming a government contractor, visit the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) website. Keep in mind that the government might have stricter guidelines about delivering some loads. You might also need to meet the requirements set in the Service Contract Act (SCA) of 1965, which helps determine wage rates, performance expectations, and more.
7. Use load-matching apps.
Technology is quickly transforming the way owner-operators find loads and manage their businesses. Load-matching apps are just the latest innovation in how to find loads for owner-operator truck drivers.
Load matching apps automatically generate a plan for your route. They factor in tasks like staging and loading so that you can optimize your routes for profit. Some apps can even help you manage how you pack your loads based on your truck’s size and your container.
The best load-matching apps help you decrease empty miles, reduce fuel costs, and improve your productivity. They also cut down on manual tasks like cost-per-mile and revenue calculations.
Apps like Truckstop Mobile bring the Truckstop.com Load Board directly to your smartphone. Use it to search for loads on Truckstop.com, accept loads, view your trip overviews, and even share important documents. You can manage your entire trucking business from the palm of your hand.
By uploading a little bit of information about your truck and your business, you can find loads in your favorite lanes, save favorite loads, leave reviews, and more.
When searching for load matching apps, pay close attention to user reviews. Only use apps created by trusted providers like Truckstop.com. Truckstop.com Mobile is free in the iPhone App Store and on Google Play.
Find owner-operator loads today.
There are more ways than ever for owner-operators to find loads, get better rates, and make money. Technology has made it much easier to run your independent trucking business and get a better view of the current freight market.
If you’re struggling to find consistent owner-operator loads, start with a load board demo. The Truckstop.com Load Board can help you find the best loads and most trustworthy brokers, helping you earn more money per mile. When you’re ready, download the Truckstop.com Mobile app to manage your business on the go.