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How do owner operators find loads

July 3, 2022

how do owner operators find loads

How do owner operators find loads? It’s a good question. Company drivers don’t have to deal with that side of the business at all, and any driver thinking about taking the leap into becoming an owner operator is bound to wonder about it.

After all, if you can’t find loads you won’t be able to work. Learning to find loads quickly and consistently is a key part of being a successful owner operator. We’ll discuss all the best ways for owner operators to find loads.

owner operator with a load

How Do Owner Operators Find Loads?

Finding loads is much easier now than it used to be. Technology has made this, like so many other things, a much faster and simpler process. Still, you need to know the different ways that you can find loads.

Freight brokers

How do owner operators find loads in 2022? It may seem a little old-school, but freight brokers are still one of the most common and reliable methods of finding loads. Freight brokers work as an intermediary between you and the shipper. The broker will do a lot of the hard work for you.

Usually, the broker will not only find the shipper, they’ll also determine the price of the load as well as the times and locations for the load. They’ll then take between 15% and 25% of the profit as their payment.

Basically, the broker negotiates the highest price they can get the shipper to pay, and then finds the driver willing to accept the lowest rate. The broker gets to keep the difference. Some owner operators don’t care for freight brokers because the loads often don’t pay well.

But brokers do a lot of the leg work that would normally eat up your free time. It can be worth it to earn a little less per load if you’re able to spend more time on the road earning money and not wasting time trying to line up your next job.

owner operators waiting for loads

Dispatching Service

Another common answer to how do owner operators find loads is that they use a dispatching service. There are large trucking dispatcher services you can use, or you can hire your own dispatcher.

Dispatchers connect you to shippers and they’ll manage the flow of your work, feeding you a steady stream of jobs while also managing a lot of your paperwork. Dispatchers usually cost less than freight brokers, charging around 5-10% of your profits from each load.

Some dispatchers will manage your entire schedule and some will only contact you when they have work for you. They can be a great resource for owner operators, since they can help you find work without costing as much as a freight broker. However, they might also not be able to provide as much consistency as a freight broker.

Load Boards

One of the most popular answers to how do owner operators find loads is the use of load boards. Load boards are easy to use and easy to find and a lot of them are free.

Load boards are the trucking equivalent of a job board. The shipper posts what they need done and then owner operators with a semi truck can bid on the job. While they’re easy to use, it’s not always easy to actually get work this way. Since you have to bid on the job, another trucker might undercut your price.

Plus, as a rule, load board jobs tend to be low-paying jobs to begin with. That comes with the territory. Paid load boards have jobs that pay a little better, but you’re still going to find that the higher paying jobs are typically found through dispatchers and brokers.

The real beauty of the load board is in its ease and efficiency. You’re working directly with the shipper, so there’s no middle man and you can settle things quickly. The downside is that the middle man is usually doing a lot of the administrative work that you’d rather avoid to begin with.

That said, load boards are a great option for beginners. Shippers posting jobs to load boards are often more willing to work with beginners than other shippers are, so you’re more likely to find jobs here in the early stages of your career.

They also make it easy to book jobs that minimize deadhead time. You can see where each job picks up and delivers, so you can schedule a pickup in the same area that your current job is going to have you drop off a load.

The best load boards to use are the ones that don’t actually allow price negotiations. The shipper tells you what they’re offering to pay and that’s it. The benefit of this is that nobody can undercut your price. You simply contact the shipper and agree to take their load, and you’re all set.

owner operators working for their load

Cold Calling

This time-honored entrepreneurial tradition isn’t for everybody, but it can be a great strategy if you’re up for it. It’s not a common answer to how do owner operators find loads, but if you can pull it off it works very well.

It’s also called prospecting for loads, but it’s really just cold-calling. You look up the shippers in your area, call them, and ask if they need help with their deliveries. If they say yes, you offer them your services. If they say no, you leave your contact info with them and tell them to call you if that ever changes.

The benefit of this approach is that it allows you to build close relationships with your clients directly, and that can really pay off in the long run. A close relationship usually leads to more consistent work and better rates.

