Being a truck driver is more than just sitting behind the wheel. As with any business, securing customers is crucial to success. For a truck owner operator, or fleet manager, this means finding and securing enough loads to continue operations, and for drivers to maintain a consistent flow of income.
It may sound easy, but competition, geographic constraints, load requirements, and other important factors can hinder the process. Where and how to get loads for trucks is always top of mind, especially for any new owner operator. With that in mind, we will outline a few of the best ways to find loads to haul, as well as the benefits and shortcomings of each.
Here are the top four ways to book loads for truckers:
1. Search online load boards
Thankfully, the introduction of the internet made load securement exponentially easier for drivers. Gone are the days of browsing bulletin boards at truck stops.
Think of a load board as a digital bulletin board—an online marketplace to match shippers and freight brokers with carriers or drivers based on designated criteria. Loads are typically listed with photos and descriptions of exactly what is being shipped, measurements, weight, geographic location, where it needs to go, additional requirements such as refrigeration needs, and other pertinent details.
Load boards are an ideal medium to find truck loads for owner operators and carriers, especially those just starting out, as they offer innumerable benefits. These include:
- Easily locate and secure jobs with a phone, tablet, or computer
- The flexibility to designate your own schedule
- Access to loads in previously unknown or underserved areas
- Opportunity for price negotiation
- Precise load details and requirements
Load boards offer many benefits, but they also have a downside. Namely, using them is a lot of work. To be successful, an owner operator or fleet manager must constantly be on the hunt for new jobs. Even worse, you're often bidding among a sea of competition.
There is a level of risk and the unknown. Also, depending on the board there is typically a small fee to access the board. But you get what you pay for. A higher quality load board will come at a higher fee. It’s usually worth it.
2. Engage with a freight broker
If load boards seem like too much effort, a freight broker may be a good alternative. A freight broker acts as a middleman between shipper and carrier. They handle all the details with the shipper, negotiate price, and match the shipper with potential drivers based on the criteria. This can be beneficial for a few obvious reasons:
- The broker does all the legwork, handling all negotiations with shippers
- It requires less effort by owners or fleet managers to secure loads
- There's a potential for a steady stream of jobs depending on the relationship
Brokers may be a good alternative, but there are some downsides. Without a seat at the table for the carrier, price is generally non-negotiable. Costs are already decided between broker and shipper. Secondly, brokers charge a fee for their services, reducing the potential profits of each load. The fee is typically commission-based, which can be a deal-breaker for some.
3. Secure a direct contract with a shipper
A third possibility involves setting up a direct contract with a shipper. In this scenario, all middlemen are removed. There are shippers out there that like the stability of exclusive drivers—those contracted to work directly with them for any shipping needs. This partnership can be desirable for the following reasons:
- It allows owner operators and drivers to negotiate their rates directly, getting the most profit for their efforts
- A steady income is secured under contractual agreement
- There are no shared profits with brokers
There is just one real, but important, downside. Shippers often contract more drivers than needed to ensure no load goes unfulfilled. This translates to drivers spending time waiting for loads, as there may not be enough loads to go around.
4. Secure a government contract
Just like shippers, local, state, and the federal government agencies have their own needs for transport. To become a government contractor, you will have to go through a registration process or pair with a company already under contract. The process may involve some initial legwork, but working for the government offers some advantages:
- A consistent and steady income
- Secure employment
- Additional compensation benefits possible, including health insurance
Benefits of fleet management software for owner operators
Finding the best method of load securement for you or your enterprise may take time and involve a combination of several tactics. Regardless of which methods you choose, proper time management will be a critical piece of the puzzle.
To be successful, you will need to find and secure loads as quickly and efficiently as possible, without sacrificing priorities or profitability. It’s a delicate balance. Fortunately, fleet management software can help you streamline enterprise efficiency, leaving you more time to pick and allocate the best loads.