How do you find carriers for a spot load? How do you negotiate with a driver or dispatcher? Who has the upper hand and why? In this blog, we'll get into the weeds on finding carriers and negotiating the coverage.
There are more than a few places to find carriers. You can google trucks in surrounding zip codes near your shipper. You can pay for a service like carrier lists that compiles lists of verified carriers and lanes. But, the two most common ways to find carriers and cover loads is to utilize a load board like DAT or Truckstop. These load boards are the open market of the trucking industry, a place where available trucks can post up their information to indicate they have a driver with a particular type of equipment available on a specific date. Then, brokers are able to contact trucks that fit their criteria in hopes of securing that driver to haul their load. The other side of this market place is the ability to post up available loads the freight brokers are offering to the carriers. The posts include the dates of pickup and delivery, the equipment needed and often the rate being offered. Then, dispatchers and drivers will contact the broker to negotiate the final terms of booking the load.
Posting and Searching
Posting loads and searching trucks are the two most common ways of finding carriers and covering loads. And even though both are done in the same marketplace, they are very different approaches and offer advantages and disadvantages. Remember that carriers have two top priorities from our recent video "How to find carriers." These priorities are “How much am I making?” and “What direction am I willing to head?” Those priorities will shift based on the amount of days or hours left in a driver's week and either their desire to get home or to make it to another load they already booked.
Time vs. Money
For instance, at the beginning of their week money is top priority. Drivers are fresh on hours and energy when they start the week. It doesn't usually matter as much on where the load is headed. As the week progresses, and the hours begin to dwindle and the desire to finish the week closer to home, the more important the direction of the load becomes. Remember, you can't prioritize them both at #1. At some point, you'll want to get home more than you care about an extra couple hundred bucks.
Remember that when you are posting a load as a broker, your goal is to have carriers call you. When you don't receive any calls, your next option is to call posted trucks. There are two fundamental differences between selling a posted load and calling a posted truck. The first is the leverage of who needs who. When we call them, we need something they have. When they call us, they want something we have. If anyone asks anyone else to do anything for them, the person being asked can literally give them any reason that they can't oblige. The responsibility of convincing the other falls on the person asking. That's the case in every negotiation, and it's no difference here.
The second and most overlooked is the aspect of direction . When a carrier calls a freight broker on a posted load, they can't say the driver doesn't want to go in that direction. They have given up that leverage by calling us and indicating that the direction is desirable to the driver. This is why posting loads is far more effective at getting a lower rate, and why you should post your loads before you start calling out.
When we call them, the first technique to reduce their leverage is to ask a question in a non-threatening or intrusive way such as, "What direction is your driver looking to head?” or “Any particular area that works better than others?” What does this accomplish? They'll hopefully say the direction your load is headed. And if that happens, great! You've eliminated the card they were going to play. Now they can't say that your load that's headed south isn't where he wanted to go or that he needs another $400 - $500 to convince him to go south.
Dispatchers that are good negotiators are aware of this. They guard that information for this very reason. So, I'll often make it appear as if I have multiple loads heading in every direction for my customer. Why? Because I can always take another available truck to my customer and offer it to them. If the carrier's rates are fair, I may be able to get a different load from my shipper. This is why I mentioned that my customer's got loads heading in every direction. “Where does your driver prefer?” If this driver is in this area often, I may be able to negotiate a spot load and be able to take a dedicated option for another lane to my customer, making it a win-win for everyone.
As middle men, freight brokers can offer value to both carriers and shippers in many different ways. Look for the areas where the driver needs to benefit. Does he need to get this driver home for the week? Are they chasing the highest rate today? Is there a happy-medium where your shipper might not pay the most, but they load trucks really fast and the shipments are lightweight? Don't get caught up in just the money of a load. There are many other things that are important to a driver and a carrier. The more creative you are, the more likely you are to succeed in finding the right carrier.