How to Become an O/O
Today’s boards offer services far beyond simply posting available freight
Some time or another you will probably need to turn to a load board to find freight. Even operators with shipper contracts, dedicated deliveries or carrier dispatch need a source to locate an occasional backhaul or a last-minute load to get home.
Load boards range from big, general databases carrying thousands of postings to specialized services that provide information on niche markets. You can survey hauls on independent boards and services offered by major carriers. “If we don’t have something cooking with our own freight, this is plan B,” says Bruce Barton, an operator who drives one of his five Idaho Roads trucks.
The most popular sites provide not only pertinent load data but crucial information to evaluate brokers, such as broker credit ratings and average payment speed. Some help calculate whether a prospective load will make money and display which states offer the most favorable load-to-truck ratios and fuel price information along designated routes.
TransCore TruckersEdge Product Manager Scott McCollister says carriers using TransCore boards “understand their lanes, know the contract rates in those lanes and the hot states where supply and demand shifts are happening.”
Schneider National’s Transportation Management posts loads on its FreightPlace database, which can be accessed by outside owner-operators. Another freight subset, IC Choice, is available to an estimated 300 contractors who are leased to Schneider and dispatch their own freight. “Most are paid a percentage of revenue on each load,” says Erin Van Zeeland, senior vice president and general manager of STM. “They know what they’re compensated on, and they will make decisions for their business based on loads out there.”
Load boards can make route planning easier by listing future loads. New board TheLoadPost.com offers their Trip Planner to enable an operator to plan several days out, owner Mike Wease says. You can plan backhauls and round trips for a day or longer from a specified location to another. To assist in planning an itinerary, you can choose a certain radius from a city and trailer type. “Before you go on your first load, know what your next load will be and the next one and the next one,” he says, “so that when you’re done, you’re home rather than sitting somewhere wondering how you’re going to get home.”
To help in planning future loads, Internet Truckstop has a service that allows you to conduct up to 15 different load searches simultaneously on its ITS 2 system, says Pat Dickard, corporate trainer. The searches are updated automatically every 60 seconds.
Boards can be helpful in screening brokers for creditworthiness and payment promptness. Internet Truckstop’s optional credit tools allow a carrier to see how many days it takes a broker to pay and to report a broker that fails to pay, Dickard says. Brokers are ranked from A to F, and credit alerts list companies to avoid. “This is a critical time to know who you’re doing business with,” Dickard says.
For operators who want to potentially save time booking loads via text message, Internet Truckstop offers iTex.
Rusty Russell, owner of 12-truck Extra Transportation, says his dispatchers use load boards daily, primarily to find backhauls. He estimates boards provide about 30 percent of his loads. “We search for loads ourselves,” he says.
Barton uses load boards “to take the pulse of the freight condition in different markets” as well as find specific loads. “We’ll take a look at what freight is available before we commit to a load,” although he will haul wherever his regular customers want him to go, he says. “We’ll wait to see if we’ll have to run a ways to reload” for the return to Idaho, he says.
ROAD TO PROFITS
TransCore surveyed 500 of its carrier users about how load boards impacted their business in 2010. Among the findings:
• In the first half of 2010, compared to 2009, carriers’ monthly revenues per truck increased on average $1,459.
• Compared to their peers, carriers who found more than 40 percent of their freight on load boards increased monthly revenues by $800 per truck.
• Frequent load board users (40 percent or more of their loads from load boards) increased revenues by 3 cents per mile.
• Carriers who used load boards more frequently, compared to other carriers, reported 309 more loaded miles per truck monthly.
• Frequent load board users averaged, compared to their peers, 4.2 percent fewer empty miles.