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8 Ways to Get More Owner-Operator Loads

three trucks driving down the highway next to a mountainside

Getting a steady flow of loads is one of the most important parts of being a successful owner-operator. Truck loads can significantly impact how much you earn regularly, making competing with approximately 350,000 owner-operators driving on America’s roads is critical.

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If you’re starting as an owner-operator, finding a steady source of loads and a lot of cold calling can take time. Some truckers find truck loads through personal networks or signing contracts, but these aren’t the only options available.

Technology has made finding truck loads for owner-operators faster and easier. You can access load boards, freight brokers, and other services on your computer or mobile device to find loads that suit your business goals. 

No matter which methods you choose, the goal is to be profitable and continue to grow your business. To help you get started, or increase your options, here are eight ways to get loads as an owner-operator.

1. Use owner-operator load boards.

Load boards, like Truckstop, are online marketplaces where truck owner-operators, shippers, and freight brokers can post, find, and book loads to keep freight moving. 

Load boards show you what available freight needs to be transported, where it needs to go, weight, size, and any special services required. You can sort by type of equipment, type of loads, or routes to find jobs that fit your requirements. 

Load boards also let owner-operators search for truck loads that fit their criteria. You can even find specialized loads. For example, if you have a hazardous materials (HAZMAT) endorsement on your commercial driver’s license (CDL), you can search specifically for HAZMAT loads in your desired start and end locations.

Owner-operators can quickly search for available jobs, assess rates from shippers and brokers, and make fast decisions with confidence. 

With an industry-trusted load board, you can use decision tools like truck-to-load ratio and truck activity by origin and destination to negotiate the best rates possible. Controlling what loads you take and who you choose to work with helps you become a trusted carrier with top brokers and shippers to keep you on the road and maximize your profits.

2. Work with a freight broker.

Freight brokers serve as the middleman to connect owner-operators with shippers who have loads to move. Their primary job is communicating the details to determine loads’ rates, match you with loads in specific locations, and connect you with loads that work for your schedule. 

Brokers take a percentage of profit from each load as a fee for their services. Most brokers charge between 15% and 25% per load. 

Using a freight broker is an efficient way to connect owner-operators to loads quickly to avoid idle time. They have relationships built with shippers that allow them to be notified about a load and negotiate rates faster.

3. Contract with a dispatching service.

Dispatchers represent your trucking company in negotiating freight to connect you directly with shippers or brokers. Many trucking dispatchers will also take care of back-office tasks, from customer support to billing and payment collections.

Dispatchers can also plan efficient driving routes while you’re on the road. A good dispatch service will consistently work toward maximizing mileage and minimizing empty-load hours to increase your profitability.

There are two ways to work with dispatchers: Hire your own or use a dispatching service.

Hiring a dispatcher internally is beneficial if you operate multiple trucks under your authority, and need someone to manage multiple drivers at once. If you’re on your own, working with a dispatching service may make more sense.

Freight dispatchers are also helpful when you’re starting as a trucking company and don’t have enough loads to haul, especially if you’re struggling to manage the ins and outs of back-office operations.

4. Source directly from local shippers.

Building direct relationships with shippers gives you a higher revenue per load. You won’t have to split your profits with a broker or pay anyone else to find loads for you, reducing your operating expenses. However, it can be challenging to find shippers who don’t contract out consistent lanes with established carriers and companies. 

Working directly with shippers requires that you are knowledgeable about lanes, logistics, and rate negotiation.

5. Lease on with a company.

Leasing on with a trucking company that needs additional capacity can be an excellent way to move from being a company driver to an owner-operator. With a lease-on agreement, the driver already owns the truck and leases his or her rig and services.

An owner-operator lease agreement is a contract with specific terms between a trucking company and a driver with agreed upon rates and any covered expenses like fuel or insurance.

The downside to this arrangement is you have less flexibility with your schedule.

6. Register as a government contractor.

The government often outsources its shipping and hauling needs. By registering as a government contractor, you can deliver loads for local, state, or federal government 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. However, you can register as a government contractor yourself. 

For more information about becoming a government contractor or acquiring government trucking contracts, visit the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) website. The government does have stricter guidelines about delivering some loads, such as requiring you to be a fleet owner. 

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. Network with other businesses.

Building relationships can help create new clients. 

Look for opportunities, such as associations of shippers or industries you want to work. Local small business groups are also a place to network. Many organizations will provide membership lists (for a small fee) you can use to build a list of prospects.

Networking can help you find truck loads but may take considerable time and effort. However once you’ve established trust and proven reliability, you can create long-lasting partnerships.

8. Use load-matching apps.

Technology is quickly transforming how owner-operators find truck loads and manage their businesses. Load-matching apps are offered by freight brokers to connect drivers with loads. These apps require you to accept the loads at the published rate without the hassle of negotiation. 

Load-matching apps also auto-generate a plan for your route by factoring in tasks like staging and loading to 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 productivity. They also cut down on manual tasks like cost-per-mile and revenue calculations.

The trucking industry can be tough. But keeping your truck on the road with high-paying loads is possible if you create a plan and tap into your resources. Whichever way you choose to find truck loads, whether it be through freight brokers or finding the best load board, take the time to understand the pros and cons and work to foster relationships that will keep your business moving.

Find owner-operator loads today.

Technology has made it easier for owner-operators to find loads, get better rates, and make money. The Truckstop Load Board can help you find the best loads and most trustworthy brokers, earning you more money per mile. Get started today.

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