13 Minute read

As an owner-operator, you know the importance of finding lucrative freight. Millions of loads are transported throughout the United States every day, but not all of those loads will make a significant profit for carriers. You need to know how to find freight that will increase your revenue and help you expand your trucking business.

So how can you find freight that will make you a profit?

A great time-honored method of finding freight involves going through a freight broker. This method has long been a staple of the trucking industry because it works. Freight brokers can help you find valuable, consistent loads and help you run your business efficiently.

Freight brokers do can find and secure loads for you, so you can focus on getting the job done. They have access to a wide network of shippers and are an invaluable source for new and consistent leads. When you develop a relationship with a good freight broker you gain a partner that’ll help keep your operation running efficiently and profitably.

In addition to using freight brokers, owner-operators often utilize load boards. Load boards are online marketplaces where shippers and freight brokers post loads that need to be transported. Carriers can connect directly with shippers and freight brokers to negotiate rates and claim loads. Carriers can also post their trucks to load boards so that shippers and freight brokers can contact them to transport freight.

There are many traditional and modern ways that carriers can find freight. You need to be aware of the many avenues and tools at your disposal to find the best freight today.

1. Top 5 Ways Truckers Find Freight

You need to be aware of the most popular ways that carriers find freight. Utilizing different methods of finding freight will help you track down both full and partial loads. When you mix your freight by using traditional and digital methods of finding new loads, you’ll diversify your revenue streams and expand your trucking business.

The top five ways that carriers find freight are:

  1. Load Boards: Load boards are critical for your success as an owner-operator. You can find great freight, and you can also start to build professional relationships with freight brokers and local shippers. There are many different load boards currently available on the market, so be on the lookout for a load board that includes great customer service, an expansive network, an easy-to-use interface, a powerful mobile application, map view, hybrid capabilities and machine learning.
  2. Freight Brokers: Freight brokers are a great source for finding consistent and valuable loads. You gain access to loads from shippers who exclusively list with brokers, and can potentially get dedicated freight. Brokers can help you run your business efficiently by handling the logistics involved with locating and securing freight, negotiating the rate with the shipper, and getting all of the load details. To maximize the benefits of working with a broker, form a relationship with a trustworthy broker with years of industry knowledge and experience who’ll be upfront about any potential fees.
  3. Work with a Trucking Dispatcher: You can hire a trucking dispatcher or contract with a trucking dispatching service to find new loads. Trucking dispatchers both manage freight and find loads, but they also handle a variety of administrative duties, like accounting, billing, collections, and back-office services. Working with an experienced trucking dispatcher will help you find great freight and save you time managing your trucking business.
  4. Start Government Contracting: Whether federal, state, or local, the government is always looking for contractors that can transport freight. Becoming a government contractor can help you secure highly valuable freight that can grow your business. When becoming a government contractor, you’ll need:
    • A Dun & Bradstreet D-U-N-S Number
    • Your NAICS Code 484121
    • Register in the System Award Management (SAM) Database
    • Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) Code 4213
    • Your Employer Identification Number (EIN)
    • General Services Administration (GSA) Eligibility
  5. Network and Contact Local Shippers: Networking is the heart and soul of growing a business. It’s important to attend associations and events that attract shippers and carriers, while keeping CDC and Covid-19 restrictions in mind. You can make professional connections to find freight. Additionally, you can contact local shippers directly to form professional relationships and eventually transport their freight.

Finding freight doesn’t need to be complicated. Utilize these five methods to find loads and mixed freight today.

