The most important job for any broker, owner-operator, or small fleet owner is finding the best-paying freight loads to haul. For many, this task is the most difficult part of owning a trucking company. Unfortunately, many truckers and owner-operators go out of business because they don’t know how to find good loads.
Don’t make this mistake
Most new truckers make the mistake of getting loads by relying solely on load boards or by jumping from broker to broker. While some load boards can help you if you are just getting started, they usually provide low-paying loads. And most seasoned owner-operators will tell you that jumping from broker to broker won’t help grow your trucking company either and is a road to nowhere.
What type of client do you want?
Before you start looking for high-paying loads, define the type of client you want. Many owner-operators skip this step – assuming that it is unnecessary. They know a good load or client when they see one, so why bother writing it down?
Knowing your target client gives you a clear perspective on what you want. More importantly, it helps you develop a plan to find them. This step is critical and takes only a few minutes.
Here is how some truckers define their ideal client. Obviously, add or remove items to suit your needs:
- A large, established shipper
- Pays well
- Pays on time
- Has a good reputation
- Gives you loads regularly
- Provides shipments that match the lanes you want to drive
Obviously, no client is ever truly perfect, but you should be able to find clients who are very good. And that is how you grow a trucking company and make it successful in the long term.
How to find shippers who pay well
Now that you know who your perfect shipper is, you need to find them. One tried-and-true way is to look for clients through industry associations with local chapters in your area. By the way, we are not talking about trucking associations. There are no clients there. We are referring to industry associations that your ideal clients belong to.
For example, if you are interested in working for grocery stores, consider the National Grocers Association. If you want to move cars, you may consider organizations like the National Automobile Dealers Association, your local automobile dealers association, or the American International Automobile Dealers. You get the point. There are many industry organizations with local chapters.
By the way, you don’t necessarily need to join these organizations. You just want a list of their local members. Some organizations provide the list only if you become a member. But many organizations have publicly available lists with names, contact numbers, and email addresses.
Once you have the list of prospects, the real work begins.
Now it’s time to do what most of your competition hates doing: you have to sell. Period. There is no other way around it. Call prospective clients and speak to the person in charge of shipping. Try to set up a meeting. If that attempt fails, send them a letter. Your objective is to determine how they select the carriers they work with and get on that list.
Simple? Yes. Easy? Not a chance. But here is why you have a good chance of success: while your competitors are chasing loads using load boards, you are doing the hard work and securing prime clients to give you high-paying freight loads.
The US Government moves tons of freight
By the way, don’t neglect moving freight for the US government. The government can be a great client who provides regular work and reliable payments. Getting government contracts is not easy, but it can be worth the effort.
For example, consider pulling freight for the US Postal Service. As long as people send mail, you will have work. Alternatively, find a way to get on the GSA list or look for opportunities to move military freight. Note that military freight may require special clearances, but some truckers claim that it pays well. A good place to start is FedBizOps.
New clients can affect your cash flow
One problem of growing a trucking company is that clients often pay their freight bills in 30 to 60 days. This delay can create a cash flow problem because your company must pay all delivery expenses and then wait for a month or two for payment. You can improve your cash flow and avoid this issue by financing your freight bills.