Many places you go — supermarkets, libraries, student union halls, workplaces — have boards with fliers trying to link up like-minded people. For shippers and carriers, that link-up place, without the index cards and tear-away sheets, has become the online load board. It has changed the way much of the shipping world works. Load boards are as much a part of the industry as refrigerated trucks, containers, invoices, or warehouses.
So let’s take a deeper dive into the world of load boards. This blog defines load boards, the different types, and who uses them. It also addresses the benefits of using load boards, what you should consider when choosing a load board, and how Hwy Haul could be just the ticket for you when picking a load board.
What is a Load Board?
Load boards, also called freight boards or freight load boards, are online marketplaces in which truck owner-operators, shippers, and brokers can post and find loads to keep freight moving and their companies thriving. According to the American Trucking Association, the industry generated $875.5 billion in gross freight revenues in 2021. A great deal of that is moving through load boards found on websites or apps. Plus, load boards help all parties save a great deal of time and have become places that offer fountains of statistics and data on the industry, such as average spot rates, fuel costs, and lane density.
In addition to linking shippers and carriers up for loads, most load boards also provide services such as credit information, message boards, the capability to make notes on shippers/carriers, finance of pre-approved loads using factoring, and FMCSA verification.
Who Uses a Load Board?
Shippers, carriers, and brokers use load boards for advertising their services. Let’s take a look at how a load board works by offering up a couple of scenarios.
Say there is a trucker who has just dropped off a shipment. The trucker faces a long stretch of deadhead miles and will not earn any money on the drive home. To save him from that situation, he or one of his company’s employees goes onto a load board and searches for a new load that can help him, in full or in part, salvage some earnings for the ride home. In many instances, the trucker can bid on the load right away, saving the time and trouble of negotiating rates. Some load boards have a set price, but others also have the option of bidding on a load. Truckers can filter the search results by a specific load type, such as drop-and-hook or whatever type fits their specialty. Carriers and owner-operators can post details such as the equipment they have and where they want to go, allowing the shippers and freight brokers to contact them if they are appropriate for their needs.
If a shipper or freight broker needs to move a shipment not covered by a standing contract and all of their usual carriers are unavailable, they can post it on the load board. The post includes a list of the equipment needed to move the shipment, the weight, the destination, and other helpful information. The carrier then searches the load board to find available freight options. Both the shipper and carrier benefit from using a load board — the carrier can fill an idle truck with a load, and the shipper can have a way to transport their freight in a timely manner. This activity, including bidding and contracting, takes place within the online board or mobile app without needing time-consuming phone calls or emails. However, some shippers and carriers provide their contact information as a backup plan.
What are the Different Types of Load Boards?
There are two main types of load boards — paid and free. But there are also ones that specialize. Let’s take a look at the options.
Free Load Boards
Many load boards are free to use. Some load board owners generate revenue from ads or product placement, while others run them as a value-added service for their trucking clients. Free load boards may give you access to a few basic searches for available freight but limit other searches. Other load boards are free for carriers but include integrated freight bill factoring for loads booked through the platform. As free load boards are usually open to almost anyone, that means there is a risk of scams.
Paid Load Boards
Paid load boards usually require you to purchase a monthly subscription to view information posted on their website or app. The monthly subscription costs range from $35 to $150 a month. More expensive subscriptions usually offer greater functionality, and some offer a more exclusive listing of loads. More detailed filtering and comprehensive searching usually come with paid subscriptions. The higher-level load boards often feature additional tools such as analytics and reporting, accounting, live bidding, and invoicing. Remember to keep an eye on these paid services’ costs and regularly evaluate if they are the most effective solution for your business.
Other Load Boards
The free and paid load boards make up a large portion of load boards, but there are more specific load boards that focus on particular types of loads:
- LTL load boards – This load board specializes in less-than-truckload (LTL) shipments. Any freight that isn’t large enough to fill a trailer on its own is LTL and will likely be combined with other cargo for part or all of the shipment. Quite often, owner-operators need to be flexible to stay successful. Using LTL load boards can be a way to help fill in when full loads are not available at a particular time or on a specific lane. With a reliable LTL load board, the owner-operator can track rate trends to make price adjustments accordingly. They can also accurately assess supply chain variables and demand for both origin and destinations, and help predict fuel rates and surcharges.
- Miscellaneous load boards: Miscellaneous loads are anything that fails to fall into the above categories. These are generally very unconventional loads like livestock or boats. Keeping an eye on miscellaneous load boards and regularly taking those shipments could turn into a niche market for you.
Some trucking companies and carriers use multiple load boards, creating confusion and excessive search time. It’s probably a better option to examine the different types of load boards and choose one that suits you the best.
What are the Benefits of Using a Load Board?
