By Cain Adams
Trinity Logistics/Longboard Logistics
We all know about them. For some, a load board is a saving grace. For others, it is the evil source of “gouging.”
Load boards have been around since 1978. The two major boards are DAT, the first, and Truckstop.com. Truckstop.com was sold in 2019 for $1 B valuation. DAT grows by way of acquisitions and partnering with other load boards. Both are used in different ways and by different demographics. Truckstop is used for the West Coast and DAT is used more by the East Coast and Canada.
We have seen customers use the boards, but without a database to show if a carrier has active authority, has held loads hostage or gets a low grade on quality, it can be rolling the dice. We do not suggest customers to use load boards.
We use boards for many reasons. First, load boards are a fast way to market a load. Second, load boards can help us determine the lane rate. Finally, load boards show our regular carriers, who monitor them, what we are doing. We can instantly let carriers know where we are loading, what we are loading, and where the load is going.
Trinity Logistics has 70,000+ carriers in our database being used by 100+ offices throughout the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Our database is connected to insurance companies, FMSCA and Safer Watch. This allows us to purge carriers who have not done a good job. “Do Not Load” is our way of saying the carrier is not to be placed on our loads.
Lane rates amongst competitors can be seen by each other on load boards. This is a double-edged sword. When seen, a competitor can do three things: Competitors can either match the rate seen, go lower, or go higher. Which load would you call? The highest posted rate on the lane you want. Right? If there is not enough information in the notes, brokers can get the wrong idea when pricing, though.
Maybe the broker sees a load paying $7,000 from Pasco to the Dallas area on a reefer, but it has five stops. The broker who has that load may not give that information. Another broker, pricing spot market, may tell their customer the lane pays $7,000 when asked what the lane would cost. The customer may then be overpaying for a one-pick one-drop load of onions. Brokers need to do their homework on spot pricing.
Some brokers abuse boards. They post loads in 30 different cities within a 200-mile radius of a load. This then floods the boards, pushing out competitors’ posts. Personally, I call the broker doing this and use unkind words. You know the words I’m talking about. It does not always work, but at least I can voice my frustration and let them know it’s being watched. The next call is to DAT or Truckstop. That usually works.
On the other hand, a load board can help brokers find carriers who are headed in one direction without a way back. Truckstop.com was created because the owner was headed back to Idaho from California and saw a truck with a big sign taped to the windshield saying, “Need a load to Idaho.” I have no idea if that is the truth, but it’s folklore here in Boise.
When load boards go, down two things happen: Capacity gets tighter, and customer lists get longer. We make 100–200 calls each day to carriers along with emails, text messaging and instant messaging. We are trying to see when carriers are dropping and if available. Will they drop the day we need them? Are they doing a restart? Are they running during a holiday or staying home? We try to use the same guys on the same lanes. It flows well and relationships are created.
But when load boards go down and our regular carriers are not in the lane we need to get done, we as brokers can be running blind. Outbound calling goes way higher. We are hunting much harder. Furthermore, when a broker calls a truck, the truck feels like they are valued at a higher cost and ask for much higher rates. The average is $1000 more. Yep. They actually will ask for $1000 more. This is when we get into negotiation, try to create a relationship from scratch and verify if they are a good fit for the load.
Again, it is a love/hate relationship. But in today’s freight situation customers need all the help they can get. Most lanes are over capacity. Fuel is going up; carriers are having a hard time getting drivers, and customers are scratching to get product out their door and be in the black. Inflation is here and most of us see it. If a board sells for $1 billion, then it must be doing something right.
We like load boards, but we do not like the unethical use of them. It damages the entire industry and can cause inflation. Yep. They have that much power. As individuals using them, it is up to us to make the right choice. Do we say no to pushing a rate up? Do we use sales skills to negotiate, or do we just throw money at a carrier?
We do both, but we do all we can to make sure it is a fair deal both to the carriers and the customers.
Right now, every broker out there should be thinking of inflation and curbing it when possible.
Think of America rather than as an individual trying to make a buck. If we all were thinking this way, we could move mountains. That’s all I have for my soapbox on this article. I hope we are helping, and I hope our customers know we are doing what we can to handle their valued customers and freight.
Cheers, Cain Adams