If you are looking at moving from being employed by a company to becoming your own boss as an Owner/Operator (O/O), then it’s crucial for you to learn how to find your own loads. When you become an O/O, you are starting your own business. The business you are starting is no different than someone opening a restaurant, online store or car repair shop. The only difference in your business and the others I listed is that your company’s location is (hopefully) constantly moving locations.
As with any business, the key to keeping the doors open and generating a profit is to generate sales. Being an O/O, you aren’t worried about foot traffic or website traffic. Instead, you traffic is generated by finding loads that will keep your truck moving. In this article, I’ll go over some of the best methods to find profitable loads. I’ll also touch on how to figure out whether a load is profitable for you and how to keep the profitable routes once you land them.
Before I dive into the ways to find loads, I want to touch on what I feel are the two most important keys to getting them and keeping them. These two key areas in my opinion are relationships and confidence. These two areas will be touch to overcome in the beginning, but once you get your first opportunities, this will become easier and if you do a good job, you’ll end up having more loads than you can physically manage. Once you reach that point, you have more options – buy a second truck and hire a driver or remain the sole driver for your company and pick and choose the loads you want to carry.
Relationships are extremely important when it comes to finding a consistent stream of loads for your company. In my opinion, establishing a relationship and then building the confidence of that relationship is the key to setting your business up for success for the long term.
Personally, I struggle with this area of the business. I’m an introvert which is why I love my job. I’m out on the road and generally don’t have to deal with too many people from day to day. However, one thing I learned early on was the fact I was going to have to put aside the uncomfortable feeling of meeting people if I wanted to be able to run my own company as an owner operator.
The one thing that I have found for me that works great is – business cards. It’s nothing exciting and it’s definitely something that’s been around for a while. However, I have had a ton of success using them. I always keep a stack in my truck and a few in my wallet. If I come across anyone in my day to day that I think might provide the slightest of opportunities for a future load, I give them a card. Over the years, I’ve gotten numerous loads from people because they remembered me and happened to have my card on hand to give me a call.
At first, I struggled to have the confidence to pass out my card. I just felt weird about it and assumed people had no desire to want my contact info. Then I realized, the worst thing that happens is that they throw it away when I’m out of sight. By that time, I’m long gone so why should I even worry about that. I’m surprised at how many drivers don’t carry cards with them. It’s easier today than it’s ever been to get a stack of cards printed. You can grab 500 for as little as $10 off the internet. They don’t have to be anything fancy.
The other piece of advice I have is to just be personable. I had to drop a load off to a small mom and pop shop printing company in the north east a few years back. Everything about the drop off was a disaster and that’s before I even got to the facility! Finally I get there, go in the front door and start talking to the receptionist (who was late to work and caused me to wait). I just chatted with her about her morning and had general conversation with her until she was able to get someone to the door to unload me.
When it comes time to leave, I give me her my card and tell her I enjoyed talking with her and I hoped her day got better. I thought nothing else about it. A couple weeks later I get a call. Apparently the receptionist was the owner’s wife who was filling in for the normal receptionist that day. The lady talked to her husband and I ended up getting quite a bit of work from them over the years. Simply because I was willing to have a general conversation and be polite. Remember – I’m an introvert and don’t care for this interaction!
You may not realize it, but trust and confidence play a crucial role in every major financial decision that you make in your life. If you have bought a house or a truck, you were required to numerous documents to the company loaning you the money in order for them to learn more about how you make financial decisions. From these documents and scores, this company established a level of confidence in you to repay them. Though not literally, in essence, they are handing you a lump sum of money, assuming you are using it to buy what you said you were, and then trusting you to repay them (with interest of course). The interest rate that you are forced to pay for the loan comes down to the level of trust and confidence they have in you to repay the loan.
Building a long term relationship with a company for future loads works very similar. These companies are trusting you with product or material that can be worth thousands upon thousands of dollars. They are handing it over to you with confidence that you will get it to its destination in a safe and timely manner.
The best way for you to begin to establish long term relationships with companies that can provide long term loads is to ensure they have the utmost trust and confidence that you will get the job done, and do so with no surprises and issues.
When you are on the road, it’s important to remember you are always establishing a reputation for yourself. Take pride in the reputation you have built. Hold yourself to a higher standard than others. Remember that a reputation is must easier to destroy than it is to build. This mindset is what will set you apart from the others out on the road that are just driving for a paycheck. Sure, the load you have on the truck now may not be paying the greatest or the company may be a pain in the rear to work for, but there’s always the possibility that doing an excellent job on this run will result in another – perhaps more profitable run.
The most common place for you to find loads, especially, when starting out is load boards. These sites are built to bring fill the needs of shippers and transporters by bringing them together to a central point. Each of these sites operate a bit differently, but for the most part you pay a fee to access the boards. Once there, you can search for potential loads by various filters.
Another option that is available for you to find loads is to use what is called a dispatch service. A dispatch service can actually do quite a few tasks for your trucking company that will make your life easier – assuming you choose the correct one.
The primary focus of a dispatch service is to find you load, but they will also help you by doing all the associated paperwork including tax records as well as ensuring that all of your insurance and permit requirements are in place and up to date. The other thing that I really like about dispatch services is that they work FOR you. You actually employ them for their services. This is a different approach than the next area we will look at – freight brokers.
Another option for you to consider when looking for loads is using a freight broker. A freight broker works a bit differently than a dispatch service. Freight brokers work to find companies that need to have loads moved. They negotiate the highest price they can. The broker then looks to find a transporter willing to move the load at the lowest possible price. The margin in the middle of these two amounts becomes the broker’s profit.
So for example, let’s say you find a broker that’s willing to pay you $5,000 for a load. The broker has already negotiate with the shipper and agreed on a rate, in our example we’ll say $7,500. If you agree to move the load, you will get paid $5,000 by the broker. The shipping company will pay the broker $7,500. The broker will pocket $2,500 in this example. Again, these numbers are fictious, but brokers can make a nice income for their services.
One final option that you have to get loads on your own is those that are transporting government cargo. These contracts can be difficult to get depending on the whether or not you need a security clearance to in order to win the bids. In the past, these loads paid very well. Recently, the government has moved towards working with companies instead of individuals. Some have reported that profits have dropped on these loads as this transition has increased.
To haul for the government, you options of obtaining a load fall into one of three categories. The easiest, is to work with a freight broker that manages government work. The downside to this is that they are going to take a portion of your profits.
Next on the scale of easiness is to find a company that hauls for them government and work with them to carry some loads. As I mentioned above, more and more companies are signing large contracts with the government and military and there’s not enough drivers to go around.
The last option is to try to win a bid for a load on your own. In order to do this you will need to go to one of the government sites and register as a company. You will have to complete several forms and provide documentation shows you are bonded and insured. I have heard this process can be very frustrating and lengthy. However, this will likely lead you to the most profitable loads.
As you can see, there are numerous ways for a truck driver to find loads. I suggest trying each a few times to find what you like and don’t. You’ll probably have varying levels of success with each one the will dependent upon your trailer and your preferred destinations. If you have any additional methods that you like, please comment below. Thanks!