2. How to Build Relationships with Local Shippers

In addition to finding freight, you can form professional relationships with local shippers. It can be tough to establish and manage these relationships, but it can prove beneficial to your business. When you work closely with local shippers they may become consistent clients who can provide you with freight. Some of the ways you can build relationships with local shippers include:

  • Load Boards: You can use load boards for more than finding individual loads. You can form professional relationships with local shippers. When you meet local shippers through a load board, you can continue working with them to transport their future loads.
  • Contact Them Directly: Cold-calling is a classic way to find clients, but before you call your local shippers, you need to research their business. You can start by researching the type of freight they transport, their freight destinations, and the size of their operation. If the shipper is small, you can often reach important decision-makers who decide which carriers to use. Prepare a script that inquires about their pain points and call the person in charge of shipping. You might not convince them to utilize your services from a single phone call, but you can form a relationship with them so they may use your services in the future or refer you to another business.
  • Networking: Networking is critical for your success as an owner-operator. You can start networking by becoming part of industry associations and attending events that shippers and carriers attend, as CDC guidance and Covid-19 restrictions allow. Make sure to socialize with both shippers and carriers at events to leave a positive impression. You never know when someone will need a new carrier, and they may think of you if you leave a positive impression. You should also network with fellow drivers at events and truck stops. Drivers can give you guidance for finding new shippers.

Forming professional relationships is only the first step. Maintain your relationships with local shippers to ensure that you continue working with them in the future. Regularly connect with your clients and see if there’s a way you can improve your work to help their businesses. When you put in the time to connect and communicate with your clients, they’ll be more likely to continue supplying you with lucrative freight in the future.

3. Which Truck Loads Should You Take?

When you search for loads, you need to determine which ones will help your business the most. Not every load will turn much of a profit, and you’ll need to consider load criteria other than the rate. When choosing which loads to pick up, consider the following:

  • Freight Prices: When factoring in the overall amount of money you’ll make with a load, consider the rate per mile (RPM) and your net profit. You need to be aware of the average RPM on a lane before determining if you’ll pick up the load. You also need to be aware if the RPM is too good to be true. If the RPM is inordinately higher than other loads, it may have unreasonable requirements and could even be a scam or fraudulent listing. You also need to factor in your operating costs to determine how much money you’ll make from a load. Carriers sometimes fall into the trap of paying higher operational costs than what the load is worth, which means they can actually lose money from transporting certain loads.
  • Lane Comfort: Just because a load is valuable does not mean you should transport it. Often, valuable loads are on difficult routes. You need to make sure that your truck is equipped for the road and weather conditions and that you have experience driving certain routes and in challenging climate conditions. It can be dangerous to operate in certain conditions if you do not have the proper equipment.
  • The Size of Shipper: If you’re working exclusively through a broker, you may not have to consider shipper size, as the broker will have contacts with shippers of all sizes. However, if you’re working independently, you should know the advantages and disadvantages of carrying freight for larger and smaller shippers. Larger shippers will often supply more diversity in the type of freight you’re transporting, and they can usually offer more consistent freight. The downside of working with a larger shipper is that it’s challenging to form a close professional relationship because they work with so many carriers. When you work with a smaller shipper, they’ll notice your work performance, and you can develop a positive professional relationship. When you have a relationship with a smaller shipper, they are more likely to refer you to other businesses.
  • Shipper Behavior: You need to know how shippers treat carriers. Before transporting a load, research the shipper’s reputation amongst carriers. Find out if they have a good credit score and pay their carriers in a timely manner. You also need to find out if they’re timely with their loads and if they’ll pay detention fees in the case of a delay.
  • Type of Freight: Does your truck meet the requirements for this freight? The load may be too heavy or contain easily damaged perishable items. It’s important to use technologies that support specific operating systems. Consider whether you have the certifications or licenses required to transport the freight. Some items fall under hazardous material guidelines from the Department of Transportation, so you’ll need a special HAZMAT Endorsement from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

When finding the right loads for your business, you should consider various factors that affect the rate, your comfort, and the regulations of transporting the freight. Before taking a load, do your homework on what you’ll need to take certain freight and shipper reputation amongst carriers.

