For small fleet owners or owner-operators, online load boards can be a useful, profitable tool. Particularly for those that are new to the industry, these programs are a great way to drum up business quickly.
Load boards are essentially online programs that provide a venue for shippers, freight brokers, and various industries in need of transport services to find each other and negotiate some of which who deal with something similar to this ltl freight. As is the case with all products and services, there is a huge variance in the quality of different load boards, some with reputable histories and others with mixed reviews—and some that are outright scams.
Nonetheless, if done correctly, using load boards can be the right route to take for small fleet owners, owner-operators, and newcomers to the industry. By identifying the pros and cons, the following will help you develop an understanding of the online load board system and should point you in the right direction of the type of load board site that is right for you.
What are load boards?
Before you decide if you should use online load boards for your benefit, you need to understand how they work. The basic premise of a load board is to set up truckers or brokers with loads from shippers. A lot of load boards have search features to make it easier to find loads that are right for your trucking company. There are some load boards that are free, while others have a monthly fee to use them. Some of the paid load boards have better options, but free ones still work well. These resources are especially helpful for new owner operators and truckers who are just getting started in the transportation industry.
Why should truckers use online load boards?
These sites certainly boast a handful of advantages. For starters, they have the innate benefit of being internet-venues, so they are available 24/7 and are accessible from anywhere—a must for those in the transportation industry. But aside from that, they provide load matching services, give access to credit information of those you are looking to make a deal with, offer messaging boards and areas to leave reviews/comments on previous clients, track days to pay, reduce your deadheading miles, and, to top it all off, the majority of them are free or very inexpensive.
Here are some tips to maximize the benefits of using online load boards:
Be smart and avoid scammers. There are a number of actions that you can take to ensure that you don’t get ripped off. Make sure that there is transparency between you and potential leads. Running credit checks, reviewing/requesting identification information, asking for insurance verification, and joining an online monitoring service (such as the Transportation Intermediaries Association) can greatly reduce the risk of getting scammed.
Establish a bottom-dollar rate. Having a fixed rate is just good business sense. It helps you keep track of your company’s finances and can guarantee that you are turning a profit.
Have a presence on several boards. Why limit yourself to just one? Diversify your options and see what the various websites can put forth.
Establish relationships and try arrange future deals outside of the online load board. If a particular transaction worked smoothly, keep the information of your business partners and try to work with them again down the line. Again, one of the primary advantages of these boards is the networking potential that they offer.
Do your research, find the best sites. While it may seem like a given, make a conscious effort to single out the right board for you. Read reviews, check out their websites, and find one that you feel comfortable using.
What is the catch?
While they are undoubtedly convenient, there are also some down sides online load boards.
While many of them are free or cheap to use, if you are seeking some of the more complex services that their websites offer, the prices can be on the higher-side, some being as much as $100 a month. What is more, the very nature of the load boards is risky, as you are making transactions and agreements with total strangers. In this regard it is almost like online dating—you can never be completely sure of what you are truly working with. Scamming is a rampant issue with online load boards (but, there are ways to be safe—more on that later). And lastly, you will typically have to offer your services for a lower price than what you normally would.
Again, these instruments are a great way to get your foot in the door of the industry, to be sure, but they should not be a part of your long term strategy. When possible, start relying on your own ability to contract with clients.
How can I use online load boards safely and wisely?
There are right ways and there are wrong ways to go about using online load boards.
Where should I start?
There are tons of well-reviewed online load boards out there. Here some of the very best to get your search going for the best load:
If you regularly find loads using load boards, freight factoring companies offer free credit checks to ensure you’re hauling for trustworthy customers. It’s just another reason to consider freight factoring.