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How to get loads as an owner-operator

January 01, 2020

Determine the different ways how to get loads as an owner-operator.

Figuring out how to get loads as an owner-operator is a critical decision that will impact how much you make as an owner-operator. Understanding your costs – from equipment to fuel – is also critical to your success.

With the advancement of technology – smartphones, internet and apps – finding loads has become more accessible than ever but deciding which option will work best for you may take deliberation.

When determining how you are going to find your freight, it is important to think about your business goals and how much responsibility you want versus how much you want to give to other people. Next, you may want to research each option and weigh the pros and cons of each for your business.

Examples of how to get loads as an owner-operator:

Use a freight broker

Owner-operators who are not looking to lease-on with a trucking company can turn to a freight broker to find loads for them. Freight brokers do most of the leg work for owner-operators – from connecting them to shippers to determining loads’ rates, times and locations.

Freight brokers typically take about 15-25 percent of the profit from the load. How it works is that a broker will negotiate with a shipper to obtain the highest price they can on a load and then find an owner-operator who is willing to move it at the lowest rate possible. The margin in the middle goes to the broker.

Pay a dispatching service 

There are two options for owner-operators who go the dispatcher route – they can either hire a personal dispatcher directly or contact a trucking dispatching service for help.

Dispatchers will connect you to shippers, in addition to managing the flow of your freight, helping with paperwork, doing accounting work, etc. for your small business.

Like freight brokers, dispatchers need to be paid. Most dispatchers will either charge a flat rate or 5-10 percent of each load.

Rely on load boards

Load boards are often times free and have a variety of freight for owner-operators to choose from. However, they can be extremely unpredictable and the loads are often low-paying.

Finding a load board is as easy as searching for one on the internet. Finding one that works for you may take some trial and error.

Prospect for loads

Prospecting for loads can also be referred to as cold calling. Owner-operators can research shippers in their area and see if they need help hauling their goods. If this method works, it is a great way to establish lasting relationships with businesses, but the time investment to get started is great.

Lease-on with a company

Some companies, like Schneider, have a private load board for owner-operators who lease-on with them. These owner-operators enjoy the stability and backing of a large company but also the freedom to select their freight directly from the load board and decide when they go home.

Another advantage of leasing-on with a company and using its load board, is the potential that come with utilizing that company’s purchasing power. Schneider, for example, offers discounts on operating expenses to owner-operators.

Often, these types of owner-operators are paid a linehaul revenue and fuel surcharge versus per mile. For example, Schneider VTL owner-operators receive 65 percent of their linehaul revenue and 100 percent of their fuel surcharge.