The freight industry is an exciting, ever-changing landscape—especially for carriers. Truck load booking can be a breeze one day and a challenge the next. Negotiating the right trucking rates is both an art and a science; but load boards are one tool that can help.
What is a load board and how does it work?
A load board is an online platform that connects shippers, brokers, and carriers. It allows businesses or brokers that have goods to ship to find carriers that have the trucks and drivers they need. It allows carriers to find loads, negotiate the best rates, and keep their trucks moving.
Load boards exist to make booking loads for trucks easier. Users simply log in through an online portal and begin searching or posting. When a carrier is ready to book, they typically need to contact the shipper.
Five primary features of a load board
The load board features that appeal to you will depend on whether you are a carrier or a shipper. Most load boards offer at least the following features:
1. Load posting
One of the most important features is the ability for freight brokers and shippers to post their available loads. This includes pickup dates and location, drop-off location, cargo weight, dimensions, trailer type (such as reefer, flatbed, or dry van load), etc.
2. Load search, compare, and book
Load boards are especially popular with carriers, who can filter loads by date, time range, pick-up point, drop-off point, trailer type, weight, mode, and even acceptable deadhead. Some boards offer preferred lanes trucking, where carriers can filter by their lane preferences. Carriers can also see information on the shipper or broker, including credit score and days to pay.
3. Truck search
Just as carriers can search for loads, shippers can search for trucks. They’ll input their load criteria and see a list of carriers in the area who fit the bill.
4. Mileage and route generation
Shippers don’t necessarily have to include the mileage between points or even specify a lane or route to take. Load boards can often precisely calculate mileage and generate the best route based on specialized knowledge like low bridges and restricted roads.
5. Data and analytics
With all that mapping, mileage calculation, and knowledge of where loads are going and at what rate, load boards have a lot of data. While it may come at an extra price, they often share that information with customers, including rates, fuel costs, lane activity, and truck-to-load ratios.
Who uses load boards?
Load boards are a matchmaker for shippers, brokers, and carriers; all three of which often consider them an essential part of doing business.
Carriers and dispatchers
Carriers use load boards to fill their trucks with the right loads for their drivers. They’ll post their details, like equipment specs and location, so that shippers can find them.
Dispatchers at large carriers can also use a load board to find backhauls or headhauls when a freight contract doesn’t provide enough volume.
Those at smaller carriers can use the software to find spot opportunities.
Freight brokers and shippers
Shippers may use load boards directly to find trucks to move their goods, or they may contract a third-party freight broker. Both can use the board in two ways: They can post a freight description and wait for carriers to contact them, or they can search trucks and reach out to the carrier or driver. Freight brokers and shippers also use the data on load boards to set rates.
Types of load boards
The right load board depends on fleet size, freight type, truck type, preferred mode, and desired features. There are a lot of options out there, including:
- Free load boards offer many features with no payment required—although they may ask you to upgrade. The top free load boards include FreeFreightSearch, NextLOAD, and DirectFreight. Better than a load board, Flock Freight is another free option to find loads—specifically shared truckloads that earn up to 20% more per load.
- Paid load boards charge a monthly subscription, the price of which can depend on your fleet size and desired features. The most popular paid load boards are DAT Freight & Analytics, Truckstop.com, and 123LoadBoard.
- Traditional dry van load boards are the most common, but specialized load boards include postings for miscellaneous trucks—like hoppers, dump trucks, or curtain sides, as well as unconventional goods like hazardous materials or livestock.
Benefits of load boards
The benefits of load boards for shippers and brokers are clear: they’re able to move their goods on time and on budget. There are plenty of benefits for carriers, too:
- Choose optimal freight: Whether you’re looking for high-paying freight, full truckloads, or the right match for your trucks, load boards show you the information you may need.
- Get drivers moving: With the ability to see the location and details of freight and contact shippers and brokers directly, load boards can help fill your trucks faster and minimize deadhead miles.
- Negotiate better rates: When you can see spot rates, lane density, and current rates, you’re in a better position to negotiate.
Challenges with load boards
Load boards aren’t without their challenges for carriers. It’s important to determine what’s most important to you and compare your options to avoid issues like:
- High competition: Some load boards have many carriers bidding on the same loads or lanes, which can drive down rates.
- Lack of real-time data: Most load boards don’t update in real-time, so by the time you see a load, it may already be taken.
- No instant booking: While some load boards allow you to book instantly or submit a bid online, many still require that you call the shipper or broker to confirm details verbally.
How to book loads for truckers
While they can be a good tool to have in the toolbox, truck load booking doesn’t have to rely solely on load boards. Here are some other ways to keep your trucks full:
- Work with a dispatcher: Smaller carriers who don’t have their own dispatchers can contract with a service that can help connect them with brokers and shippers.
- Build relationships: As in many industries, having a strong network is key to success as a carrier or an owner-operator. It isn’t what you know, it’s who you know—at least when it comes to securing the best contracts. Building relationships with shippers can result in securing freight from them directly.
- Partner with a broker: When contracts fall short, having a relationship with a broker who has your best interests in mind can help fill in the gaps and keep your trucks moving.
Better than a load board: Flock Freight
There’s another way to get your drivers on the road faster, and it’s better than a load board. Flock Freight’s platform offers a truckload and less than truckload marketplace, plus access to more partial freight options than anyone else.
And with shared truckload, you minimize out-of-route mileage and earn more—up to $200 more a day. Visit our carrier page to learn more and start booking loads in minutes.