Truckload carrier sourcing: Tips for building out your carrier network

Kevin HillFreight Market Blog

Freight brokerages are only as good as their network of carriers. It is the ultimate chicken and egg scenario. Freight brokerages need loads from shippers to generate revenue. They also need carriers to execute those loads. Which comes first? The loads from shippers or the capacity from truckload carriers? The answer is both at the same time. 

That’s why it’s essential to devote enough time and resources to build out your carrier network before you have the loads from shippers. With a balanced network of shippers and carriers, freight brokerages can build the density in their network that becomes a real competitive advantage that will translate to the P&L income sheet

Listed below are essential tips on where and how to source new carriers to build the density needed in your network of carriers. 

Where to source new truckload carriers 

Load boards

Same-day transactional freight isn’t the only thing you can do with load boards. Often, carriers that you meet on load boards become long-term business partners for you and your freight brokerage. 

Making sure you are setting yourself up for these long-term partnerships is crucial. It’s important to always position yourself as a long-term partner in your conversations with new carriers. This includes negotiating carrier sales in a way that builds trust. The more value you build in freight broker sales, the more likely carriers will look forward to working with you again and again. 

Truckload Carrier sourcing databases

Freight brokers can search the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) database, which contains all registered motor carriers (MC) in a number of third-party applications. On the surface this sounds like a fantastic resource. However, the FMCSA database was never designed to be used commercially to source carriers. About one-third of the truckload carrier profiles are inaccurate. Either the telephone numbers are disconnected, the carriers are out of business, are household movers, or are private fleets that are misclassified. 

It often makes sense to upgrade to truckload carrier sourcing databases that have vetted the carriers and added in trailer and preferred lane data. Using these sourcing tools can dramatically cut down the time it takes to source new carriers. 

Referrals 

Are still the gold standard of any sales playbook, whether it’s shippers or carriers. It takes quite a bit of time and resources to build a referral channel with carriers, but it is well worth the investment.  

As a freight broker, if you are honest and ethical with your shippers and carriers, then both will refer others to work with you. The simplest method to start building your referral network with carriers is to simply start asking your current truckload carrier base for referrals. It really is that simple. By making yourself a valuable partner it becomes natural for carriers to refer you to their friends and associates if they can’t help you out with a load. 

How to contact new truckload carriers  

Prospecting for new carriers is challenging. If you don’t have the freight right now, it’s hard to get a carrier’s attention. Part of this issue is that carriers are often bombarded with phone calls and emails from freight brokers searching for capacity. The vast majority of these requests are for trailer equipment a truckload carrier doesn’t have and/or for lanes the carrier has no interest in running. This overload of calls and emails each day makes it essential that you know the freight market and right questions to ask carriers, so you can get straight to the point as fast as possible. 

Cold calls

To prospect for new carriers, cold-calling is the most effective method. Asking the right questions is essential to getting results, especially if you don’t have freight to move right now. It’s important to remember that if you don’t have freight at this time, then you shouldn’t be looking for a definitive agreement for future loads. You are looking for information on trailers, preferred lanes and specializations. You are building a lead list of carriers for the future. Don’t worry about now, worry about the future. 

Cold emails

Emailing carriers takes less time and effort. It also yields lower results than cold calling. The primary reason is that carriers are often bombarded with emails from a variety of sources looking for information. A secondary reason is that owners of smaller carriers do not have an office and are often behind the wheel of a truck during business hours. This makes crafting cold emails that get responses essential for building your truckload carrier network. It’s all about getting your email read with these five tips for cold emails

How SONAR aids brokers in truckload carrier sourcing

FreightWaves SONAR provides 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. 

SONAR has 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.

Whether you’re working from the office or from home, SONAR can provide you the data and intelligence you need to stay ahead of your competitors. 

Find out more about FreightWaves SONAR for brokers.

You can find more information on freight brokerage and carrier sales on the popular FreightWaves sales show, Put That Coffee Down