How Do Truckers Find Freight Loads?

Image of a truck driver reviewing freight load sources on a tablet

Like all business owners, truckers need to sell their services and find customers. Unlike other businesses though, truckers need customers with freight in the right place, at the right time.

Building a network of shippers with freight at the right place at the right time is difficult. Many truckers just do not have the time and resources needed for truckers to build this network of shippers and lanes.

This is why it’s important for truckers to find loads through a variety of sources. The four methods listed below are the most popular for truckers to find loads. By using a combination of the following truckers can put themselves in the best position to bargain for the highest rates.

Four Common Sources of Freight Loads for Trucks

1. Direct from shippers – Sourcing loads directly from shippers is the ideal scenario. If truckers can create relationships with shippers, then they are putting themselves in the position to earn the most money. This is because they are earning their own sales commissions by putting in the work and effort to find, negotiate and sell to the shipper themselves.

This method is difficult and time-consuming though. Shippers with consistent lanes and predictable volumes can be difficult to find and approach. Consistent lanes are usually moved with contracted carriers. Contracts are awarded through a bidding process that is usually only available to larger carriers. Most truckers without a relationship are locked out and unable to bid on these lanes. The reason for this is the time and expense it takes shippers to complete the vetting and selection process for smaller carriers.
It usually takes developing relationships with several shippers in each freight market to guarantee that a driver has a freight load waiting at the destination. To make this work, truckers would need a team of salespeople.

Larger shippers are likely to require carriers to offer electronic integration like EDI or APIs to accept tenders. This enables the shipper to electronically route load offers to their carriers. To participate in EDI or APIs, you will need to have a TMS system.

2. Freight brokers – An outsourced sales team is how truckers should view and use freight brokers. For this service, truckers should expect to pay a fair commission from the load. Freight brokers should also charge a fair commission as well. Truckers that develop relationships with good freight brokers can use the brokers’ networks of shippers to develop a dense network of reliable loads.

Shippers that might not invite owner-operators and small carriers to bid on contracted lanes will often invite freight brokers to bid. This is because freight brokers have access to thousands of truckers and can match loads with trucks on a daily basis. This gives shippers access to smaller carriers without the expense of vetting and signing contracts with each individual owner-operator or small carrier.

3. Load boards – Truckers can also use public load boards to find loads posted by freight brokers. The most popular load boards charge a monthly subscription fee for the service though there are several free options to choose from. and DAT are the biggest in the load board business and for good reason. Their marketplaces offer the highest quality level of freight and functionality in the market. If you are looking for dry-van or refrigerated freight, both have plenty of options. If you are looking for flatbed specifically, has more loads to choose from. There are also niche load boards that focus on specific types of freight, like, which focuses on dry-bulk freight.

Truckers can search thousands of freight loads posted in real-time. Most of the loads posted are spot market loads. These loads are infrequent and transactional. Truckers call the freight brokers directly to learn more about the load and negotiate the rate. If an agreement is reached, then the two parties exchange authority and insurance information before a rate confirmation is signed. Getting set-up each time by different freight brokers can be time-consuming, though it is a great way for truckers to build relationships with individual freight brokers. Often a transactional load turns into a regular consistent lane with a freight broker.

One of the added advantages of load boards is that truckers can check reviews of freight brokers and creditworthiness before accepting the load. This reduces the risks involved with working with unfamiliar freight brokers.

4. Load matching apps – The philosophy behind freight load matching apps is much the same as load boards. Truckers download these smartphone apps and search for loads. This method was developed by new digital freight brokers that started to automate load searching for shippers and truckers.

Load matching apps are offered now by most of the larger freight brokers. Freight matching marketplaces and load boards are using the same methods to connect truckers with shippers. Load matching consists of truckers accepting posted loads at the published rate and then moving the load with little to no human interaction. This removes the hassle of negotiating rates and the back and forth contact of getting set up on a load. It also improves the document submission and payment process as all processes flow through the app on the trucker’s phone.

The largest in the business are Convoy, J.B. Hunt 360, and Uber Freight.

If you are interested in tracking the freight market, including contract and spot rates, FreightWaves SONAR offers over 150,000 indices, most of which are updated daily. The world’s fastest, most accurate freight data includes trucking spot rate indices, tender indices, and market balance indices. SONAR freight tender indices are created based on actual electronic load requests from shippers to carriers, meaning you know that the index is measuring an actual load transaction.

SONAR offers proprietary data that comes from actual load tenders, electronic logging devices and transportation management systems, along with dozens of third-party global freight and logistics-related index providers like TCA Benchmarking, Freightos, ACT, Drewry and DTN.

SONAR offers the fastest freight market data in the world, across all major modes of traffic. The SONAR platform is the only freight forecasting and analytics platform that offers real-time freight market intelligence driven off actual freight contract tenders. Find out more about FreightWaves SONAR.

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What's the SONAR ROI?

By increasing the number of loaded miles per day your drivers drive by 1% and your rate per mile by $0.03 you will make more per week #WithSONAR.

#WithSONAR you can save up to per week through better bid negotiations and more effective management of your routing guide.

#WithSonar you can add 1 more load per person each day and increase $5 margin per load, earning your company an extra per week.

Disclaimer: Every company’s circumstances are unique. Fixed and variable expenses, market conditions and operational factors vary. Unforeseen events may also affect results. Calculated potential results reflect the consensus expectation of FreightWaves’ experts. Actual results may vary.

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