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It’s anticipated that in 2021, there will be fewer drivers hauling freight on the road, leaving carriers to balance increased freight demand. As a result, contract rates are expected to increase between 8 and 15 percent this year, likely peaking in the fall.

While this is good news for owner-operators who might make more per haul, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the pressure is off for carriers who want to continue to win great bids, find a higher number of profitable, qualified hauls, and grow their business.

So, what are the best ways for carriers to take their freight-finding skills to the next level? Here’s what owner-operators need to know about managing great freight—and winning more loads.

How to Find Freight Shippers: Pay Attention to Details

Time management for truck drivers and carriers looks a little different than time management for those who work in other industries. Owner-operators and small carriers are already working a maximum of 11 hours per day on the road, which means there’s little time for much of anything else. The problem? There’s still a business to run!

Owner-operators need the ability to find and commit to hauls quickly, stay organized, and develop their attention to detail so that all the other factors that play into owner-operator responsibilities don’t eat up too much time.

Some technologies make it simpler to give these kinds of details the attention they deserve. For example, with map search features, tech solutions like Xpress Technologies (XT) make it easy for owner-operators to find new hauls near their end destination to optimize drive time, calculate costs, and make their time more profitable.

How else can carriers stay organized to make it simpler to find freight hauls?

  • Manage your finances: Some choose to keep all of their receipts and paperwork in a filing cabinet, while others find that the best solution for keeping track of this information is to do so digitally. You can use the XT mobile app called Carrier OS to enable tracking features right on a mobile device and eliminate some of this paperwork.
  • Keep directions and contact information on hand: Carriers should always be prepared to contact a shipper or consult directions and need to have this information accessible at all times. These features are also available through the Carrier OS mobile app, ensuring you have contact information at the ready.
  • Avoid dead hauls by searching for freight by location: One way to level up freight finding is to make fewer dead hauls. By using apps, owner-operators can prevent or limit driving for miles and miles without a haul.

Find Freight Fast: Use Smart, Intuitive Tools

For quite some time, owner-operators have had to rely solely on load boards to locate freight and find work. As most carriers and owner-operators likely already know, this online marketplace for trucking companies, shippers, and freight brokers to post and search for loads and keep hauls moving can sometimes be difficult for those looking for freight.

Either the cost of accessing a load board like the DAT load board or Truckstop.com is too high, or the information posted on free load boards is a bait-and-switch situation, where one set of terms is published, and another (usually less profitable for the carrier) situation is presented after the owner-operator agrees to the terms.

For those conducting online searches like “How to manage your time as a truck driver” and those who want to find more time to locate great freight hauls, these inefficient practices may not be the best, most cost-effective solution to finding more freight.

To find freight fast, owner-operators need access to more than a load board. They need an intuitive technology solution that helps carriers 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

When brokerages started offering these kinds of apps for optional use, they found they were adopted wholeheartedly—by an impressive 85 percent of their carriers. Carriers and owner-operators should leverage these tools to find better freight more frequently and track them all in one place.

Rather than spend hours scouring load boards and waiting for suitable hauls to appear, carriers can instead make the most of their time with innovative solutions. The best owner-operators do their research and find the best tools available to simplify their processes from beginning to end.

For example, Xpress Technologies is more than a load board. It’s an entire Smart Load Platform that inputs carrier preferences to recommend the right loads, improving as carriers take and track more loads. The machine learning behind the smart load platform accumulates more and more data, and provides owner-operators and small carriers with more freight faster and for the best price possible.

Using the Xpress Technologies suite of Driver, Loads, and Management tools, carriers can begin to personalize both the technology and the hauls they choose to grow their business the way they want.

This includes smart tools like:

  • Favorite Lane Alerts, which deliver notifications of loads and favorite lanes, so carriers get proactive lane notifications instead of making multiple manual entries.
  • Posting Truck Functionality, so you can be contacted about freight that suits your truck’s capabilities.
  • Load Management, so carriers can track all of their loads, not just the ones acquired through Xpress Technologies.
  • eLogs, which keeps owner-operators in compliance with FMCSA regulations and can easily be shared with the DOT for inspections.
  • Hours of service functionality, which allows tracking hours and other administrative tools right from an iOS or Android-based app.