Free and more advanced paid load boards offer plenty of benefits. We will look at the perks of each type separately. Still, you will see that some benefits can carry over between the two.
Benefits of Free Load Boards
- Results in real-time: With shipments posted and updated in real-time on the load boards, you can get instant access to potential partners that match the services you are offering.
- Get notifications anytime: It is possible to set up alerts that can notify you about particular types of shipments anytime, anywhere. That means you don’t have to sift through hundreds of posts per day.
- A more efficient network raises earning potential: Load boards provide easy access to a network of drivers, and that allows you to select ones with routes that help optimize the shipments that you have booked.
- Competitive pricing: A larger pool of possible suitors means greater competition and pricing for your services. If they are closer to a load, you might be able to lower the price because less travel would be required.
- Low barrier to entry: Plenty of online load boards are free to use, or you can ask for an inexpensive signup or monthly fee.
Benefits of advanced load boards
- Availability on a 24/7 basis: You can book loads anytime and anywhere–even on nights and weekends. With the ability for carriers and shippers to facilitate loads instantaneously, shippers can cut down on wasted minutes, and carriers can assume better control of their workflow.
- Status calls are a thing of the past. Transparency and visibility can take on new meanings throughout the shipping process. An advanced load board makes it easy for carriers to update their location and progress, enabling shippers to see precisely how a job is progressing. It also provides another way to show your company is customer friendly.
- Provides proactive load suggestions: To maximize efficiency and save time, advanced load boards can suggest loads that match previous routes. Along with mobile notifications, this means carriers know right away when a relevant load is available. That makes it easier to get the best loads first and fill trucks to capacity quickly.
- Secures instant and much simpler load coordination: You can say goodbye to the endless rounds of phone tag or unanswered voicemails that used to come standard with coordinating loads. The intuitive property of an advanced load board makes arranging a load a straightforward task.
- Streamlines paperwork management: Transporting cargo requires documentation throughout the entire journey. That used to mean many pieces of paper that could include human errors or get lost along the way. Advanced load boards remove the need to manually keep track of everything by putting all those documents online as part of the load board transaction.
Considerations When Choosing a Load Board
When it comes to the features that are most important to you when you choose a load board, some of them are more obvious than others. But with so many companies relying heavily on load boards, it is important to discuss all of them.
- Price: As mentioned before, load boards can run the gamut from free to more than $100 a month. It is of great importance that you need to keep your budget in mind when choosing the load board for you. Make sure it offers features you will find helpful while still not making too big a dent in your expenses.
- Plenty of load options: Top-notch load boards have hundreds and thousands of loads. This variety gives you plenty of options when searching for the optimal load.
- Load update frequency: With platforms that now have real-time information, you can receive load status updates more frequently. The more frequently the load status is updated, the better chance you have of booking quality loads that suit your needs. A service that updates every minute or less can help you stay on top of the game.
- Integration: The better the integration and automation, the more likely your experience with a load board will be a success. For instance, if your logistics operations are connected to a transportation management system (TMS), it benefits you greatly if you link up with a load board connected to TMS.
- Mobile app: If the load board has a mobile app, that gives you another way to stay connected. There is nothing more functional than being able to keep updated using just your phone.
- Security. It doesn’t hurt to check into how secure the load board is that you will be choosing. Data security has become a significant issue, so know who you share with.
- Global loads: If you deal in international freight, find out the load board’s coverage. Content translation and adjustment to foreign markets are crucial when dealing with partners from different countries. A platform should support content adaptation and communication.
- Easy to use: Load boards, like everything else, need to have a manageable system that doesn’t intimidate and frustrate the customer. Get a feeling for how easy it is to search and post on a load board. The last thing you want is to strain while figuring out all the information needed to post or acquire a bid.
- Value-added features: Quality load boards will offer advanced features — credit ratings and rate analysis, to name two. Some boards offer the ability to analyze the average freight rate for a specific lane. These added features can help you assess what deals will be the most profitable.
- Free trial: If you can see how well something works before you buy it, why not give that a whirl? If someone is offering a free trial, you have to feel they are confident in their product and can likely back that up.
Let Hwy Haul be Your Load Board
With the information we have provided, you now have a greater understanding and confidence about choosing a load board. With a lot of options out there, it can be mind-boggling. But if you want to put your mind to rest, check out Hwy Haul. With Hwy Haul, you can book loads instantly and get paid quickly. But that’s not all; our Hwy Haul Driver App lets you get notifications on loads and enables you to search with a click. It can help you maximize your income through algorithms that offer the best rates in a lane. We can also help you minimize deadhead miles and get back to your family while increasing your earnings. With our app, you can customize your preferences and make multi-trip bookings. Check out our website today to make us your load board of choice.