Online boards provide tools for turning greater profits if you do your homework
New owner-operator Jay Proctor relies on online trucking load boards to find most of the freight he carries with his truck, hotshot flatbed trailer and 53-foot box van. After months of struggling to find well-paying hauls, he says he’s found the “inner circle” of sources that can tap into the top lanes and loads that pay top rates.
“We can make more money than we have been making,” says Proctor, who last year obtained authority for his P3 Trucking Inc.
Team drivers Stan Blom and Kerry Rodman work with steady shippers from their Des Moines, Iowa-area base and tap into load boards when they need to find back hauls. Board customers since 1999, they are selective on what loads they’ll consider because they follow a tight schedule.
As these examples illustrate, using load boards can help you turn a profit if you know what to look for among thousands of listings.
Used as a tool for securing freight, boards can be a “virtual partner,” says Ken Harper, senior marketing manager at TransCore. For an owner-operator or a small fleet, the load board can serve many of the same functions that a large fleet employs in-house. “If you use a load board only when you’re desperate, you need to be rethinking what you’re doing,” he says.
David Schrader, senior vice president of operations at TransCore, says a firm survey of carriers that used load boards for 30 percent to 60 percent of their freight revealed they earned $1,378 more per truck each month than haulers who don’t use boards.
Load boards can be effective for various types of haulers, says Fergus Caldicott, general manager at Getloaded.com. They can work for an operator who has steady hauls and needs to supplement them with back hauls, as well as for a more frequent user who wants diversity in what, where and when loads are needed. “We have data that suggest that the spot rate is higher than the contract rate,” he says, and that is typically true in times when rates are improving.
Leigh Foxall, director of national accounts at Internet Truckstop, says that getting the most out of a load board requires time and study. She says the firm mounts a weekly business development webinar series on finding freight and some of the same operators will listen in more than once to get pointers and ask questions.
Rodman and Blom might leave Iowa on Sunday to deliver a contract load in Ohio on Monday. They then may look to a load board for a load to return to Iowa in time to pick up scheduled freight bound for Kentucky on Tuesday. On that return, they will seek a quick turnaround if either has an appointment later in the week. Otherwise, they will try for one or two hauls that provide the most revenue.
“If you use a load board only when you’re desperate, you need to be rethinking what you’re doing,”
On Internet Truckstop, they use the Muldok feature that matches loads from a starting point to a destination location with more than one stop in between. “I use that from Kentucky if I want to get two loads home,” Rodman says.
Rodman says they want at least $1.50-$2.25 a mile with no more than 135 deadhead miles. They will also monitor the credit score and time to pay of the shipper or broker with the load. In addition to a minimum rate of $1.60 a mile, Salisbury, N.C.-based Proctor uses load boards to find freight that can be factored to help him get faster pay. He looks at weather forecasts to avoid potential problems such as blizzards. He’s especially wary of hauls that take him to “black holes” where outgoing freight is sparse or low-paying.
“We need to be making $2 to $3 a mile,” Proctor says, “and we’re working in that direction. This is going to be a banner year, no doubt about it.”
Drivers who have specialized equipment can use a load board to find specific hauls, though the search may take time. Barb Legatt does the paperwork and finds equipment loads for her husband, Ed, and their E.L. Transport Inc. operation, based in St. Cloud, Minn. She says she often has to make several calls to find a back haul. “We have a removable gooseneck, so it’s really hard to find loads,” she says. “Sometimes the broker will have to call the customer to see if a load will fit on an RGN and then call me back. I have to make a lot of phone calls to find that one load.”
Legatt says she receives many responses when she’s posted their truck and trailer, but many are for hauls that either can’t be accommodated on their trailer or are bound to destinations they want to avoid. She also has to scrutinize if the freight will be oversize and require special handling and permits, which will add to the trip’s cost.
Better-paying loads are often posted earlier in the day and in the week.
“The early bird absolutely catches the worm,” says Eileen Hart, assistant vice president of marketing and product management at TransCore. “A majority of fresh, new, hot loads is early in the morning. Between 4 and 6:30 [a.m.] West Coast time, a significant number of loads are posted and moved.”
Usage is often heaviest early in the week, when operators seek to be under load, and later in the week, when some operators maneuver to get home, says Mark Montague, TransCore industry pricing analyst.
An operator also can use a load board service to maximize revenue by employing a tri-haul strategy, Montague says. Instead of taking a high-paying load from Chicago or Memphis to the East Coast where outbound hauls are fewer and pay less, an operator might be better off ignoring the East Coast run and angling for freight to Ohio, looking for one or two return loads back to his or her base.
Getloaded’s Fergus Caldicott says the site’s Match My Truck feature finds loads nationally that fit within an operator’s parameters. The user can narrow down the entire list to specific cities or regions.
Major online load boards and associated apps
app: ITS Trucker
TransCore DAT 3sixty:
app: My DAT Trucker Services