An introduction to load boards

Load boards are essential tools for shippers and carriers alike. Learn what load boards are, how they work, and why they’re worth your time.

What is a load board?

A load board is an online marketplace or matching system that allows shippers and freight brokers to find carriers for their loads, while helping carriers find loads to keep their truck full and maximize their earnings.

Also known as freight boards, load boards are a crucial element of the shipping industry and play a large role in ensuring that freight is matched to a carrier and is delivered on time.

Already familiar with load boards? Read about the benefits of a load board powered by a digital freight network.

How does a load board work?

How do you access load boards?

Load boards can be accessed online, either through a site or a freight app. Many load boards give you the option to use your preferred device, such as a cell phone, tablet, or computer.

Sign up to view Convoy’s load board.

How to use a load board

To use a load board, you must first log in to the specific site or app for the load board you want to search. The most common way for a carrier to use a load board is to either search for a load or post an empty truck to let brokers know they are looking for loads. When shippers or brokers use load boards, they primarily search for carriers with empty trucks for their shipments that have not been covered.

Some load boards provide additional uses and features, such as the ability to:

  • Communicate with other carriers
  • Ask questions or share information on message boards
  • Make notes on or leave reviews of facilities or carriers
  • Review qualifications and ratings of shippers or carriers
  • Access and bid on dedicated contracts

How do shippers and freight brokers use load boards?

Shippers and freight brokers use load boards to post loads that they need transported, shippers acting on behalf of their own freight and freight brokers acting on behalf of the shipper they are working with.

Including specifics such as freight type, weight, pickup and delivery locations, and other information enables shippers and freight brokers to find a carrier who can do the job without time-consuming manual calling and emailing.

Load boards also vastly expand the number of carriers that shippers and freight brokers can expect to reach, with each load having the potential to be seen by thousands of carriers nationwide. This expanded reach increases shippers’ and freight brokers’ likelihood of finding the very best carrier for the job.

Load boards can be helpful even if shippers and freight brokers already work with dedicated carriers. If demand surges and their dedicated carriers can’t handle the volume, or any other issues arise, a load board can help shippers and freight brokers find a carrier quickly to meet urgent needs.

Given these capabilities, load boards are also an ideal way for shippers to eliminate the need to use freight brokers, who find shippers carriers for a fee or percentage of the cost of the load. By performing the same function as freight brokers, load boards can help shippers eliminate the intermediary and reduce costs.

How do carriers and owner-operators use load boards?

Carriers and owner-operators use load boards to find contracts and ensure a steady source of work. They can do this by:

  • Posting empty trucks: Shippers searching for empty equipment to haul their freight can reach out if the listing appears to meet their requirements.
  • Searching for loads: Carriers can search for loads that shippers have posted and immediately accept those that meet their criteria and desired rates.
  • Bidding on loads: Some load boards have instant bidding features, enabling carriers to bid on loads according to what they feel their time and equipment are worth. Instant bidding enables carriers to negotiate their rates without having to barter over the phone.
  • Filtering to power-only loads: Some load boards provide access to higher-paying power-only loads, which use the drop-and-hook freight model to make shipper-carrier handoffs more efficient.

These load board capabilities help carriers find the highest-paying freight loads possible. Rather than being forced to settle for whatever loads they’re able to find in time through one or two brokers, carriers now have access to thousands of loads and the ability to choose what freight is optimal for their schedule.

Load boards also help carriers avoid empty miles, or miles in which truckers drive empty because they’re on the way to pick up a load or on their way home after dropping a load off.

Empty miles are not only a waste of time and money for truckers, but are also unnecessary contributors to carbon emissions. Load boards help prevent empty miles by making it easy for carriers to find additional loads to fill each empty segment of their trip.

What to look for in a load board

The best load boards do much more than simply allowing you to search for loads and empty equipment. When browsing load boards, look for features such as:

  • Advanced search options: Quality load boards include advanced search options with filters for details such as freight type, size, weight, and amount; pickup and delivery times and locations; and more. This higher level of detail ensures you’ll find the best match for your needs.
  • Safety and compliance features: Load boards should help ensure the safety and compliance of every load through strict requirements, carrier monitoring services, ongoing compliance monitoring, predictive crash capabilities, and more.
  • Instant bidding: Instant bidding features enable carriers to bid on loads with the price they feel best reflects their worth — no phone calls or back-and-forth required.
  • Review networks: The ability to read and leave reviews of shippers, facilities or carriers helps ensure that you go into business with a reliable partner and allows you to contribute to a vast database of industry insights.
  • Dedicated freight: The option to bid on dedicated freight contracts saves carriers the hassle of searching for new contracts each week.
  • Integrated freight factoring: Freight factoring helps ensure that carriers get paid sooner to improve their cash flow and get them back on the road. Some load boards have freight factoring integrated into their services.
  • Integrations with other tools: The best load boards integrate with other tools shippers and carriers need to do their jobs, such as transportation management system (TMS) integrations and in-transit tracking software.
  • Partnerships that save you money: Some load boards establish partnerships with other businesses in the industry to save their carriers and shippers money, such as through fuel savings, equipment and tire discounts, and other discount programs.

How much do load boards cost?

Most load boards require a monthly subscription fee, with exact costs depending on the quality of the software and the features available. As a result, the exact cost varies from one load board to the next, with the most expensive options reaching up to $100 per month. Convoy offers access to its loads free of charge – with no monthly subscription fees or service charges.

Paid vs. Free Load Boards

With free load boards available, many shippers and carriers wonder, are subscription load boards worth it?

The answer, of course, comes down to your specific needs and budget. Free load boards save carriers and shippers the cost of the monthly subscription and many times offer the same level of access to loads or capacity. While some businesses choose to use paid load boards to access specific features or freight, it is important to closely monitor the costs of these paid services and continuously evaluate if they are the most effective solution for your business.

Convoy offers access to its loads free of charge through the Convoy app and website – with no monthly subscription fees or service charges. Convoy also provides benefits like free Convoy Quickpay™, Convoy Quickpay™, and the industry-leading TruckYeah Savings Program.

Are load boards worth it?

Load boards provide a number of benefits to shippers, freight brokers, and carriers alike, more than warranting the time it takes to find the best option and get onboarded as well as the monthly fee.

For example, load boards enable users to:

  • Break into the business: New to the shipping industry? Whether you’re looking for loads or carriers, making those initial contacts can be tough — but not with a load board.
  • Expand their reach: Load boards expand users’ potential contacts drastically by giving them visibility into thousands of loads and empty trucks nationwide.
  • Find a reliable partner: Compliance and safety features as well as the ability to leave facility ratings and reviews ensures that users enter into contracts with partners they can trust.
  • Eliminate empty miles: Empty miles are more and more becoming a thing of the past with load boards, since carriers can easily locate additional loads to fill up each segment of their deliveries.
  • Spend less and earn more: Load boards help shippers find carriers for their loads without having to pay to work with freight brokers, and they also help carriers find loads with the highest rates.

The benefits of using a digital freight network's load board

For those who want to take the benefits of load boards even further, look for a load board from a digital freight network. Digital freight networks…

  • Utilize automation to match trucks with loads more quickly, increasing efficiency and reducing costs
  • Automatically assess billions of freight combinations to optimally coordinate and combine shipments
  • Provide real-time planning and tracking capabilities, enabling consistent optimization

A digital freight network with load board capabilities and more, Convoy is currently transforming the freight industry with an open and fully connected digital marketplace for shippers and carriers. Sign up as a carrier to learn more today.

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