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Finding the right freight plays a critical role in succeeding as an owner-operator. American truckers transport billions of tons of freight every year, but it can be difficult to find great loads that will be profitable for your business.

Although the truck driving industry is expanding every year, over 7 million people are currently working in the trucking industry in the United States. That means that almost 6% of American full-time workers are working in trucking. As a result, finding great freight can be incredibly challenging, especially if you’re working in an area that has many active truck drivers.

As an owner-operator, you need to do everything you can to find the best loads and use every avenue at your disposal to find lucrative freight. There are many different methods of finding loads, such as using a freight broker or using a dispatch service, but learning how to work directly with local shippers as well can be highly beneficial to your trucking business.

When you’re looking for available loads in your area, you shouldn’t only be searching for valuable freight — you should also be looking for valuable relationships. When you formulate and maintain great professional relationships with local shippers, you’ll create a reliable revenue stream that can continue benefiting your business all the way to your retirement.

When you build strong relationships with local shippers, you’ll gain access to great freight, and you’ll be able to grow new relationships through networking and referrals. You can build your client base from local connections to increase your revenue and expand your business.

Working With Freight Shippers Can Be Tough

When you work with a freight broker, you benefit from their connections, industry expertise, logistical support and a host of other services. Brokers spend a lot of time and energy securing freight from shippers, so their carriers can focus on getting the job done.

If you choose to work independently, you’re responsible for all the services brokers typically provide. While it can be tough to go it alone, your business can benefit from establishing relationships with local shippers.

Keep in mind that when you don’t have the support of a broker, you’ll need to spend a lot of time networking, encouraging word-of-mouth promotion, negotiating freight rates, making cold calls, and establishing yourself as a reliable carrier to garner repeat business.

How to Find Companies that Need Freight Moved

You need to get your name out to local shippers and build your reputation. Once you create solid professional relationships with local shippers, you’ll have an easier time forming new connections with additional local clientele. You’ll create new connections through referrals and networking with your clients and continue building your client base.

When you’re first beginning to create direct connections with local shippers it may be difficult to get your foot in the door. Building lasting relationships with shippers takes hard work and persistence, but you can also implement various strategies and use helpful tools for forming direct connections.

Connecting Directly with Shippers by Using a Load Board

Perhaps the most common method of formulating new connections with shippers is using load boards. Load boards are online marketplaces that shippers use to list the freight that they need transported. Carriers can then claim available loads and transport them. Using a load board makes payment between shippers and carriers incredibly simple. Shippers pay carriers directly through the load board. Load boards are highly useful for finding new loads and help to formulate new relationships with shippers.

One downside to using load boards to connect with local shippers is that you’ll often need to offer highly competitive rates for your services, especially if you’re living in an area oversaturated with carriers or has a lower demand for moving freight. Carriers often bid against one another to acquire an available load, which means you may need to offer a low rate to obtain the load and connect with the shipper.

Some load boards feature helpful map tools that show you what areas have a greater need for trucks. You can use map tools to find areas where carriers charge more for transportation so that you can charge higher rates. You can search for areas that have a high demand for truckers and connect directly with local shippers.

Research and Contact Local Shippers

Researching and directly contacting local shippers is a great way to formulate relationships, but it takes hard work and persistence. You’ll need to be willing to invest your time and energy without expecting immediate results.

Firstly, you need to research the local shippers in your area and determine what they ship and their freight’s destination. A great way to start is to contact businesses that are within 100 miles. Next, you need to determine the size of the company and formulate your strategy based on its size. If the business you’re contacting is smaller, it’ll be easier for you to connect directly with decision-makers. Find out who’s in charge of shipping so that you can contact them directly and address them by name.

After you’ve sufficiently researched the company, you need to prepare a script to help you win their business. For example, you can ask them if they’re having issues with their current carriers or ask them about their business’s unmet needs.

It’s challenging to convince someone to use your services after a single phone call, but you can continue contacting them and formulating a relationship with their business. They may say “no” the first time you get in touch, but they may need your services at a later date.

Directly contacting local shippers can seem like a daunting task, but you can form valuable relationships using direct contact. You’ll be able to charge profitable rates rather than the lower rates that are often necessary for obtaining freight on load boards.

Network with other Trucking Companies

In addition to researching and contacting local shippers directly, you need to network and connect with other local carriers. Networking is a common tactic in every business, and trucking is no different. You can create professional relationships with other industry professionals in your area in order to come in contact with new potential clients.

You can start networking by getting involved with different associations and by going to events that local carriers attend. In light of the COVID pandemic, many events are now available digitally, so you can even attend them from the road. Search online for associations and events available in your area where you can meet shippers and truckers. It’s critical that you attend networking events and that you socialize with event attendees. You might leave a positive impression on potential clients that can lead to business in the future.

You should also attend trucking events and get involved with your local trucking community. It may seem challenging to find new clients at events because there will be so many competitors, but you can find work through other truck drivers. When you formulate positive professional relationships with fellow drivers, they may refer you to local shippers or give you advice on how to find shippers in your area. You can also form connections with drivers at truck stops to expand your network.

Additionally, try networking through the shippers that you’re already in business with. Find out if they have professional associates that need a carrier. You can create new professional connections through the people you already know to expand your business and your client base.

Maintaining Long-Lasting Professional Relationships with Local Shippers

Once you formulate connections with local shippers, you need to maintain your professional relationships. Nurturing professional relationships will ensure that you retain your client’s business, and it may even lead to more lucrative loads in the future.

You need to regularly check in with your clients and see if there’s a way to improve your professional relationship. Regularly connecting with your clients and asking for their feedback shows them that you care about your work performance and want to continue improving. You can ask if they have any pain points your services can address.

An important tool that you need to develop to improve your professional relationships is your communication skills. When you work on communicating professionally and effectively, you’ll have an easier time maintaining your professional relationships and meeting all of your clients’ needs.

When you put in the legwork to maintain and improve your professional relationship with clients, your clients will be more likely to continue using your services in the future and refer you to others. As a result, you may be able to negotiate a higher rate after working with them for an extended period because local shippers trust and rely on your services.

Learn More About Connecting with Local Shippers

You need to use every resource at your disposal to find great loads, and that includes connecting with local shippers to build positive professional relationships. You can work directly with shippers by utilizing load boards, contacting shippers directly, and networking. When you invest your time forming and nurturing professional relationships with local shippers, you can continue transporting their freight and eventually charge a higher rate for your services.

Here at Xpress Technologies, we want you to succeed both in creating new professional relationships and improving your ability to cultivate your local connections. Xpress Technologies has over 35 years of experience helping owner-operators just like you build their local client base by offering reliable and cost-effective services. If you’re ready to connect with local shippers and expand your trucking business, contact our Carrier Xperience Team.

Connect with Our Carrier Xperience Team