Finding profitable freight is arguably the single most important activity that an owner-operator can do to promote success in their trucking business. It doesn’t matter if the country is going through a recession, a pandemic, or an economic boom -- your truck needs to keep rolling if you want to get paid. So, how do you find profitable loads? Let’s look at some of these ideas:
Cold Calling and Prospecting Local Businesses
Consider going back to basics and start developing relationships with the local businesses in your area. We’ve heard it many times over from our trucking customers: the best and, oftentimes, the most profitable loads come from shippers and organizations that you have a strong relationship with. When they value and trust your services, they’re more likely to let you charge a fair rate to haul their cargo.
Flexing your sales skills, doing your research, and cold calling prospects is a tried-and-true method of building a trucking company that’s based on relationships and focused on profit. Start by researching what shippers are in your area, the main types of cargo they ship, and where those loads go. You’ll also want to research local companies that use freight services. Call the person in charge of shipping, set up meetings, learn more about their trucking needs, and continue to check back in with them. Ask to be on their approved carrier list and forge ahead with your prospecting. Just because you don’t hit paydirt on the first couple of calls doesn’t mean you’re not getting closer to your goal.
Join Industry Associations and Network
When we say “join industry associations,” we mean join associations for industries that use freight services -- not necessarily trucking associations. We’re looking for customers, first and foremost. Head online and start doing your homework.
You might want to start thinking about the grocery, medical, and pharmaceutical industries. They all use freight services and, depending on the sector, may have products that are sensitive to time (need to be delivered quickly!) or temperature (frozen food items, lab specimens, organs for transplant, and the like). Researching and then joining industry groups like the National Grocers Association or the American Medical Association could open the door to events where you can meet members directly. On top of that, some associations also provide member lists to its members, which can be a great starting point to build a potential prospect list. Shake hands (or fist/elbow bump for now), introduce yourself, meet people, ask for referrals -- the list of things you can do is endless. All you have to do is start.
Consider Load Boards
Many new owner-operators use load boards in conjunction with cold calling, prospecting, and networking to build their business. Load boards are online marketplaces that connect shippers, freight brokers and owner-operators together, thus making it an extremely convenient way to find loads.
When researching load boards, try to find ones that offer free trials -- you’re going to want to try out the platform first before fully committing to a monthly subscription. You’ll also want to opt for load boards that have plenty of detailed listings to choose from and filter through. This comes in handy, especially if you specialize in hauling cargo of a certain size, weight or type (think produce, livestock, and frozen goods, and more).
And, make sure to choose a load board with an easy-to-use mobile app so you can search for loads to haul even while you’re on the road. This app must have the ability to send real-time notifications straight to your phone so that you never miss a profitable load. Our partner 123Loadboard operates one of the most intuitive and powerful load board platforms we’ve ever used. Loads on their app are updated in real-time so you’ll always have access to freight that you consider profitable and that also suits your hauling schedule and business needs.
What are some of the different ways you've been finding loads for your trucking company? Share them in the comments below?