With these kinds of tools, not only do small carriers and owner-operators have at-a-glance views of all of their loads at once, but it also becomes faster and easier to find new freight and lock in dedicated freight, which means more freight happening automatically and consistently.

With the Xpress Technologies web and mobile apps, all this invaluable information can be accessed from any device. Owner-operators can connect with loads from anywhere faster than ever using their mobile phones, tablets, and computers.

It’s unbelievably simple for carriers to set up and navigate the app so they can focus on finding ideal hauls without any hassle. Carriers never again have to ask themselves, “How do I find loads to haul?” because freight listings are right there in the app.

How to Get Freight: Build Long-Term Broker Relationships Based on Respect

Owner-operators and small carriers should note that one of the best ways to increase their freight volume is to build relationships with brokers. After all—these are their clients and they want to provide steady work to reliable carriers. A great relationship can lead to dedicated freight, making it easier than ever to secure more work.

In an interview with North American Transport Concepts, or NATCO, about building broker-carrier relationships, Cori Eckley, Vice President of NATCO, stressed the importance of single truck owner-operators and small carriers building relationships. As she pointed out, somewhere around 75 percent of her carriers are owner-operators or have 10 or fewer trucks. Her work gravitates towards smaller carriers, and she is always very interested in establishing positive working relationships with these carriers.

Eckley speaks a lot with carriers about how essential it is to consider customer service and viewing brokers as customers. Of this, she shared:

“When I go in, I talk about customer service and the broker really being your customer. We need to start thinking that way, and it’s about building relationships, not just negotiating transactions and rates. One of the things I try to get across to people: Negotiation without a relationship is just haggling. That’s all it is. It’s just price. And if price is the only thing we’re negotiating, it’s always a win-lose. Somebody probably got less than what they had hoped for. And many times, both parties get less than what they had hoped for. Sometimes negotiating without a relationship is a lose-lose. We see that over and over and over. And I tell people: if you want true win-win negotiations, it has to start from a relationship. Otherwise, it’s just haggling.”

While it’s easy for carriers to focus on arranging the best price for every haul, sometimes it’s also wise to consider that when it comes to brokers and carriers, both parties are coming to the table to work together. This relationship has to be about so much more than just price; it has to be about respect.

Sometimes, owner-operators may think that brokers aren’t interested in negotiating or building relationships. And for some brokers, this may be true. But a high quality and reputable broker will want you and your business to do well. As Eckley shared,

There are different points that we can work on to make it beneficial for everybody, whether it’s a loading time or date. If we have that flexibility, let’s use it so that way we continuously work with our carriers who we have that strong relationship with. And we’re looking out for them in the process for their business.”

In this industry, it’s easy to view freight as nothing more than a commodity. But without additional value, besides just the price of freight alone (like relationships, respect, and steller service), everything in this industry becomes merely an asset. When this happens, the only remaining important factor is which carrier offers the lowest price. There is nothing to support sustainable growth for any of the parties involved. No one wins.

Often, all it takes is a little respect and understanding to foster the kind of relationship growth that leads to a long-term association with a broker and more freight hauls in the process. Although it may be challenging to work with strong personalities, working in the shipping and freight industries is a great way to learn to be respectful of all personalities, hone one’s people skills, and maintain relationships with shippers, brokers, and other carriers.

Network with Industry Professionals

Just as with almost any other small business, carriers can get involved with industry associations and mingle with shippers at events. Carriers and owner-operators looking to network can conduct an online search for nearby events with shippers that handle the type of freight they are most interested in and join industry associations.

While, for the most part, this means carriers will be interacting with a great majority of competitors, this is still an opportunity to get referrals from people who work in the industry.

A New Shift in Freight Finding

In 2019 alone, the trucking industry collectively moved 11.84 billion tons of freight. Owner-operators can leverage more of these hauls by using the right tools, staying organized, and building relationships within the industry.

Since the trucking industry is so large, it’s no wonder that there are always new load management methods and new technologies evolving to help carriers find more freight.

Xpress Technologies has been introducing new ways to make finding and managing freight easier for those in the industry to find and manage freight, and we’re leveraging over 35 years of experience to make it happen. Now, we’re using our expertise to offer a leading freight marketplace to meet the needs and preferences of small carriers and owner-operators alike.

Are you ready to find more freight and truly level up your skills? Discover more freight here today.

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