The downside is that it’s very time consuming. You can easily spend several days doing nothing but cold calls, and getting rejected each time. Spending days on cold calls with nothing to show for it can really wear you down.

how an owner operator gets a load

Lease on with a Carrier

Lots of companies like to lease owner operators. For a lot of people this is a win-win scenario. The carrier gets a lot of reliable and highly motivated drivers, and saves a ton of money. Since owner operators are independent contractors, the carrier doesn’t have to pay benefits. That can save them as much as 40% on their labor costs.

The drivers, meanwhile, get all the benefits of being an owner operator, but with the added bonus of guaranteed work. Some carriers also throw in perks like free tires and fuel discounts to make the prospect even more enticing.

The downsides are that you do give up a bit of the independence you’d otherwise have (although not all of it) and you might get paid a bit less per load than you would otherwise. But often that dip in pay per load is more than made up for by how consistent the work is. You can easily end up earning a lot more when you lease to a carrier because of the guaranteed work.

Work As A Government Contractor

How do owner operators find loads if they don’t like any of the options above? One method that’s often overlooked is to become a government contractor. The government has it’s own freight needs, and it often outsources those to independent contractors instead of trying to hire it’s own drivers.

This can be a very lucrative way to earn money as an owner operator. City, county, state, and federal governments all do this. At the federal level it’s usually done by specific branches, like the Department of Defense. Your local city or county governments often need construction related loads, like dirt, gravel, or sheet rock hauled around.

You can lease on with a carrier that handles government work or, if you’d rather maintain independence, you can register as a government contractor yourself.

owner operator with a wood load

Network with Businesses

Look for shippers associations or small business networks in your area. You may even be able to find a network of owner operators. These groups are great places to find work because they exist specifically to help build beneficial business relationships.

Sometimes they’ll even have an official membership list that members will use in order to find business partners. Putting yourself on that list means local businesses will be calling you up to have their goods shipped before they contact a big carrier.

Load Matching Apps

Load matching apps are a recent innovation and a prime example of how technology is changing how do owner operators find loads. They also help owner operators compete in a cutthroat marketplace. One of the biggest benefits of these apps is that they do so much more than just help you find loads.

They can generate a route for each load so you don’t have to spend time planning that yourself. They’ll factor in the time it takes for staging and loading to help you maximize profit from each load. They can even help you pack your loads better.

By cutting down on the amount of manual work you have to do, load matching apps help you to maximize your profits and minimize downtime. You’ll get reduced fuel costs, reduced deadhead time, and you’ll have an easier time finding loads. They’re one of the best tools you have for finding loads.

Conclusion: How do owner operators find loads?

Owner operators have several excellent tools at their disposal when they’re trying to find loads. Some of them have been around forever. Load boards are one of the oldest ways that owner operators have found work. They used to be actually bulletin boards posted at truck stops.

Freight brokers are one of the most commonly used solutions, even if the brokers themselves sometimes eat into your profits more than you’d like. The safest and most consistent option is to lease on with a carrier, because then you’ll get guaranteed work.

But if you’d rather stay independent, you can use load boards, dispatchers, and freight brokers to find consistent work. Instead if just working with only one of those, you should embrace all three if you can. That way you’ll maximize your opportunities. Government contracts can also be a great way to get consistent work.

Load matching apps are modernizing the way owner operators find work, and have a lot of benefits beyond just finding loads for you to haul. Whichever solution you pick, you should always try more than one method of finding loads.

About Booker Transportation

Booker Trans is 100% Owner Operator. It is our belief that an Independent Owner is the best way to get a customers freight delivered timely and safely. Booker is a leading Refrigerated Carrier providing the best lease options in the industry for today’s Owner Operators. Monthly and Yearly Awards, Longevity Bonuses, and the Free tires for Life of Lease Program, are just a few examples of what Booker Trans offers the Owner Operator. Booker Trans has built it’s success upon working partnerships with Customers, as well as Agency Relationships built over the last 20 years. Those same relationships are what makes consistent year round freight possible.

Are you interested in becoming an owner operator driver or getting into the logistics industry?

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