Load boards are a versatile tool. You can advertise your truck’s availability to brokers or search for suitable loads yourself. However, a load board’s most important quality is its insight into current trucking/lane market trends. Knowing how to read a load board can help you get the best rates for your business.
Learn about the Loads
Load boards allow carriers to search for loads using specific criteria. Enter your information – such as your truck type, pick-up date and location, and full or partial load. The load board then populates a list of matching, available loads.
What are you legally able to haul?
Pay attention to weight limits. Does the load’s weight require a special permit? Heavier loads also use more fuel. Does the freight rate make sense for the weight/distance of the load?
Will you make money on the load?
Know your operating cost. It is the backbone of your entire business. You’re taking money out of your own pocket by accepting a load that pays you less than it costs to run your truck. Be aware of deadhead miles and assessorial fees. Where is the drop-off location? If you are driving into a location known for having high fees (lumpers, tolls, long detention times, etc.), make sure the freight rate is enough to cover them and your cost of operation.
Is it a good rate for the lane?
Compare the freight rates to the average spot rates. Most load boards offer spot rate averages on their lanes. Compare these to the load’s posted rate. Think twice if the rate seems too good to be true; watch out for broker’s scams. On the flip side, knowing the average spot rate can keep you from accepting a rate that is too low for the load. If the load generally goes for $3 a mile, then why should you haul it for $2.25?
How many loads are available?
Load boards can help you plan your headhauls and backhauls. Check out the load availability at your drop-off location. How easy is it to get out of the area and/or back to your home location?
Learn about your Competition
Load boards also allow you to see how many posted trucks are in your lane. The search process is the same as above, but instead of searching for loads, you are searching for trucks.
How many trucks are in the area?
Knowing the number of available loads in a given area is only half the battle. You also need to know the number of available trucks. If an area has 300 available loads but only 50 available trucks, then you know there are roughly 6 loads per truck. You have some room to negotiate a better rate for your business. However, if 300 available trucks are trying to bid on 50 available loads, it is safe to say the freight rates are going to be low.
Preparing to Negotiate Freight Rates
Negotiating freight is about supply and demand. If there are more available loads than trucks, you have a better shot at negotiating a higher freight rate. Use the load boards to help you keep track of market trends and make smart business decisions.