As the online matchmaker connecting shippers, brokers, and carriers, load boards are a cornerstone of the trucking industry. They are where loads that need to be transported are advertised and a place for carriers to pick up additional loads to avoid making unpaid deadhead runs.
While some companies with large fleets of owner operators may have their own internal load boards, there is a lively “spot market” on public load boards that makes the trucking industry more efficient. The spot market allows shippers to advertise loads to a wide range of truckers so their freight can go out without delays. It also gives carriers and owner operators the chance to earn for every mile they drive and extend their networks by working with multiple shippers and brokers. Owner operators are heavy users of load boards, and some use more than one.
Historically, available loads were written out on note cards and posted on bulletin boards at truck stops until the late 1970s, when Dial-a-Truck (DAT) developed monitors that displayed the information digitally. In the 1990s, load boards moved online as InternetTruckStop.com–now called Truckstop–began posting listings on the internet.
Today, there are hundreds of load boards, most of them accessible via computer or mobile app to any trucking company. While some are free, many load boards are subscription-based. Some load boards also include invoice factoring, route planning, rate comparison tools, and other useful programs for truckers.
While load boards are extremely useful to owner operators, especially those just getting their business off the ground, most truckers prefer to cultivate long-term relationships with shippers and brokers, and find available loads through professional networks. Using load boards exclusively on a long-term basis can mean sharing revenue with brokers, competing with numerous other truckers to take on loads, and possibly accepting jobs with lower-than-desired rates.
Load boards have their advantages and disadvantages but are still fundamental to the industry, and are used by thousands of truckers every day.
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Many truckers enjoy the open road, but that doesn’t mean they want to be driving for free. If an owner operator is behind the wheel of a truck, he or she wants to be hauling freight and getting paid. But one-way deliveries bring the risk of a deadhead return trip. To avoid this, truckers use load boards to find freight they can carry on return trips or when they are in between jobs.
Newer carriers may find load boards helpful in building up a network of brokers and shippers who may be sources of ongoing work. While drivers of refrigerated trucks, vans, and other specialized vehicles can find listings on many public load boards, there are also load boards specific to vehicle types.
Brokers, working on behalf of shippers, use load boards to connect available loads to available carriers. As they are looking to connect as many loads to as many truckers as they can, brokers often stick with widely used, public load boards. Some of these load boards offer special features for brokers, for example tools to onboard trucking companies and technology to track loads as they travel.
Some shippers operate their own vehicle fleets and have their own internal load boards, and many certify independent owner operators on a case-by-case basis to utilize these boards. Other shippers rely on public load boards to find drivers for their available freight.
Load boards are considered a useful tool to avoid deadheading, and to establish relationships with shippers and brokers who are frequently looking for drivers. But for many truckers, using load boards is not a long-term strategy for success.
Using load boards can mean working with strangers, and signing on for a load is more complex than checking a box. It often requires emails and phone calls, and negotiations over the rate.
Additionally, competition for good routes can heat up on load boards, which can drive rates down.
Truckers generally prefer working with brokers and shippers they already know, but many turn to load boards to fill in any blanks in the driving schedule that could mean a loss of revenue. For this reason, many truckers subscribe to at least one load board. While there are many free load boards–like Freight Finder and Trulos–shippers and brokers prefer using subscription-based boards, so carriers tend to gravitate to these too.
A subscription offering basic viewing and posting of available loads generally costs between $30 and $60 per month, while other subscription tiers that offer more features–for example, rate comparison tools–can reach as high as $80 per month.
Whatever their drawbacks, and whatever the cost for premium membership tiers, thousands of carriers find load boards to be worth the time, money and effort. But with so many options available, carriers should do research before paying a load board subscription fee.
With free and paid load boards, public and private boards, specialty boards and digital brokers, there is a range of options available when it comes to finding the best load board for a trucking business.