4. What Tools Should You Use to Find Freight?

As an owner-operator, you need to utilize the best tools available to find the best freight for your business. There are many systems and devices you can use, including:

  • Freight Brokers: Freight brokers are often critical for finding loads. You can talk directly with a broker on the phone, or communicate with them online and through mobile apps.
  • Load Boards: You can use load boards to find freight and build new relationships instantly. You can access load boards through a web browser via a computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
  • Freight Finder Mobile Software: Load boards often feature invaluable mobile app tools that make finding loads easier than ever. When you utilize load matching, you can bypass the hassle of searching for loads and negotiating rates. You can simply pick up a load at a moment’s notice. Some platforms even use machine learning-powered freight matching, which learns what loads to recommend based on your previous hauls. Most load boards feature a mobile app for Apple and Android devices.
  • Map Search: Map search is a tool you can use to maximize the amount of freight you transport on your route. You can find both full and partial loads on your map interface so that you can pick up new loads near your drop-off locations. You can cut down on deadheading and increase your overall efficiency. Many different load board mobile apps feature map search, including Xpress Technologies, J.B. Hunt, Direct Freight, and DAT Freight & Analytics.

Carriers have access to various tools for finding freight. Whether you’re working with a freight broker or connecting directly with shippers, accessing new loads is as simple as pulling up your web browser or downloading a mobile app.

5. How to Get Better at Finding Freight?

As an owner-operator, you spend a lot of time on the road. It can be challenging to balance managing your business and finding freight. Stay ahead of the game and find the best freight for your business with tools and tech solutions like map search and the Xpress Technologies ELD. You need to stay highly organized to keep your business profitable and efficient. So, how can you improve your operation’s organization?

  • Manage your finances
  • Keep directions and contact information on hand
  • Avoid dead hauls by searching for freight by location

Fortunately, Xpress Technologies can assist you in keeping your business organized through helpful tracking features and contact information. The app also lets you search for loads by location to avoid deadheading.

In addition to staying organized, owner-operators need intuitive technology solutions to find more freight. Many carriers are already discovering the benefits of apps that come loaded with features like:

  • Load recommendations powered by machine learning
  • Wide network of shippers
  • Reliable and available loads
  • Great customer service

Xpress Technologies includes these features in our mobile app as well as an entire Smart Load Platform which includes helpful smart tools including:

  • Favorite Lane Alerts
  • Posting Truck Functionality
  • Load Management
  • eLogs
  • Hours of Service functionality

In addition to using smart tools for finding freight, you need to build long-term relationships with brokers and shippers. When you strengthen your relationships with your clients, you’ll gain access to more freight with less hassle.

6. The Future of Finding Freight

The trucking industry is changing rapidly, and significant technological developments will affect how we do business, such as:

  • Robotic process automation
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) decision-making, algorithms, and analytics
  • Blockchain ledgers
  • Autonomous vehicles

Though the trucking industry has historically relied on antiquated processes to find freight, there are some technologies and systems that are revolutionizing the way that owner-operators and small carriers find loads today.

Xpress Technologies (XT) has made significant strides to make finding loads easier than ever by using machine learning. Machine learning utilizes artificial intelligence and algorithms to identify patterns in massive amounts of data and predicts specific outcomes. Machine-based learning will use your load preferences to predict what routes and hauls you’ll be most interested in.

As you continue using Xpress Technologies to find freight, your recommendations will become progressively more personalized to cater to your needs. You’ll be able to find great loads instantly rather than sorting through hundreds of available listings.

The Xpress Technologies ELD uses machine learning technology as well as additional features that will help you find lucrative freight quickly and easily, including:

  • Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) compliance tools
  • Hours of Service tracking and duty status options
  • eLogs
  • Tracking of Hours of Service violations
  • International Fuel Tax Association (IFTA) compliance tools
  • Driver vehicle inspection reports
  • Team driving
  • Fuel receipt tracking

With Xpress Technologies, you’ll get so much more than a load board — you’ll be able to utilize smart tools and machine learning software that enables you to find the best freight possible.

