Freight finders
You can do more on load boards than simply book a haul

By Max Kvidera, contributing editor

Kim Ross jumps on the Internet at 6:30 in the morning to monitor load boards at OOIDA’s MembersEdge and Internet Truckstop and often doesn’t get off until 5:30 p.m. With those two sites and emailing broker contacts, she keeps her two trucks and two stepdeck trailers running in the Midwest and Southeast.

“We do a lot of short runs,” says OOIDA Member Ross, office manager and co-owner of Triple R Hauling of Marion, KS. “Our trucks are loaded and unloaded often within 24 hours, so I’m looking for a load for at least one truck every day. We regularly run $2.50 to $3 a mile.”

William (Bill) Jonsson hauls paper products from his home state of Michigan and relies on load boards to find cargo to take him back home from the Southeast and Northeast. Jonsson, an OOIDA life member and owner of B and P Trucking, works with brokers at Landstar, C.H. Robinson and UTS who post loads through MembersEdge.

“I look for loads close to where I’m unloading to cut down on deadhead miles,” says Jonsson, who gets about $2 a mile from his outbound hauls but usually less than that from load board freight.

Ross and Jonsson are examples of independent contractors who turn to load boards for part or a majority of their business. Since neither company enjoys dedicated runs, they depend on online brokers to supplement fairly regular hauls or fill in the gaps when their regular sources don’t have ready business.

Many owner-operators use load boards to find back hauls frequently or on occasion when an outgoing trip takes them to an unfamiliar location. A smaller number of independents land most of their business online. “We know of many companies with one to five trucks that depend solely on Internet Truckstop,” says Leigh Foxall, director of freight matching.

While dozens of sites post available freight to haul, the industry is dominated by three services – DAT through TransCore, Internet Truckstop and Getloaded. In addition to mainstream load boards, several sites offer specialized freight targeted at haulers operating in a niche such as livestock or running specialized equipment such as stepdecks.

“Load boards are as good as the freight that’s on them and the company that sponsors them,” says Joe Beacom, vice president and chief safety and operations officer at Landstar, which maintains three load boards.

Costs range from free sites that depend on advertising or are affiliated with logistics companies to monthly subscription rates in the hundreds of dollars for premium sites heavy with analysis. Determining what service best matches your business goals may take trial and error. Many owner-operators use more than one service for greater choices.

“OOIDA is easy for me to use on my cell phone, while my wife goes online for Internet Truckstop,” says Tim Leveritt, supervisor and occasional driver for A&T Trucking, which hauls military equipment with its four trucks and six trailers.

You can run profitably even if you don’t have dedicated customers to serve as your business’s backbone. To get the most out of load boards and maximize your profit potential, here are tips.

Cultivate brokers:
If you find a broker who handles top-notch freight, treats you honestly and pays in a timely manner, put him on your contact list immediately and develop a working relationship. Discuss with the broker your preferred routes, favored cargo and type of equipment. Ross says she has about 800 freight contacts in her email list, including about 125 brokers that she has worked with through load boards.

“If I can’t get loads through load boards, within 20 minutes of shooting out emails to my contacts I have the trucks loaded,” she says.

Plan ahead:
Don’t wait until you’re unloading to start looking for your next haul. Once you know your next destination, work the load board for upcoming freight at the location. The leading load boards allow you to plug in the parameters of where you want to go next, or you can take a recent search and edit it with a couple of clicks to change the city and state, for example.

Monitor hot markets:
If you have flexibility in where you run, some load boards can help locate where freight is moving. TransCore offers a Hot Market Maps tool that divides North America into 135 market areas and shows the load-to-truck ratio and how many loads and trucks are posted in each area.

“Before you take a load to a particular market, know what your prospects are of getting another load out of there,” says John Stewart, DAT product manager for freight matching.

Load matching:
If you prefer a particular route, you can have that information saved so that it appears on screen the next time you sign in to the load board. You can get specific about where you’re picking up and where you’re going, along with such information about trailer type, hazmat permit, tarps, whether you’re part of a team, and weight limitations.

“You can save that template where you frequently want to haul and call that up with one click,” says Dane Schwartz, Getloaded marketing manager. Some load boards offer automatic alerts when a load that meets your criteria is available.

Maximizing rates:
You’re in business to make money, so know where you can find the best rates. TransCore’s Truckload Rate Index provides widespread rate information from a database of 7 million rates over the past year for vans, refrigerated trailers and flatbeds. While the Index is a separate product bundled with premium service levels, spot market rate information is available in all TransCore services.

“About 40 percent of loads posted in June paid higher in spot than contract rates,” says Ken Harper, DAT marketing manager.

Depending on your flexibility, you can optimize your earning power by taking advantage of seasonal hauling. Through DAT, you can look at a 13-month average of rates that shows the seasonality of lanes.

“You can anticipate that this lane is good now but it’s going to fade, or that lane is going to come up in July,” says Mark Montague, industry pricing analyst. LL