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Load board vs. freight marketplace: is there a difference?

Thanks to load boards and freight marketplaces, searching for suitable loads has never been easier. These online platforms help connect carriers, shippers and brokers to keep freight moving. However, despite serving similar roles in transportation and logistics, a load board and freight marketplace have different functions and capabilities. Learn more about freight marketplaces and load boards to determine which is best for your company. 

What is a load board? 

A load board is a virtual marketplace that connects shippers, freight brokers and carriers. Shippers and brokers post available loads on these online platforms for carriers to search and bid on. Through these postings, transportation companies can find suitable loads efficiently, and shippers and brokers have a wider pool of potential carriers. 

Load boards work by displaying available loads in a searchable way for carriers to find based on location, route, cargo type and other criteria. When carriers find loads they want to haul, they submit bids to the loads’ shippers or brokers. If a poster accepts a carrier’s bid, the carrier will transport the load. 

While there are free load boards online, most of the best load boards for truckers charge a fee for accessing their platform. Some load boards may offer additional features, such as load tracking and credit reports for shippers and brokers. 

What is a freight marketplace?

Like a load board, a freight marketplace is an online platform that connects shippers, freight brokers and carriers to facilitate the movement of goods. However, a freight marketplace is a more comprehensive solution than a load board and offers additional services that help streamline the shipping process. 

While a freight marketplace has the same basic function as a load board, it does so more effectively. Freight marketplaces incorporate advanced algorithms that use machine learning and real-time data to match shippers and carriers based on various factors, including equipment type, location and past performance. These load-matching algorithms help shippers and freight brokers find carriers that best suit their needs while assisting carriers in finding profitable loads. 

Freight marketplaces may include additional features that provide business opportunities and streamline back-office tasks, such as:

  • Real-time shipment tracking and alerts
  • Paperless billing and automated payment processing
  • Credit checks and insurance services

Comparing load boards and freight marketplaces

Is a load board or freight marketplace the best solution for your transportation company? Find out the market reach, time, resources and flexibility of each to help guide your decision.

Options available

One way that freight marketplaces and load boards differ is the opportunities available. Load boards typically have larger volumes of loads available and more carriers searching and bidding on these loads than on freight marketplaces. Although this larger pool of shippers, freight brokers and carriers presents plenty of options, it also makes load boards more competitive. 

Conversely, freight marketplaces are a relatively new model. Since the freight industry tends to be slower in adopting new technologies, this means there is less competition on these platforms. Although fewer loads may be available, the load-matching algorithms help carriers find more relevant loads to haul. 

Required effort and time 

Load boards and freight marketplaces also differ in how much time and effort it takes to use their platforms. Using a load board is highly manual, with users needing to search to find loads and negotiate rates continuously. 

Securing loads with a freight marketplace is more automated. On these marketplaces, carriers are vetted, so only those able to take the load are notified of its availability. Then when the carrier-shipper match is made, all documentation, paperwork and payments are handled electronically through the marketplace

Level of connections needed

Relationships and connections are essential for any business, but the extent depends on the tools used to conduct business. In this case, establishing business relationships is more important when using a load board than a freight marketplace. 

Load boards are especially popular with small carriers and owner-operator CDL drivers. These smaller operations require long-term partnerships and may prioritize these relationships when searching for loads. In contrast, freight marketplaces typically favor performance metrics like on-time delivery and low damage rates to match carriers and shippers rather than relying on personal relationships. 

Flexibility and versatility

Load boards and freight marketplaces also differ in terms of job diversity. Since load boards feature a higher volume of available loads, they generally offer more versatility for shippers and carriers.  

Freight marketplaces focus on connecting shippers and brokers to vetted carriers best suited to haul their loads. With this structure, carriers may have fewer choices and less versatility, but at the same time, they gain a higher percentage of high-value loads they are qualified to carry. 

Find the best load board or freight marketplace for your company

Whether you’re looking for a comprehensive freight marketplace or a load board, there is a platform that can help you meet your business goals. Load boards are a great option if you want a greater volume of opportunities, more flexibility and higher reliance on business relationships. A freight marketplace is the best choice if you’re looking for no-hassle connections with loads that match your capabilities and criteria.


How do you access freight load boards?

Load boards are accessible online using smartphones, tablets or computers. Many load boards require a subscription fee to search.

How fast do load boards pay?

Payment terms range from 15 to 90 days in the transportation industry, including for jobs found on load boards. 

What are the disadvantages of trucking load boards?

Two drawbacks to using a trucking load board include cost and competition.

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