Load-matching is a challenge — load boards make it easier. But which boards should carriers be using, and what features do they offer?
Truckers looking for one-time freight hauls can turn to any one of over a hundred online load boards. While load-matching has always been a part of trucking, these are not like the truck stop bulletin boards of decades past. While they vary in quality, the most feature-rich online and mobile resources can actually provide truckers with critical insights that can help them optimize their operational strategies for efficiency and profit.
What is a Load Board?
Load boards, also known as freight boards, are online platforms that allow truckers to find one-time hauls. Essentially like a Craigslist or Uber for transportation gigs, it allows shippers and carriers to connect with mutual benefits for both parties. Truckers take the jobs that work best for them, and shippers choose the carriers that offer the best deal.
Typically, brokers post relevant job details — like load size, type, and route — and truckers send in their bids. In some cases truckers post their routes so that brokers can take advantage of pre-existing routes. Many of the major boards allow truckers to search by job type, but some boards are specific. Hotshot boards, for instance, offer only more urgent (and smaller) jobs — which often come at a higher price.
Both free and paid boards exist, although most have free trials so that drivers can figure out which works best for them. Paid boards may offer more features, like message boards, reviews, and mobile access. Using multiple load boards can help users find the best opportunity on any given day.
Are Load Boards Right For You?
Owner-operators new to the business often use load boards to start making contacts and can even establish a reputation through online reviews. While these are temporary agreements, using load boards can lead to additional opportunities as you establish client relationships.
Small fleet owners often use load boards to ensure continual opportunities, and all carriers may find they can reduce deadhead miles by incorporating extra gigs. Tech tools on some boards can actually help reduce paperwork too, making these loads more worth the time.
One of the primary drawbacks of working from a load board has to do with trust. Although some boards do have a payment guarantee or provide data on a broker’s average pay delay, it’s not unheard of to wait a long time to receive payment.
Drivers who primarily work with direct shippers may not find load boards as helpful, as carrier competition can drive down prices. All drivers should calculate costs to ensure they can turn a profit.
Where to Start: 5 Useful Load Boards
There are dozens of load boards out there for every type of freight and driver, users will want to explore the field. The following five boards are some of the best:
DAT Solutions has a long-standing reputation, going back to their 1978 origin in Portland, Oregon. Thanks to their merger with GetLoaded, they are the largest freight board, with some 260 million loads posted annually. They offer a variety of plans, including Power, Express, and TruckersEdge, ranging from $35 to $250 per month. Payment is guaranteed up to $1,000 per load, and additional features include payment comparison, overviews of industry trends, and automated load tracking.
Truckstop.com has been around since 1995, and boasts 400+ partners. Carrier and broker plans start at just $35 a month, although the $150 plan offers the best features, like rate maps and decision tools. The company works to ensure brokers are reputable. It typically offers tens of thousands of available loads each for flatbed, van, reefer, and more.
Founded in 2004, 123 offers a user-friendly interface and strong mobile accessibility thanks to data centers across the U.S. Truckers pay a monthly fee starting at $35, with access to premium features like mileage and maps management, days-to-pay info, and industry rate calculations.
Direct Freight Services
An affordable option at $35 a month for all services, this board continues to roll out competitive features like document storage, text alerts, and filtering options. Carriers can easily post their trucks for brokers to contact them.
Free Freight Search
If a free option is needed, Free Freight Search could be the way to go. They claim to be the world’s largest free board, with over 101,000 members. Features include fuel advance and quick pay, and even a payment guarantee. The service is also integrated with a freight bill factoring company, allowing drivers access to upfront funds.
Including Load Boards in Your Trucking Plan
While not typically used as a sole, long-term strategy for most drivers, the enhanced features of some load boards mean that it’s easier than ever to work efficiently, take advantage of route flexibility, and stay profitable. The more information included in profitability calculations the better, and these improved load board tools can help drivers understand how their costs, expenses, routes, and other choices play into their profitability.
Still, in most cases load boards are best used as a supplementary resource, within a broader logistics strategy that acknowledges both one-time gigs and shipper relationships. The most successful carriers are those who can incorporate multiple streams of data for better situational awareness. In a carrier market defined by constant economic calculation, the drivers who know more about their operations will be well-positioned to pull ahead.