A load board, also called a freight board or freight matching service, is an online platform that connects shippers and carriers. It serves as a marketplace where truck owner-operators, shippers, and freight brokers can post any available loads they have, as well as find available loads.

It’s essentially an online marketplace for the trucking industry.

In this article, you learn:

  • Why should you use one?
  • How Does A Load Board Work?
  • How Do You Use A Load Board?

     

    Shipping is our nation’s backbone, with every sector relying on efficient goods movement. In 2023, the American Trucking Association reported a staggering $940.8 billion in industry revenue.

     

    The trucking community, often underestimated, plays a crucial role, moving over 70% of all shipped goods. Load boards, vital tools in this complex supply chain, connect professionals to transport freight nationwide seamlessly.

     

    Why Should You Use One?

    Trucking companies often use load boards to find jobs and expand their customer base. These load boards can be beneficial in finding high-paying jobs and ensuring that your trucks are always full. By diversifying your customer base, you can protect your business from the impact of losing a single customer or shipper. A good load board can be helpful for small fleet owners, owner-operators, and large firms alike, allowing them to pick up more customers and keep their trucks busy. In short, load boards are worth it for trucking companies.

     

    How Does A Load Board Work?

    Using a load board is a simple process. You need to log in to the website or app and search for what you need. If you are a carrier or owner-operator, you can look for available loads, or if you are a freight broker or shipper, you can search for available trucks. Alternatively, you can post specific details like your equipment and preferred destination if you’re an owner-operator or carrier, or if you’re a shipper or freight broker, you can post the details of the load that needs to be transported.


How do load boards function for brokers/shippers?

Brokers use load boards for two primary purposes: to set optimal rates and to find trucks to move loads. 

 

When brokers receive loads from shippers, they have to establish rates for specific lanes. This means that brokers and shippers need to agree on the price of moving the freight. The rates depend largely on the lane density, which refers to the number of available trucks in that lane that are willing to haul cargo. Brokers may use a load board to determine this capacity and set the right rate for a particular lane. Most platforms have a rate-sourcing tool that shows average market prices for specific lanes. This tool can be a great starting point for establishing rates to present to shippers (with a broker margin included) and negotiating with carriers. 

 

To move loads, brokers need to find carriers. Simply, they’re searching for trucks to haul a load. Instead of asking around at truck stops if there are any available, they use load boards. By indicating the origin and destination, trailer type, and cargo weight, brokers can get a list (or map view) of trucks near the pickup point and can be contracted to haul the cargo. This is also the best way to see the lane density, which, as previously mentioned, is essential for rate establishment and sometimes for getting prepared for tough negotiations.

 

When a broker has an overwhelming number of loads to cover or is feeling a bit burnt out from searching for available trucks, they can post loads on the board. This way, carriers will see the available loads on the board and respond to learn more, try to get a better rate, and, hopefully, take the job. The posting process will be described in more detail later on, but for now, let’s explore how it looks from the other side.

How do owner-operators and carriers use a load board?

Both large fleet owners and owner-operators count on load boards to find work for their trucks. The basic idea is simple: instead of making cold calls to shippers, carriers can open the load board and choose from thousands of loads that fit their specific requirements, such as trailer type, pickup location, and maximum weight. This allows carriers to select the most optimal freight, get the best rates, and reduce the number of empty miles they drive.

 

Using a load board also gives carriers access to a rating tool that can help them negotiate better rates, as well as the ability to post their trucks so brokers can find them more easily.

 

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s take a closer look at how load boards function.

 

Load boards’ main features

Before we compare the most popular load boards in the trucking industry, we’ll briefly describe their common features. It’s important to note that the functionality may differ slightly among providers and significantly across pricing plans.

Loads posting and management

Load posting is the most essential feature for brokers. To have your load listed, you need to provide details such as…

  •  the date of pickup,
  • The pickup and drop off locations,
  • required trailer type (van, flatbed, step deck, flatbed, power only, etc.),
  • weight of the cargo,
  • added stops (if any),
  • Whether it is a full or LTL load (optional),
  • the commodity being shipped,
  • the rate (if applicable),
  • dimensions (optional),
  • Any special requirements such as hazmat, oversize, military load, tarping, port entry, pickup or dropoff appointment times, etc.

Posted loads undoubtedly include the name and contact of the broker’s company.

