For freight brokers there is a method to the madness of covering loads. These carrier sourcing strategies are similar to the order of operations we all learned in algebra. Knowing these steps and learning how to develop new carrier sourcing strategies at the top of the list is the key to improve the percentage of loads you cover, and the amount of margin you take home each month.
The following list is the most common order of operations or workflow to source carriers.
#1 – Favorite carriers – This carrier sourcing approach is considered the layup baskets of covering loads. These are your “go to” carriers that run your lanes on a consistent basis. Just pick up the phone, talk to your trusted carrier partners, and send over the paperwork. No hassle, no difficult negotiations, no worries about service levels. It is the goal of all freight brokers to create a book of business where all loads are covered this way.
#2 – Load boards – If a freight broker can’t cover a load with go to carriers, then it’s off to the load boards for carrier sourcing. “Post and cover” as the saying goes in the industry. Although sometimes it is more like “post and pray,” especially when the market is hot, truck capacity is tight and carriers have the pricing power.
#3 – Digital freight matching tools – The key distinction between marketplaces and load boards is the automated freight matching functions – although the two largest load boards now have automated freight matching marketplaces. In addition, there are tracking services, which also give freight brokers visibility to where real-time capacity is located. The downside to many of the digital freight matching tools is that there are not enough users on either side of the deal to have reached the scale needed to cover most loads and fulfill the carrier sourcing needs of a freight broker in total.
#4 – Existing network of carriers – When the first three carrier sourcing methods come up short, then it’s time to search your entire carrier base in your TMS. This often includes carriers that have run the same or similar lanes in the past. Some TMS searching capabilities are better than others. However, since at least 80% of carriers in a freight brokerage’s network are one and done carriers, the carrier profiles are usually outdated, or completely wrong. So, there is quite a bit of incorrect information to wade through on your search.
#5 – FMCSA data – The odds of sourcing carriers has been getting lower each step and now the odds are about to fall dramatically. For freight brokers the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration database has little useful data for freight brokers, like trailer types and preferred lanes. The data it does have is often wrong. It was never meant to be used to source carriers and freight brokers quickly realize it, as at least one-third of the carriers are private fleets, carriers that are longer operating, and disconnected numbers. It is a long, slow grind to try to find carriers that match what is needed.
#6 – Social media posts – This is almost the end of the line for freight brokers searching for carriers. Only drivers who are on social media and are near the load location might have an interest in the loads. This means that the number of carriers that might fit both of those criteria are a handful at best for most freight brokers.
#7 – Googling carriers – If a freight broker is searching for carriers online, then the odds of covering the load are slim to none. It’s well past the time to throw in the towel and pivot to another load that has better odds of being covered. Online searches yield only a small list of carriers, mostly those that do not match what a freight broker is searching for in the first place and is not a sustainable way for carrier sourcing long-term.
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