A public load board, for example DAT Trucker’s Edge, has numerous brokers and shippers trying to connect with available drivers to haul freight. Any carrier can access free load boards, and any carrier with a subscription can access paid public boards. Private load boards, on the other hand, are off limits except to pre-qualified drivers. Since many private boards are established by shippers and brokers, they set the rules when it comes to qualifying carriers, and do so to limit their liability. Shipping and logistics companies with private load boards include US Logistics, Werner, and Reliant Transportation.
Some companies, including shipping businesses and invoice factors, offer load boards that are free to carriers. But many trucking companies believe you get what you pay for, and that free boards do not list the most coveted jobs or feature the best user interfaces. But for many, the price is right. Free load boards include Trucker Path, Trulos, Freight Finder, and Landstar.
While invoice factoring companies and other businesses offer free load boards for truckers, like NextLOAD, some of the most popular load boards are offered by transportation software companies that charge subscription fees for access. DAT and Truckstop, for example, are transportation technology companies, and both were early pioneers in digitizing load boards and making them far more widely available via technology. Their boards are favorites among brokers and independent owner operators, and are subscription-based.
On a public load board, numerous shippers and brokers advertise available loads to trucking companies. But a digital broker like Uber Freight brings shippers and drivers together using software as the broker. Digital brokers sometimes advertise themselves as “no broker” load boards, because deals are being brokered by an algorithm, not a person.
Some truckers like digital brokers because they tend to pay for jobs quickly, and offer tools to optimize routes. Some also find digital brokers to be a time-saver, as there is less follow-up and paperwork involved with accepting loads. And since fees charged by a digital broker tend to be lower than fees charged by traditional brokers, truckers can sometimes keep more of their revenue if they work with a digital broker.
But many trucking companies prefer working with actual brokers, as many are professionals who understand the complexities of the transport industry. Brokers–who have connections throughout the trucking industry– can often match a shipper with a refrigerated truck, car hauler, or other specialized vehicle faster than a digital broker can, and they usually work with logistics coordinators who can respond to problems on the road in real time. Brokers also set up deals involving partial loads, which not every digital broker offers.
These load boards are for trucking businesses that want to acquire and ship loads, but drive a specialized vehicle. Some specialty load boards are free, while others charge a subscription fee for access. Specialty load boards match shippers with drivers of:
Specialty load boards can also cover certain circumstances, including:
Trucking businesses that want to factor invoices via a load board should pre-confirm that their factoring company will purchase the invoice from the broker before agreeing to transport any loads.
To make things easier, some freight factoring companies host their own load boards with pre-approved loads while other load boards will work with factoring companies to offer invoice factoring. Many digital brokers also offer financing options such as Quick Pay that cut out the need to factor entirely.
Truckstop.com offers a range of products and services to shippers, brokers and trucking companies. The company’s load board for owner operators includes loads for flatbed trucks, refrigerated trucks, vans and other vehicles. Truckstop was another early pioneer in bringing load boards online, and today offers additional tools to help factor invoices, negotiate rates and find routes. TruckStop also has separate load boards for shippers and brokers.
A basic $39 per month subscription lets owner operators search loads and post their own material. A $125 per month subscription adds broker credit information and information on how long brokers take to pay for a job. Truckstop’s Pro membership tier, which costs $149 per month, offers more information on rates, best paying loads and route planning.
123Loadboard is among the most used load boards in the industry, with more than 625,000 users and more than 68 million loads matched and hauled each year. Brokers can post loads for free.
123Loadboard offers a $35 per month plan that gives operators 24/7 access to the load board, real-time alerts and access via computer or mobile device. Its $45 per month plan adds maps and mileage information and document storage, and its $55 per month plan adds detailed information on freight rates.
Trucker Path advertises more than 150,000 new, available loads every day. Two million loads–some of them for refrigerated trucks and other specialized trucks–are added to the load board every month. Around 800 brokers use the site to match shippers with carriers.
Trucker Path has three subscription tiers, with the Essential tier costing $16.67 per month. The Preferred tier is $33.33 per month, while the Ultimate tier is $74.99 monthly.
