How to get loads as an owner-operator in 5 different ways
October 07, 2022
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
As an owner-operator, finding the right loads for your business is one of the most important things you’ll do. The loads you haul directly impact your workload, your revenue and the overall profitability of your trucking business.
When determining how you will get loads as an owner-operator, consider your business goals:
- Think through how much responsibility you want to have and how many business functions you want to delegate.
- Think through whether you want to obtain your own motor carrier operating authority, or whether you want to lease-on with a motor carrier and run under that motor carrier’s operating authority.
You may also want to research each option further to weigh the pros and cons and find the best solution for your business.
5 ways to get loads as an owner-operator
1. Work with a freight broker.
If you decide to operate under your own authority, you may use a freight broker to find loads to haul. Freight brokers can connect owner-operators to shippers. They also help determine load rates, times and locations.
Using a broker saves owner-operators the work of tracking down their own freight. The broker will negotiate with a shipper and get the highest possible price to move the load.
Freight brokers typically take about 15-25% of the profit from the load an owner-operator hauls.
2. Lease-on with a company.
Some companies, like Schneider, have a private load board for owner-operators who lease-on with them. Owner-operators use the load board to select the freight they want to haul. If you lease-on to a motor carrier, you don’t need to obtain your own motor carrier authority.
Owner-operators who lease-on with a carrier often enjoy the stability and backing of a large company and the freedom of choosing the loads they want to haul.
Another advantage of leasing-on with a trucking company is the ability to use their purchase power for discounts on fuel and maintenance. Programs like this help owner-operators lower their business costs and increase their profit margins.
Owner-operators who lease-on with a company may not have as many options as an owner-operator who runs under their own authority.
3. Hunt for freight on load boards.
In the age of smartphones, laptops and tablets, finding freight on public load boards has never been easier for owner-operators who have their own motor carrier authority. However, finding a freight board, like Schneider FreightPower®, with the loads you need and terms that work for you, may take some trial and error.
Finding load boards is usually as easy as a quick online search.
Using load boards is typically free and simple to do. They also provide a wide variety of freight for owner-operators to pick from.
Freight options and rates on load boards are incredibly unpredictable.
4. Pay a dispatching service.
There are two options for owner-operators with their own motor carrier authority who decide to work with dispatching services: They can hire a personal dispatcher directly or seek the help of a trucking dispatch service.
Personal dispatchers and dispatching services connect owner-operators with shippers.
They can help your small business with most of its business functions. Dispatchers often manage the flow of freight, help with paperwork and do accounting work. This allows owner-operators to focus on hauling freight.
Using a dispatcher or dispatching service comes with a fee. Most dispatchers charge a flat rate or take 5-10% of each load.
5. Become your own sales team and prospect for loads.
Owner-operators with their own motor carrier authority can research shippers to see if they need help moving their goods. Some owner-operators prefer to do their own prospecting and selling by cold calling shippers and asking to haul their freight.
It is a great way to establish lasting relationships with businesses. The work is usually consistent and predictable.
Finding success from cold calling can take a while. It usually takes time to build up a strong book of business.
Another disadvantage of prospecting for loads is that you cannot broker them to another independent truck driver without having a brokerage license. You may, however, be able to hire someone else to drive your truck or purchase a truck to move the loads you can’t move yourself.