1. Identifying Freight Brokers
Freight brokers are in the business of matching truck loads from shippers with truck drivers. The freight broker business model is straightforward. They develop relationships with as many shippers as possible within their chosen industrial sector then negotiate with shippers for the highest possible rate for a load. Then they find a truck driver or carrier to move the freight at the lowest possible price, and the broker takes a 25% to 35% cut of the profit.
Finding a freight broker is as easy as looking through a trade journal or searching for one on Google. However, finding a good freight broker with the best rates and the ability to keep you rolling requires some additional research. Here is a list of things to consider when looking for a freight broker:
- New freight brokers are a gamble for shippers and carriers. If you’re risk-averse, look for an established freight broker with a proven track record, good reviews, and review their bond and credit history.
- Make sure the freight broker services the right sector for your trucking business. A freight broker specializing in bulk liquid chemicals is going to be of no use to you if you’re looking for dry van loads.
- Freight brokering is as competitive as trucking so shop around for the right rates and routes for you.
Using a freight broker can help you find loads ahead of time so you can spend less time sitting around and more time on the road and making money. However, using a freight broker is the least profitable way to find loads.
2. Shippers & Dispatch Services
Networking directly with shippers or using dispatch services are valid ways to find truck loads. However, the downside of these methods makes them less than ideal most of the time, especially for newer carriers or owner-operators. If you work directly with a shipper, you can earn a higher per load revenue because you’re not giving up a percentage of the rate to a freight broker. However, this method of finding truckloads comes with some significant drawbacks.
Working with shippers requires a working knowledge of the nation’s freight lanes, and you’ll be spending a lot of time on the phone or waiting on emails in a never-ending process of networking and negotiating. You may end up taking a load to an area (like Florida) where you lose time and money looking for another load or deadheading a long way to a busier freight hub. The end result for your bottom line may be worse than going through a freight broker when you factor in the time lost and the empty miles.
Working with shippers requires a working knowledge of the nation’s freight lanes, and you’ll be spending a lot of time on the phone or waiting on emails...
On the other hand, you can reduce the amount of time you spend networking and negotiating by using dispatch services to find truck loads. Some dispatch services offer additional help with billing, accounting, paperwork, and other back-office support. When it comes to your revenue, dispatch services charge fees for their services and take a percentage of the load revenue, putting them on par with freight brokers.
3. Load Boards
Load boards have been around a long time. In the old days, you could find them on special television screens in most truck stops. They’ve kept up with the changes in technology and are now available online. Load boards are like classified ads for the trucking industry. Brokers and shippers post loads to the load board and include the pick-up and drop-off locations, rate, contact numbers, and other information pertinent to the load.
To use a load board, all you have to do is contact the entity posting a load; sometimes, you’ll have to do some negotiations on the rate. Then the broker or shipper will send you a carrier agreement to review and sign. After reviewing and signing the agreement, they’ll generally request additional paperwork from you, like your insurance and W-9 information. Once you send the paperwork back, they will respond with a load confirmation and pickup details.
With the CloudTrucks app, you have access to multiple load boards and over 200 brokers and shippers, making it easier to find and plan your loads.
Load boards make finding loads quick and easy but come with a mix of pros and cons to consider:
- Pro: Access to a variety of brokers and shippers
- Pro: More loads to choose from, making it easier to plan and pick the best rates available.
- Pro: More control over where you go.
- Pro/Con: Load boards are first come, first serve. Depending on your perspective, this may be a pro or a con.
- Con: There are many load boards out there, and they compete with each other, driving down rates, and you may find a lot of overlap where the same load is listed across multiple load boards.
- Con: Not all load boards are the same quality. Some may be slow to update or contain inaccuracies.
- Con: The better load board services, like DAT, 123LoadBoard, and Direct Freight, charge subscription fees.
- Con: Most load boards provide little to no support services like authority, help with obtaining a truck, back-office services, etc.
4. Plan Your Loads Ahead of Time
To avoid operating your trucking business at a loss, pay close attention to the revenue on each load you transport. On your own, this involves performing a series of complex calculations covering items such as trip distance, deadhead miles, etc. You’ll generally have to work with one of the above-mentioned methods to plan your trips, backhauls, and stay on good truck lanes while trying to minimize empty miles and downtime. That’s a lot to juggle on your own. But there’s an alternative that’s a real game-changer for drivers called CloudTrucks.
With the CloudTrucks app, you have access to multiple load boards and over 200 brokers and shippers, making it easier to find and plan your loads. Plus, CloudTrucks calculates a “CT Revenue Per Hour” estimate for each load, taking into account trip distance, deadhead miles, pickup/delivery times, and predicted dwell time—giving drivers a better idea of how much they’ll make on a trip compared to a per-mile rate calculation. Head over to our Getting Started page to learn more.
5. Networking & Relationship Building
When you’ve branched out on your own as an independent truck driver or owner-operator, your first few loads are a significant milestone. However, it’s only the beginning. Continued success means keeping your focus on developing your networking relationships with freight brokers, shippers, dispatchers, and other drivers.
A unique and celebrated aspect of the trucking industry is the community it embodies. The more you involve yourself in this community, the easier it will be for you to find loads, develop your network, earn more, and grow your business. Look for opportunities to get involved with the industry in other ways like events, webinars, social media pages, and the CloudTrucks app.