Established in 1997, Direct Freight offers 300,000 new loads per day and access to its network through a popular mobile app. Its load board is considered a favorite among shippers and brokers, in part because of a range of specialized tools and services that come along with a subscription.
A subscription to Direct Freight costs $34.95 per month but a 15-day free trial is available.
Comfreight offers load boards for owner operators, shippers, and brokers. For trucking companies, Comfreight adds next-day payment through invoice factoring, a rate comparison tool and other features under a subscription plan.
While comfreight does not make its subscription rates public, it does offer a 15-day free trial.
CloudTrucks is a venture capital-backed software company that functions as a “virtual carrier,” and has created an application that helps trucking businesses reduce their operating costs and maximize revenue. Among the features of its platform are an app-based load board used by 200 brokers and shippers, access to other load boards, instant payment upon delivery and cost-effective insurance options.
For owner operators without their own authority, signing on with CloudTrucks’ Virtual Carrier program means operating under the company’s authority and getting access to multiple load boards and scheduling optimization tools in exchange for paying CloudTrucks 15% per load. For independent owner operators that want to keep their authority, joining the company’s Flex program–which includes access to the company’s load board as well as 13 other load boards, instant payment and other amenities–costs an owner operator 6% of each load.
A product of invoice factoring company Apex Financial, NextLOAD is a free load board app. It requires a credit-card check for shippers, brokers and carriers using its platform to ensure that all parties have good credit. NextLOAD also offers factoring and a fuel card that offers discounts at gas stations.
NextLOAD is a free load board that any carrier, broker, or shipper can use.
Convoy is a popular digital broker among brokers, shippers, and truckers because it is free and features an easy, intuitive user interface. It offers next-day pay for completed jobs, and its mobile app features an integration with maps featuring truck stops and fuel prices. Convoy is used by 300,000 truckers and by shippers like Home Depot, Dollar Shave Club, and Land O’ Lakes.
Convoy is a free service for both shippers and carriers. Like a traditional broker, Convoy makes money by charging shippers more than they pay carriers.
As a digital broker, Uber Freight matches shippers and carriers the way Uber matches local travelers with drivers. Uber Freight has been recognized by Procter & Gamble, Anheuser-Busch, and other companies as a reliable broker. For carriers, Uber Freight offers upfront pricing, instant booking, free quick pay, and facility ratings.
Uber Freight is a free service for both shippers and carriers. Like a traditional broker, Uber Freight makes money by charging shippers more than they pay carriers.
Freight brokerage Total Quality Logistics (TQL) works with 130,000 carriers, and moved three million loads in 2021. The company’s online portal, called the Carrier Dashboard, includes a free load board with more than 65,000 loads added every week. The app has a rating of 4.9 stars in Apple’s App Store, based on more than 6,500 ratings.
TQL Load Board is a free service for both shippers and carriers. Like a traditional broker, TQL Load Board makes money by charging shippers more than they pay carriers.
A startup technology company valued at over $1 billion, Loadsmart offers a range of services to shippers and to carriers, including a load board mobile app. The board includes loads for flatbeds, reefers, and dry vans, and includes drayage, FTL, and LTL. Loadsmart says its load board taps a network of 46,000 carriers and 730,000 trucks. The company’s customers include Halliburton, Accenture, and Alcoa.
Loadsmart’s technology is free to use for carriers and owner operators. The app displays the prices of individual jobs with real-time market rates and 500 data points, including weather, fuel costs, and other information.
Free Freight Search, with more than 131,000 registered members, is the world’s largest free load board for brokers and carriers. A product of factoring company Triumph Business Capital, Free Freight Search helps its members find freight, get an advance for fuel and get paid within hours of completing a job.
As the name suggests, Free Freight Search is a free load board that any carrier, broker, or shipper can use.
Serving brokers, shippers and carriers since 2000, LoadUp is a no-frills website that lets shippers and brokers advertise loads and carriers advertise their trucks and upcoming deadhead runs. The board is free to all parties, and does not publicize its number of users or available loads.
LoadUp is a free load board that any carrier, broker, or shipper can use.