Congratulations! You got your hands on a truck and now you’re officially an owner-operator. Now this is where things get tricky, and strategy becomes critical to success. How do you find loads to run? Even more importantly, how do you find the right loads to run?
TOP 10 STRATEGIES FOR SOURCING LOADS FOR NEW OWNER-OPERATORS
1. Hit the Load Boards
Load boards are one of the most effective ways for carriers, whether new or seasoned, to find loads when there are holes in their schedule. Shippers and brokers post available loads to load boards like 123loadboard or Truckstop.com, allowing carriers to search for, bid on, and potentially even digitally book loads. Create accounts, fill in your profile, and monitor top load boards for loads that will meet your needs.
2. Build Relationships with Freight Brokers
Freight brokers are a great option for sourcing loads because they need to book several loads a day. Freight brokers act as intermediaries between shippers and carriers. A broker may specialize in the same lanes or equipment types as you, so building relationships with brokers who frequently have loads that meet your needs can be very valuable to your business.
3. Reach Out Directly to Shippers
You may be able to interact directly with shippers to find loads, and dealing directly with a shipper may help you command better rates since there’s no broker in the middle taking a cut. Connect directly with likely shippers’ logistics or supply chain departments and take time to carefully present your service offerings. Explain how you can meet their shipping needs and you may manage to secure a contract that can provide steady, predictable income.
4. Build a Strong Network
Even though digitalization has made its way into the trucking industry, it’s still a very people-oriented business. Building connections with other professional drivers and industry professionals at industry events, conferences, or informative seminars can not only help you gain industry knowledge but also meet potential shippers and brokers to help you find loads to run.
5. Give Online Networking a Shot
Not sure how to find people in the trucking industry to network with? Consider online networking opportunities. Online forums, social media groups, and professional networking sites are great ways to meet like-minded industry professionals and potential shippers and brokers to begin building relationships with them. Post thought-provoking questions, share availability, and get to know industry professionals there to help build your circle.
6. Learn How to Cold Call
The answer to a question that you never asked is always ‘no’. Cold calling is simply a way to call and ask about potential loads and explain your service offerings, but there’s an art to cold calling. Brokers that cover your preferred lanes and equipment types and shippers with freight that meets your needs are ideal candidates for cold calls. This method may not yield immediate results, but don’t take the no’s personally. Stay persistent and you may find profitable load opportunities.
7. Consider Load Matching Apps
Load matching apps like Uber Freight, Convoy, and Trucker Path are essentially like load boards that do some of the work of finding the right load for you. These apps can connect you directly with available loads. You can use them to browse and lock in loads that match your equipment type and preferred lanes.
8. Leverage Existing Contacts
One way that new owner-operators can source loads is to get in touch with existing industry contacts. Maybe you’ve worked for a trucking company before, or you have an old friend from school that works in the industry. Reach out to them to let them know about your business and ask them if they have any leads on loads. You might be surprised who has help to offer!
9. Join Industry Associations
Industry associations can be a great way to network, plus they offer resources and support that can help you get your career as an owner-operator off on the right foot. Join an industry association or two and make sure to stay active, attending meetings and events and keeping up with your fellow association members to stay up to date on what’s happening in the trucking industry.
10. Find Your Niche
It may sound counterintuitive, but specializing in a specific load type of industry can actually help you find more quality loads. It can also help you target likely shippers or brokers to work with. Some examples of viable specializations include refrigerated goods, automotive, or open deck. Developing a niche sets you apart from competitors and positions you as a reliable and knowledgeable carrier within your chosen sector.
Finding loads can seem overwhelming at first, but there are several different options for sourcing loads as a new owner-operator. It’s important to be adaptable and willing to change your strategy to find what works for you. Be persistent, resilient, and provide top-notch service to start building a solid reputation for yourself in the trucking industry so you can build a profitable trucking business.