7. How Xpress Technologies Stacks Up: Comparing Freight Solutions

There are many different load boards currently on the market, but not all load boards have the same features. Load board networks often differ, and some include additional helpful tools. You need to find the load board that best supports your business. The Xpress Technologies load board provides powerful smart tool capabilities that makes finding loads easier than ever.

Xpress Technologies

Xpress Technologies (XT) combines the U.S. Xpress Logistics brokerage with a pioneering machine learning platform. XT emphasizes visibility into our operations so carriers can access the best freight possible and boost their profitability. Carriers can access fleet and load management essentials.

There are certainly trade-offs to all the top freight load boards and freight solutions, but a few stand out in the crowd of boards. In our opinion, the ones worth a side-by-side comparison with Xpress Technologies are:

  • Uber Freight
  • DAT Load Boards
  • J.B. Hunt and Carrier 360
Uber Freight

Uber Freight has positioned itself as carriers’ version of the gig economy giant, Uber. Those who use Uber Freight appreciate the transparent, upfront pricing, visibility, and bundling to limit the logging of an excess of empty miles.


Shippers, large and small carriers, and brokers alike — are drawn to DAT’s load board because of the wide array of trailer types and loads. DAT’s app, DAT One, allows you to save load matches to call later. You can view broker reviews and credit scores, which may be a decent indication of a worthwhile haul – and it gives you the chance to negotiate for your desired rate.

J.B. Hunt

J.B. Hunt is a large, asset-backed company spread across North America with freight services throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico. They have a load board app they call Carrier 360, which was designed with the idea of making things easier for carriers by helping them save time booking freight.

The Xpress Technologies Difference

When it comes to load boards and ELD software, Xpress Technologies sits above the rest. Our no-cost, fully integrated load board and ELD software give you cutting-edge tools for finding freight you can’t find anywhere else. If you’re ready to experience what makes Xpress Technologies unique in the trucking industry, contact our Carrier Xperience team today.

8. Why Partner with Xpress Technologies?

As a small or midsize carrier, you know how difficult it can be to compete with the big guys to find the best freight. The good news is that Xpress Technologies knows how overwhelming it can be and has the tools to help you even the playing field.

When you partner with Xpress Technologies, you will benefit from our:

  1. Hybrid Load Board
    Whether you prefer to speak to a broker directly or prefer to use the Xpress Technologies app to find and book loads yourself, our hybrid load board will empower you to make the decisions that make the most sense for your company. Consider us the Netflix of finding freight – we learn what types of loads you prefer and are able to make recommendations that make finding your preferred freight easier than ever.
  2. Machine Learning Technologies
    Technology should make running your business easier, and our technology is here to do just that. Xpress Technologies has built a sophisticated machine learning freight platform that learns from the lanes and regions that you prefer. This platform enables Xpress Technologies to offer carriers the right loads at the right time through the Xpress Technologies app. Our Carrier Xperience reps offer the same great loads should carriers prefer a personalized human interaction.
  3. No-Cost Xpress Technologies ELD
    You already know that an FMCSA Electronic Logging Device (ELD) is required in all non-exempt trucks. Compliance encourages better and safer driving and increases revenue by helping you avoid fines. However, most ELD providers charge carriers for the device as well as a subscription fee.
    Xpress Technologies gives qualified carriers a device at no cost. This device keeps you in compliance and informs our machine learning technology to offer you better loads.
  4. Built by Truckers, for Truckers
    Our technology isn’t a start-up created by entrepreneurs who have never worked in the industry. Our technology isn’t a one-size-fits-all model that can be used in multiple industries.
    Instead, our platform was built by people with experience on the road themselves or with family members on the road. Our platform is completely informed by the needs of those in the industry. Furthermore, our continual feedback loop, informed by surveys and focus groups, helps ensure that product updates are driven by independent trucking companies like yours, enabling our product to meet and exceed the unique needs of those in our industry.

Growing your business in a competitive industry doesn’t have to feel impossible. Working with a partner like Xpress Technologies will help you find the right freight at the right time to help your business thrive.

Connect with Our Carrier Xperience Team