Daily interaction with owner operators at Status Transportation brings up very interesting topics about the transportation industry. A couple of weeks ago we had a very interesting conversation with a few truckers about load boards (e.g. www.uship.com, www.dat.com) and their take on previous experiences using them.
First allow me to clarify, this is not a review article on what load board is better. What we want to evaluate is if covering your own loads with the aid of a load board actually gives you more independence as a truck owner and if it does maximize owner operator income.
Big corporation trucking companies use the phrases booking your own loads, setting your own routes, and scheduling your week ahead as selling points for more freedom. Advertisement like this sounds and looks great but is it really more freedom? In order to answer this question, we need to analyze the pros and cons of covering your own loads in terms of time and revenue.
Time to book a load
It might sound as a cliche but in the transportation industry the saying “Time is money” applies perfectly because as a truck driver, the less you wait for a load the more money you make.
Owner ops who use load boards have mentioned they have to scour over innumerable loads that were already covered causing them to lose valuable time by making unnecessary phone calls. While some drivers suggest sticking to the newest loads and constantly refresh your browser window to avoid losing time, others recommend not to dismiss older loads buried in up to 15 pages back. The truth is that this is always a hit or miss situation depending on the load board and the brokers.
Like I mentioned before, this is not a case for evaluating different load boards but as to analyze if it is really worth it to spend your time looking for loads.
Time is a scarce resource that you can not afford to waste. Owner operators only have so many hours during the day to pick up and deliver a load. With only 14 hours a day available to work that means you have to compromise either rest time or driving time to cover your own loads. If you decide to compromise driving time that might mean you will have to settle for shorter runs or take more time to deliver a load if that is even an option. You need to remember that loads get canceled all the time so make sure to set some time aside to review your current load and any following loads you may have scheduled in advance. Pre-scheduling loads have a domino effect, failing to deliver one load on time it is going to affect all the following loads after that and that means you have to start all over again.
Another very important thing to remember when booking your own loads is that most best paying loads pop-up on load boards when most owner ops are scheduled to deliver a load. If you happen to be driving during that time or your resting time does not sync with the time when good loads are posted you will basically be stuck with loads nobody else wants. Also, paying a high price for a load board subscription will not guarantee better-paying loads.
Covering your own loads vs having a dispatcher
Having a dispatcher vs booking your own loads can also make a huge difference in terms of revenue. The less time you spend between delivering a load and picking up the next one the more money you are making. It makes more sense to have a dispatcher than booking your own loads because your dispatcher has a broader vision of the market. Dispatchers spend over eight hours a day in front a computer comparing rates, talking to shippers and developing negotiating skills all with the purpose of making you more money. No matter how many hours of your sleep time you spend in front a laptop or your phone, you will only have a glimpse of a continuously changing dynamic market.
First of all, to book the highest paying freight you need to determine a strategy that will get you a good load to your destination and also get you out of a slow area. Status Transportation dispatchers trace different strategies or game plans with alternative scenarios in case something happens along the way to delivering a load. By being proactive dispatchers have time to negotiate and book a second load to reduce your waiting time and increase your owner operator profit margin. All this while you are focusing on what you do best which is being a professional driver.
Working for a broker vs working for yourself
Another factor you have to consider while looking for the best paying loads on a load board is that these are focused on benefiting the broker and not the driver. Load boards are designed with brokers in mind, they are a tool designed so they can get the greatest number of bids and reduce their cost of shipping goods. It is not uncommon to have a broker call the driver to cancel a load because they found another trucker willing to haul it for less money.
Brokers are focused on paying less whereas dispatchers are concentrated on getting their drivers the most money and be careful not to take them to low-paying areas.