Also known as freight boards, load boards act as matchmakers in the shipping industry. Shipper load boards help load carriers and shippers find each other. They also help to drive transport efficiency as fewer trucks return with empty or partial loads.
In the U.S. the trucking freight bill was $791.7 billion in 2019 alone. With freight costs rising during the pandemic, even small improvements in transport efficiency can have a massive impact on the total cost. Load boards save costs for shippers, carriers, and the economy.
How Do Load Boards Work?
A load board is an online marketplace that brings shippers and carriers together. You can access the load board by logging into either the website or the app.
Carriers can look for a load or they can post their empty loads, paired with their destination information, on the board. Then, they’ll wait for a shipper or broker to contact them. Shippers and brokers post loads or search for empty trucks on the website, too.
Are Load Boards Worth It?
In short, yes. Without shipper load boards, truckers cannot reach shippers easily. Running an empty or partial return load is costly, and it will quickly affect your income as well. Load boards help shippers find carriers for their loads without incurring brokerage expenses.
How Much Do Load Boards Cost?
Most shipper load boards work on a subscription basis. The monthly payment will differ from one board to the next, but most of them will only cost up to $100 per month.
Some organizations offer free access to load boards. But whether you choose to use a subscribed load board or access one free of charge will fully depend on your budget as well as the features you require.
How Long Does It Take to Get Paid from a Load Board?
How long it takes to receive payment will differ from one company to the next. Typically, it should take anywhere from three to four weeks to get paid from a load board. When you agree on the price, you should also discuss payment.
Are There Power Only Load Boards?
Sometimes, shippers will have fully-packed trailers that they need to transport but they won’t have a driver to complete the transportation process. When this is the case, they’ll require a truck to pick up the trailer. Thankfully, there are power-only load boards that can meet this need.
Example of a Load Board
Bill owns a truck and runs his business from his hometown in Cleveland. He has a family, so he needs to keep his truck running profitably throughout the week. Bill plans to drive to New York today, but he knows that this is a profitable and busy route. So, in order to maximize his profit, he should also find a return load.
Bill uses his smartphone to log into one of the highest-paying load boards. He may look for freight broker loads, but he ultimately decides to post information about his truck, including maximum weight allowance and onboard refrigeration. After adding his destination, he waits for users of the web-based board to contact him about booking his truck.
Sue manufactures packaging in New York. She faces a last minute cancellation from her typical transporter and needs to find a trucker to get her stock to Cleveland. She checks the shipping load boards and discovers Bill’s empty truck. Sue contacts Bill and they negotiate a price before making payment arrangements.
Things to Consider with Load Boards
Choosing the appropriate load board comes down to a few important factors.
Pricing varies for load boards. Some come free of charge while others come with a monthly fee of anything up to $100. When choosing a load board, you will have to balance the cost with the benefits being offered.
Number of Loads
The bigger and more popular boards with the highest number of loads will offer you more options. However, this can be a double-edged sword because more competition can affect the prices being offered. The highest paying load boards may not always have the most loads, so essentially, you will have to weigh the benefits.
Other Software Integrations
Transport management software integrations can help you automate and streamline your back-office administration tasks. Some of the load boards include integrations that can even help you with driver payment and accounts management.
Load update frequency
The more frequently load boards are updated, the more likely you are to find a suitable match for your load or truck. If you can’t achieve real-time update frequency, expect minute-by-minute frequency instead.
Additional Advanced Features
Some shipping load boards offer additional features that can help you improve your profitability. These features may include the following:
- Credit ratings
- Average freight rates per lane
- Days to pay score
Advantages of Load Boards
Load boards have many benefits, like these:
- Connecting freight carriers with customers
- Inexpensive or even free in some cases
- Easy to use and access
- Smartphone and internet connectivity
- Allow carriers to run full loads
- Frequent information updates
Disadvantages of Load Boards
Load boards do have some disadvantages, so they should typically only serve as a stop-gap rather than being implemented as a long-term strategy. Direct contracts give you more control over your revenue.
These are the top two disadvantages of load boards:
- The competition on some load boards is fierce, which may result in discounted prices.
- You don’t always know the people that you deal with so you have to hope that they are trustworthy.
Load Board vs Broker
Load boards and brokers are not mutually exclusive. The load board brings shippers, brokers, and carriers together. Transport brokers use load boards, too, but when they have loads to ship, they will often match them with carriers already registered on the load board.
Plan Ahead with Load Boards
Load boards are essential tools in today’s competitive transport markets. If you can’t fill your truck on every return trip, then you’re not maximizing your profit. Shipping load boards that are carefully chosen to fulfill the needs of your business can ultimately help you turn better profits.
Yes, truckers and freight carriers can make money on load boards by finding and securing shipments that need to be transported, essentially connecting them to paying jobs.
Load boards can be worth it, especially for independent owner-operators or small fleets, as they provide a platform to find loads, negotiate rates, and keep their trucks moving; however, their value depends on factors like the board’s quality, available loads, and the competition among carriers.
The loads that pay the most tend to be specialized or require additional certifications, such as hazardous material (hazmat) loads, oversized or heavy haul loads, and temperature-controlled freight like refrigerated goods.
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