One of the greatest challenges for new owner-operators and small fleet owners is finding loads. This task can be difficult and represents one of the most common reasons why many small trucking companies go out of business.
Let me start by adjusting how you should think about this situation. You really shouldn’t be looking for loads. That sort of thinking is just a short-term mentality that won’t get you far. Instead, you should be looking for clients and relationships.
What not to do
If you are just looking for loads, you can simply go to any load board along with thousands of other truckers. However, any experienced trucker can tell you that you are not going to grow a profitable trucking company with load boards, especially free ones.
Think about it this way: do you really want to be fighting tooth and nail for loads every single day? That’s what will happen if you focus only on load boards.
By the way, I am not saying that load boards are bad or that they don’t have their use. They do serve a purpose, but only as part of a larger strategy to get you recurring clients.
What you will learn from this article?
In this article, we discuss a strategy to help you find loads and grow your trucking company. We address how to find those first loads to get you started. But, more importantly, we discuss how to find long-term trucking contracts that give you reliable business for years to come. Those clients are the ones who help you grow your company.
What is an ideal shipper or trucking client?
Few owner-operators and small business owners ever stop for a minute to ask themselves a simple question: what is their ideal client? It’s understandable. When you start a trucking business, you are looking for loads everywhere. You enter survival mode and take whatever loads you can. Obviously, you have to take this approach because you need the money.
However, taking any shipper or client is not a long-term strategy. And it’s definitely not how to make a successful trucking company. Instead, you need to be strategic and selective about whom you work with.
Define your perfect client ahead of time. This idea helps you know what to look for when you start your sales efforts. The following list helps you start defining your perfect client:
- Large shipper or freight brokerage
- Pays well
- Offers quick-pays
- Needs your services regularly
- Ships to convenient locations
- Is reasonable
- Values service and is not completely focused on getting the cheapest rate all the time
Obviously, finding a client that meets all your criteria is nearly impossible. But finding a few clients who meet most of your criteria is certainly doable, if you are willing to put in the work.
Load boards can help you get started
Load boards can be a great resource to get you started. They can help you find loads and get you moving. They can even put a few – but not many – dollars in your pocket as well.
Load boards also have some disadvantages. For starters, competition for good loads and popular routes is fierce. This competitive environment means that you have to price your services on the cheap. But, more importantly, you only pull one load for a shipper and then you are done. You must return to the load board to find the next load. And you need to fight for every load after that one. Not a very appealing future.
Load boards can be worth it for truckers, if you are just starting. However, a load board is not the place to find long-standing clients who give you loads regularly.
A simple trick if you use load boards
Consider buying some promotional pens with your logo and company phone number. Some truckers have built a client lists by simply leaving a pen (or more) every time they visit a shipper. Before long, your prospective clients will have your contact information.
It’s a simple way to get clients to remember you. However, be mindful of any non compete agreements you have when doing this.
How to find trucking clients who give you loads regularly
One trucker I know built his business by securing contracts with local supermarkets and taking loads for them. He was earning about $20,000 per truck per month. Not bad, considering that most industry “experts” say you should expect about $10,000 per truck per month.
How did he do it? He started contacting potential shippers directly. He looked for companies he wanted to work with and called or emailed the shipping department to get more information about new opportunities. This undertaking was hard work. He called lots of people before finding these clients – but it paid off.
You have to contact shippers directly. We suggest you call or email them. This method is cheap and works well enough. Don’t spend a lot on advertising unless you are certain it will work. Most magazine ads are ignored unless they are really well done and well targeted.
Industry groups that your clients belong to
One good source of leads is industry groups. I am not talking about trucking industry groups. Rather, I am talking about industry groups that your prospective clients belong to. These groups are easy to find on the Internet. Some even publish their membership lists on their websites. If the list is not on their website, I am sure you can get a copy by joining the group.
Here is one simple example, a list from the National Grocers Association. Do you think their members move freight? Obviously, they do. And there are hundreds of other similar associations.
The US government is a shipper and it pays well
Keep in mind that one of the largest shippers in the country is the US government. Many of those jobs are outsourced to owner-operators and small fleets like yours. One example is the US Postal Service. They move freight every day via independent contractors. Here is information on how to pre-qualify for highway transportation to move U.S. mail.
One last point. Keep your current clients!
One thing to keep in mind is that finding new clients is hard. Keeping them for the “long haul” is even harder. As a result, make every effort to keep your clients happy. Go the extra mile when you have to. Remember how hard it was to find them? That’s why you should treat them like gold. I’d like to finish this article with some great advice on how to keep your contracts.
Need more information?
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