 

Including more details in a load listing helps carriers determine if it is a good fit for them. It also saves time for brokers as they won’t have to tell load details over the phone repeatedly.

 

Tip: Carriers are likelier to call on loads that include exact weight, dimensions, and rates.

 

Brokers can change their entries, deactivate or unpost them without deleting them, roll them over to the next day, and copy them if they have multiple similar loads. Additionally, they can view the market spot rate and compare it to their own.

 

Tip: In order to make it easier for carriers to find loads, the list of available loads needs to be refreshed periodically. This ensures that the loads appear at the top of the list and are not lost among the thousands of other posted loads.

 

Moreover, load boards let brokers manage their preferred carriers list, permitting only trusted partners to see and book the loads. Some platforms even show brokers which carriers have seen their listings.

 

Brokers incorporate their transportation management system with a load board to simplify and speed up load posting. We will discuss this further in the following sections.

Finding Trucks and Facilitating Communication

Brokers can use load boards to find trucks that match specific load criteria. They can search for drivers interested in a particular lane or carriers located in a specific area around the pickup point. Load boards offer a map view that shows how close the available trucks are to the given location.

 

Moreover, some load boards enable brokers to send a short message containing load details and contact information to nearby carriers that match their search criteria. This feature alerts the carriers of available freight and enhances the chances of finding a match. The 123LoadBoard Truck Locator is one such tool that can help you locate the right carrier for your load.

 

Compliance Assurance

The entries on the truck list contain information about the carrier. This allows brokers to access the DOT database and review the carrier’s safety record, inspection summary, and other relevant details. By doing so, brokers can determine whether the carrier is reliable enough to work with, thus minimizing unnecessary risks.

 

Some platforms offer risk management tools that integrate carrier data from DOT. This enables brokers to evaluate the reliability of potential partners within the same system.

 

Efficient Load Search, Comparison, and Booking

Load boards empower carriers with advanced search and filtering capabilities, facilitating unlimited searches for optimal freight matches. To generate a tailored list, carriers need to provide specific details:

  • Date (or preferred time range) of availability
  • Pickup location (town, state, or zone)
  • Destination details (town, state, zone, or a flexible “anywhere” option)
  • Acceptable deadhead or search radius (indicating the distance a driver is willing to travel empty, for both pickup and drop-off)
  • Preferred trailer type
  • Full or Less Than Truckload (LTL) load preference
  • Weight and length limits

The platform filters available loads and creates a list that matches the carrier’s preferences. Users can compare options next to each other and make an informed decision.

 

Loads can be booked instantly or bid on through the platform, depending on broker preferences. This is very convenient after business hours.

 

However, in some cases, the carrier may need to call the broker to book freight over the phone. Specific load boards also allow carriers to search for brokers who offer loads in specific lanes.

 

Broker Credit Data

Load board platforms show carriers a list of available loads along with broker information. Carriers check the broker’s history and reliability before booking the freight. Load board platforms also provide essential details such as credit score and days-to-pay for carrier convenience.

 

Mobile App Convenience

Nowadays, smartphones are essential for people managing their lives, even for truck drivers who might not have access to traditional computers while on the road. 

A recent study conducted by Truckstop.com revealed that a majority of carriers are opting for mobile applications to perform various tasks. The study found that more than 60 percent of carriers use mobile apps to locate loads, 59 percent use them to check spot rates, and 58 percent use them to expedite payment and reduce paperwork. For owner-operators or carriers, a significant advantage is having an easy-to-use app that provides full load board functionality, including load booking, alerts for new loads, and document exchange.

 

Market Analytics and Rate Trends

Load boards collect and analyze industry data, offering market insights, average rates, fuel costs, and activity trends. This information empowers brokers and carriers in negotiations and decision-making.

 

Mileage Calculation, Routing, and Mapping

Experienced truck drivers check trip mileage first when choosing a load. Accurate calculation is crucial for several reasons.

  • The mileage directly influences the final rate.
  • Fuel costs are contingent on the mileage.
  • The mileage determines trip duration and Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) (Drivers must check their available hours of service to ensure they can reach their destination in time).

Truckers need a specialized navigation tool that considers all truck-related restrictions, like low bridges and streets where trucks are not allowed. Load boards use the industry-leading mileage calculator to generate optimal routes while also providing truck-specific mapping data to help drivers find useful sites along the way.

