How to Find Truck Loads for Owner Operators

How to Find Truck Loads for Owner Operators
8 min read

More than 70% of transported goods are moved by trucks in the United States. More than 90% of companies in the United States long-distance freight trucking industry are owner-operators. Getting frequent, reliable, and well-paying truck loads is crucial for the smooth running of any trucking business. In the past, owner-operators had to constantly check physical load boards, wait in truck shops, or make several calls a day in order to get loads. Times have now changed. The internet, smartphones, apps, etc. offer an advantage to finding a reliable source to get truck loads. If you are still in the researching phase of becoming a new owner operator please see our full guide on how to start a trucking business in 2024. 

Below are a few ways in which an owner-operator can find loads:

Load boards

Load boards are the most common way to find loads. This is especially a reliable option for a new business to get rolling quick. A Load board is essentially an online site that provides a shared platform for shippers and truckers/owner-operators. The shippers post information of the load such as the origin, distance, destination and other important details, and owner operators can apply to pick up transport those loads. Load boards can be very helpful if the business is not leased onto a dedicated carrier. 

Load board apps are also available on smartphones that provides multiple listings to help owner-operators find suitable loads. Load boards differ from one service provider to another. While some may provide the services for free, others charge a fee to access the boards. We discuss the best load board sites for owner operators:

Paid load board websites that also offer free trial:

Direct Freight - https://www.directfreight.com/home/

DAT - https://www.dat.com/load-boards

Get loaded - http://www.getloaded.com/

Truckers Edge - https://www.truckersedge.net/

Load Match - https://www.loadmatch.com/

Free load board websites:

Trucker Path - https://truckerpath.com/truckloads/free-load-board/

Trulos - http://www.trulos.com/

DSSLN - http://www.dssln.com/

Freight Finder - https://www.freightfinder.com/

Load up - http://www.usacanadaloadup.com/

Apps:

Trucker Path

DAT

Truckloads & Freight

All the websites or apps above should give a start to owner operators on how to find truck loads with a load board. Other options apart from public load boards are below. 

Lease-on

Some companies have a private load board. These are specifically for owner-operators to lease-on with that company. This option provides the owner-operator with the stability of a big company – which is an added advantage for a new owner-operator. It also gives the freedom to choose the freight directly from a load board. Some companies also offer discounts on operating expenses to owner-operators. Hence, it helps the owner-operator utilize its purchasing power. Owner-operators may also get paid a fuel surcharge versus per mile.

Freight brokers

Freight brokers help finding loads. Choosing a freight broker can be a handy option if an owner-operator is not looking to lease-on with a trucking company. A freight broker eases the process by doing most of the leg-work. This includes dispatching loads, tracking shipments, payrolls, invoicing, etc. A freight broker assists a shipper in finding a carrier that is qualified to move its load. Once a deal is negotiated, the broker connects the shipper with the owner-operator. The broker negotiates the highest amount with the shipper for the load, and connects the shipper with a carrier that is willing to move it at the lowest amount. The margin is called a spread, and is charged by the broker as a fee for the service provided. The spread is usually 15-25% of the profit. 

For example, an owner-operator agrees to move a load for $6000. A freight broker negotiates with the shipper for $7000 to do the trip. The margin of $1000 is the spread, goes directly to the freight broker.

A freight broker can be an individual or a company. When looking for one to partner with, it is recommended to find ones who are registered with the FMCSA and cover insurance costs. It is a great option for beginner owner-operators who are yet to get a strong foothold in the industry. It is important to have clarity regarding the impact of the spread on the profits made for a business. 

Dispatchers

A dispatcher manages the flow of the freight for efficient movement of the truck load. This is done by avoiding empty miles in the trips. Doing so helps in maximizing profits for owner-operators. One of the keys to smooth functioning of this service is constant communication with the owner-operator. A dispatcher ensures compliance and usually provides customer service. In addition to finding loads for the owner-operator, dispatchers also aid in various backend operations. This includes all associated paperwork like tax records, permits, insurance, etc. Some dispatchers provide end to end services. This means the dispatcher takes care of finding and managing the loads, as well as ensuring timely payment from the shipper. The fee is charged either at a flat rate, or as a certain percentage of the load. An owner-operator can hire an individual dispatcher or a trucking dispatch service provider. This is another way for owner operators to find truck loads.

Government Contracts

Federal, state, and local governments often outsource their transportation requirements. To be considered as an option for moving government loads, an owner-operator has to register on the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) website as a company. Registering as a government contractor can help an owner-operator find loads in their own city/area. Obtaining contracts can vary depending upon the security clearance required for winning the bids. A contract with government entities like the US postal service or getting the business’ name on the GSA list can bring in steady work-flow and also offer great pay. Government contracts are a great option for finding loads for an owner operator.

 

Prospecting

Prospecting is the continual process of finding loads. It revolves around researching shippers in the local area. The owner-operator should research the number of shippers, the kind of loads needed to move, destinations catered to, etc. This will help the owner-operator determine a prospect shipper to get loads from. The process requires the owner-operator to connect with the prospect shipper by reaching out to them. In the communication, an owner-operator can enquire about the shipper’s requirement and any trips suitable for the owner-operator to undertake. It also helps in finding any future opportunities that the shipper might offer. This requires a bit more work for the owner operator but also provides a good opportunity to find more loads.

Networking

Just like any other business, networking can be a key step for ensuring an owner-operator’s visibility and possible growth in the industry. Creating friendships can lead to prospective clients. Getting involved in associations like the American Association of Owner Operators (AAOO) or other local events can help in professional connections that may be a great pathway for getting loads. It not only helps in staying informed about news in the trucking industry, but also helps in tips and guidelines to grow business.

Owner operators should choose a strategy or combination of strategies above to determine what works best for the business. At first, an owner-operator might not have a lot of load options to choose from. The owner-operator may have to take up any available job to keep the business running. Though overwhelming at first, it gets easier with each trip. Owner Operators need the best technology and ELD Mandate provides some of the best products from Asset Trackers, Dash Cams, ELDs, Tablets and Data for all owner operators.

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