When it comes to being an owner operator, finding those high-paying truck loads can feel like a never-ending quest, right? With so many options out there, it can be tough to figure out where to find the most profitable truck loads. But fear not! We will walk through the most practical ways of finding truck loads for owner operators by analyzing the pros and cons of each option.
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Truck loads for Owner Operators
Below are the various ways of finding owner operator loads.
I. Get associated with a credit-worthy Freight Broker
If you are just starting out your business, finding loads through freight brokers is the easiest way. Freight brokers serve as intermediaries, connecting owner operators with shippers. These freight brokers are like the ultimate matchmakers. They act as a middlemen between shippers and owner operators. They know all the ropes, so they’ll get you the perfect haul. In addition, they’ll also help you negotiate the best rates possible.
- Less idle time.
- Access to a network of established relationships with shippers
- Easy to find tailored owner operator loads
- Additional costs due to broker fees (typically 15% to 25% per load)
- Dependency on the broker’s network for loads
- Reduced direct control over the negotiation process
How to negotiate load rates with Freight Brokers?
1. Determine your Cost Per Mile
CPM is the total of all your fixed and variable expenses on a per mile basis. It tells you the bare minimum to charge for your owner operator loads. When you are calculating your CPM, don’t forget to add driver’s pay even if you are an owner operator. This way you’ll end up making a lot more than you expected.
2. Determine your routes
Now that you know your real CPM, it’s time to determine what routes you want to run. Decide on 3-4 routes and become an expert in them. The reason you should focus on a few lanes is because you will know
- When the rates change
- How do the rates change
- Why are the rates changing
Always choose medium to large-scale cities as destinations, as it will be easier to get the return loads. For instance, if you are from Nashville and you want to return home every other day, you can go for:
- Nashville, TN to Atlanta, GA (Approx. 250 miles)
- Nashville, TN to Indianapolis, IN (Approx. 290 miles)
- Nashville, TN to St. Louis, MO (Approx. 307 miles)
3. Research your market
Before negotiating with freight brokers, it’s smart to understand the market. There are two methods for analyzing:
- Historical data: Broker-to-carrier spot rates
- Current data: Current market conditions
While the historical data gives an estimate of how the rates were in the past 15 days, the current market condition helps you face reality.
Combining these insights helps you figure out the right pricing. To get a feel for how flexible the brokers are, test the waters by calling similar ones. This helps to determine your base market and max market spot rates and allows you to negotiate confidently while calling the right ones.
4. Start negotiating
When you are on the call, make a note of the
- Pick-up time
- Delivery time
- Name of the receiver company
- Load weight
This is very important for negotiation. For example, if the delivery time is at 2 PM, most owner operators will stay away as it’s hard to get a return load. You can take advantage of these and make things work in your favor.
While negotiating, voluntarily put your max rate on the table first. Obviously, the broker is going to say no, but when you bring your prices down slowly, there is a high chance of getting a good deal.
II. Work directly with shippers
You may ask how to get truck loads without a broker? It all starts with building strong relationships with the shippers. But this may require a lot of cold calls and proving yourself as a legit owner operator. Stay true to your commitments and prove your reliability, and you can secure a long-lasting partnership. Once you’re in their good books, they’ll be giving you a ring whenever they need a delivery.
- Eliminates the need for middlemen
- Higher profit without intermediary fees
- Time-consuming process
- Cannot rely on shippers all the time
How to find direct shipper loads as an owner operator?
1. Try to solve shipper’s problem
As an owner operator you neither have full capacity nor are you technologically advanced. So the best way to work directly with the shipper is to solve their problems. The most common problems for a shipper are:
- On-time delivery
- Freight capacity
- Freight claim
- Load tracking
- Competitive rates
- Low risk/ no contracts
The most practical way to steal the deal is to focus on solving the key problems under your control. For instance, you can focus on on-time delivery, offer competitive pricing and work without any contracts during the trial period. This helps shippers build trust in the services you offer; either they’ll continue working with you or they’ll reject after the trial period, depending on the promises you keep.
2. Make a list of who to work with
Try to get in contact with small and mid-size shippers. If you have worked with brokers before, see if you can contact the shippers they were working with. Do consider your policy agreement with the broker before directly contacting any shipper. The reason why this method works is because:
- It is easy to get in contact with the shipping manager
- You are definitely going to offer a better deal than the freight broker
Other ways to get direct shipper loads is to use DAT, google maps and even LinkedIn. Make a list of all the shippers and track the progress of each one. Remember, the more the list, the better the deal.
3. Secure Contracts
When it comes to contacting the shipper, the best way is to meet them in-person. This could highly impact your probability of getting the contract. Be prepared, be confident in what you offer, show testimonials, and have a good sales pitch.
Know that it might be hard to convince shippers as they are already working with other brokers. So be prepared to get rejected as it’s all part of learning. Once you convince the shipper, reassure them and get the contract signed. Now it’s time to keep up with your promises and make a solid impression in your trial period so that you can secure a long term contract.
III. Use owner operator load boards
When it comes to finding freight, load boards take the crown. With owner operator load boards, you can get loads within minutes, leaving behind the need of cold calling shippers or networking. It’s like virtual hangouts where truck owners, shippers, and brokers all come together to post and find loads that keep the wheels turning.
A typical USA truck load board provides vital details about the cargo, including type, weight, location, and destination. You can secure a load with just a few clicks and hit the road in no time.
- Provides access to diverse loads
- Saves time and minimizes downtime.
- Fees and subscriptions
- Quality and reliability concerns
How to find loads using DAT?
DAT is one of the most used owner operator load boards with over 448.5M loads and trucks posted annually. They provide load board services within the US and also from US to Canada. In order to find loads using DAT you must first register yourself as a carrier by submitting various documents like:
- MC authority
- Broker Carrier Agreement
Their standard plan starts at $45 per month and can go up till $295 dollars per month. However you can explore the DAT load board free trial for 30 days before opting any plans.
How to use DAT load board?
To find loads for your trucks, you can either post your truck details or can directly start searching loads.
To post your truck details, go to my trucks and click add truck. Enter your truck details, your location, the dates your truck will be available, and most importantly your contact details. This helps potential shippers with loads to contact you directly. Now you can view all the matching loads posted in and around your locations with details of the shipper and the rate for the loads.
Another way is to directly go to the search loads section and enter required information like origin, destination, equipment type, load type, its weight and date range. Once you find potential loads, carefully review the load details including the pickup, delivery, load weight, and rate per mile. It’s important to cross verify the shipper’s company, MC number, and their credit score to avoid any unnecessary issues. After finalizing, you can contact the shipper, negotiate and fix the freight rates.
IV. Use a freight dispatcher
When you partner with a dispatching service, they act as your trucking company’s go-to negotiators, linking you directly with shippers or brokers. These folks aren’t just about the front end, they handle everything from customer support to sorting out your billing and payments.
You can hire a personal dispatcher if you’re managing a fleet of trucks, or can go for a truck dispatching service if it’s just you flying solo.
- Direct connections with shippers.
- Assistance with business functions like freight management, paperwork, and accounting.
- No direct control
- Additional fees, either a flat rate or 5-10% per load.
How to find truck loads for owner operators is a challenging question, but understanding the different ways to secure them is key. Whether it’s through brokers, dispatchers, direct partnerships, government contracts, or load boards there are options available. By weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each method, you can always make better decisions that suit your business.
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