Additional Features and Freight Factoring

Load board pricing varies greatly. Some additional features, such as credit scores, preferred or blocked carriers/brokers, advanced analytics, and others, may not be included in the standard package and may require extra payment. There are some extra features that are usually available for an additional price. 

  • freight factoring options (having the option to get paid sooner);
  • fuel management (monitoring fuel prices and estimating IFTA fuel tax);
  • provides access to carrier and broker information and user reviews of facilities.

After going over the primary features, it is important to consider the integration opportunities when working with load boards.

 

Integration Opportunities

Many reputable brokers and carriers nowadays rely on software to automate their daily operations. Transportation management systems (TMS) are commonly used to manage transportation activities from planning to reporting.

 

Integrating a load board with a transportation management system (TMS) can be a highly efficient way to simplify operations for both brokers and carriers. While some major load boards are already integrated with certain TMSs, if you use a custom solution, you should expect that it will require significant time and cost investment and will involve experienced IT specialists. However, the result of such integration is worth the effort, and I’ll explain why.

Broker Efficiency: Integrate load board with TMS

Load posting is a significant aspect of the broker’s interaction with a load board, and it can be made more straightforward through system integration. By integrating your TMS with the load board platform, the load list will be automatically uploaded to the board, including all the necessary information, which saves time. Load posting is a significant aspect of the broker’s interaction with a load board, and it can be made more straightforward through system integration. By integrating your TMS with the load board platform, the load list will be automatically uploaded to the board, including all the necessary information, which saves time.

 

By integrating with a load board system, you can access various features such as truck search and market analytics without having to leave your internal platform. This can improve efficiency and streamline your workflow.

Load board and TMS integration for carriers

If you’re a fleet owner with multiple trucks, you can benefit from connecting a load board to a transportation management system (TMS). You can use this method to access the available load lists from the platform, view them in your own system, match them with your empty trucks, and book freight if the platform permits it.

 

Integrating a load board into your IT system provides access to various benefits such as rate tools, industry insights, routing, and other features.

 

Okay, so we finally checked out what the load board market has to offer. It’s been on our to-do list for a while, but we’ve finally gotten around to it! I’m excited to see what kind of opportunities you can find.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Where Do Load Boards Obtain Loads, and Are There Different Types of Load Boards?

There are various types of load boards tailored to different shipping needs. Most load boards provide access to all freight types but may have different user requirements. The three common types are:

  1. Subscription-based
  2. Free (typically offered by brokers)
  3. Specialized (e.g., flatbed, dump truck, hot shot)

Before signing up, compare features and costs to ensure the load board aligns with your usage plans. While the best load board varies for each user, our blog explains how to find the most suitable one for your needs. Freight can be manually added by brokers or automatically posted through TMS integration. Carrier capacity is usually manually posted, but smart load boards offer real-time integration, automatically updating when a load or truck is taken. Smart load boards use digital freight matching for efficient and automated matching based on historical data and preferences.

Are Load Boards Worth Using?

Load boards are a useful tool for carriers, owner-operators, and freight brokers. Although they may have fewer features than paid options, free load boards are budget-friendly and easy to use. Many carriers use them to find some of their loads, such as headhauls or backhauls, when freight contracts aren’t providing enough volume. Signing up for multiple free load boards, testing them out, and determining which works best is advisable. This presents little risk and great potential to maximize loads and keep drivers moving.

Is there a free load board?

There are several free load boards available for use. One of the most popular options is C.H. Robinson’s Free Load Board. Other free load boards include Trucker PathTrulosTruckSmarterLoad UpFreight Finder, and DOFT. These load boards offer services similar to C.H. Robinson’s Free Load Board, such as free freight matching services and access to available loads and trucks.

 

Free load boards provide basic searches for available freight and are budget-friendly and simple to use. While they have fewer features than paid options, they remain a valuable resource for many carriers.

 

Final Thoughts

One way to look at load boards is as a tool that helps connect the three key players in the freight industry – brokers, shippers, and carriers – using data to make informed matches.

  • Onwer-operators inform brokers of their current location and planned destination.
  • Brokers find owner-operators for shipping loads received from shippers.
  • Shippers save time and earn additional money when their goods are transported efficiently.

The information provided can be used by all parties to safeguard their businesses and make well-informed choices. This will result in a mutually beneficial outcome for everyone involved.