Profitable loads are the lifeblood of your trucking company. To consistently book loads with the best margins, it helps to have connections. You must build a network of trusted industry sources instead of relying on one client or broker for most of your business.
Here are seven tips that will give your company an edge in securing quality loads:
Work directly with shippers. Having your own shipping clients can help you command better rates. It eliminates the middle man because you are not working through a broker or load board. Having clients you trust and who pay promptly can also reduce paperwork and administrative hurdles. Some carriers recommend that at least half of your loads should come from direct customers.
Shop around for online load boards. There are hundreds of load boards on the Internet. Some load boards are free, but most charge a monthly subscription. The largest, most established boards include DAT, Internet Truckstop and GetLoaded.com. Do some research and find the board that has the most loads and the best rates in the lanes you serve. Using more than one load board is optimal in terms of finding the best loads at the best prices.
Know your bottom dollar rate. A good business owner tracks his company’s finances and knows its break-even point at any given time. Before calling on loads, have a per-mile rate in mind that ensures your company will at least break even on the haul. Having this knowledge up-front can save you valuable time in selecting loads and negotiating rates.
Be patient and persistent. Finding a load that pays an acceptable rate and fits your schedule is not easy. Sometimes the search can take several hours and dozens of phone calls. Be selective and do not settle for low rates or loads that are in lanes you do not want to drive. Be professional but firm in your negotiations with brokers and shippers. Do not be afraid to walk away from a load that does not benefit your business.
Find brokers you trust. As with load boards, there are many freight brokers or third-party logistics providers (3PLs) to choose from. Be careful when selecting a broker. Some withhold shipper payments from their drivers for months while addressing other costs. Other brokers are “glorified telemarketers,” lacking knowledge about the trucking business. However, reputable brokers and 3PLs want to work with reliable carriers and can be a valuable source for finding quality loads. Before working with a broker, check his or her online ratings and ask for personal references.
Minimize your deadhead miles. Before taking on a load that pays, say, $2.30 or more per mile, calculate what the return trip will cost you. Are you willing to take on deadhead miles or is there a return shipment available that will make the trip more profitable? This is an instance when having a network of shippers, load boards and brokers can benefit your trucking business.
Take advantage of the driver shortage. There has been a national shortage of commercial drivers and trucks for years. An improving economy is squeezing the market more than ever before. Average rates per-mile for all modes of trucking continue to climb and shippers expect the market to remain tight in 2015. That means there should be quality loads at competitive rates for trucking fleets of all sizes. By shopping among multiple sources, you can book business that will help your company thrive in a carrier-friendly marketplace.
Sure-Fire Ways to Use Online Load Boards
There are many trucking load boards on the Internet. Here are a few tips on how to choose the right ones for your company:
Use more than one board. No single load board has all the information a trucking company needs. Signing up on a handful of good boards increases your chances of getting the best loads.
Watch your spending. Some load boards are free, but most charge a subscription fee. You should not pay more than $30 per month for access to a load board.
Post a company profile. This is the best way for shippers who are visiting load boards to find your company. You can lure them in with information about your fleet size, home base, types of freight you haul and how far you want to drive.
Seek out the best loads. Do not settle for the first loads you see on a board. Advanced searches on multiple boards will help you find the most profitable loads.
Be patient. Loads are not always accurately advertised on a board. Sometimes boards are slow to remove loads that are no longer available. Anticipate running into a few dead ends when seeking a quality load. It may take you a few hours and many phone calls.
Avoid over-booking. Do not take on more work than your company can handle. Pay close attention to the size of the load and distance of the haul.
Build your reputation. Picking up and delivering loads on time will help your company stand out from among thousands of truckers patrolling the boards. If you build a reputation for strong reliability, shippers will soon seek you out.
Protect your privacy. You want to be guarded about the amount of information you share. Do not give out any personal or company information you do not want to be shared publicly on the Internet.
Top Online Load Boards
There are hundreds of load boards populating the Internet. Here are a few of the boards that report the most traffic:
Sources: Businessweek, www.WikiHow.com, www.TheTruckersReport.com