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Click Mouse, Make Money – Owner Operators and Load Boards

A good article about how flatbed drivers Ed and Salena look for loads and enjoy the freedom of being Owner Operators. I always appreciate Salena’s blog with her perspective on the trucking industry.  In this article Salena discusses how they find loads using a loadboard and the freedom this provides in terms of making their own load choices.

Original Article Salena Lettera Daily Rant Blog 

Most of you know we are owner-operators and pull a flatbed trailer. Our freight ranges from building materials, to containers, to military equipment, to aircraft parts to honeybees. We’ll haul just about anything they can put on a flatbed if the price is right.

And although finding freight isn’t hard, it is a little bit of an art. Knowing where the freight is, knowing how much time is involved loading, knowing if it’s going to a good area, deciding whether deadheading (driving empty to pick up) is going to be worth it. These are all learned. Ed is a master at this – you can throw a load and a rate at him and he’ll know immediately if it’s worth doing. Me? I’m not as quick with the figuring, but I’m pretty good now too.

We have a few agents who will call us outright, if we’re in the area, to offer us a load before they post it. They know us, they’ve worked with us before, and they know we deliver – no pun intended. Most of the time though, we find our loads on the board. “The Board” is the load board where the company we’re leased to posts their loads. If you enlarge the photo below (click to enlarge), you’ll see a real example of freight that’s available to us.

In this particular example, I searched a two-hundred mile radius from Columbus, Ohio. That’s how it typically works – wherever you are, you look to see what kinds of loads are available and you do it by searching a radius of the area. Two hundred miles is about a four hour drive, not the most ideal distance to go for a load unless it pays well. Typically we don’t like to go further than three hours (150 miles) away, but we’ve gone as far as seven or eight hours (400-500 miles) to pick up if the load paid well.

You’ll see in the photo how the loads are listed beginning with columns that detail the pickup and delivery dates, the origin and destination of the load, how far away the load is from where we are, what kind of trailer is needed, what the total revenue of the load is, how many miles the total trip is, what the rate per mile is, how much it weighs and the commodity. The commodity column is useless in my opinion because it’s not useful, so I just ignore it.

If we see a load that we’re interested in, we click on the agency code (not shown in photo) and see the details on the load. This is where we find out more – things like the dimensions of the load, what it is, if it needs to be tarped, if there are any stop-offs (we don’t like doing stop-offs), and any notes the agent thinks might be pertinent. If we’re interested in finding out more information, we call the agent directly to get the details and then decide if we want to do it or not.

To me, that’s the best part – deciding how much we want to make and going where we want to go – I really enjoy being an owner-operator for that very reason. There is no dispatcher telling us where to go and when to be there, and there’s no one calling us fifty times a day to find out where we are. We don’t have a Qualcomm (which is a system that uses GPS to track where the truck is, and to send and receive messages with the driver) so no one ever knows if we’re rolling or not, where we are on the route, how fast we’re driving (even though Grandpa Ed keeps it at 58 at all times!) or what we’re doing. They can’t bother us with messages and we don’t have to check in with anyone. That said, it doesn’t mean we’re not responsible to someone. Once we accept a load, we are expected to deliver as requested, and in the time frame agreed to, but we don’t have to check in during transit.

Once you get some experience out here, you start to know where the freight is, and isn’t. There are places we rarely go to because although there’s freight in, there’s nothing comingout. Arizona is one of those places. Unfortunately it’s where we live, so sometimes we have no choice but to take a load out there. Usually we wind up deadheading to California to get something out when we’re ready to get back on the road because it’s very rare to find a load anywhere in the state that pays enough. We don’t go to Florida very often either for the same reason, lots going in, but nothing coming out. A few of our best areas for freight are Ohio, Illinois, and North Carolina. There are other areas we like for certain reasons – some places have high paying military freight, some places have freight that doesn’t need to be tarped, some places have lightweight aircraft parts – it’s all something you learn as the years pass.

It’s different for different segments of the industry too – where a van trailer might have an abundance of freight to choose from, there won’t be anything for a flatbedder. The same is true in reverse. But the great thing about flatbedding is, we don’t have to sit in a dock all day long. Hell, half the time we don’t even have to back up – we just pull into a yard, untarp the load and they take the freight off the trailer right there, with a forklift. There are usually no appointment times for a flatbed, and we like the flexibility of that.

So controlling your own time and how much you’ll be bringing in each week, or every couple of days is part of the draw of being an owner-operator. If you look at some of the loads in this example, you’ll see that you can make $3,000 to $5,000 in as little as two days.

And it’s all just a click away.  

Another LoadBoard that is up and coming that I recently spoke with: A social take on loadboards
Drop me a line if you have any comments about loadboards: your favourite, least favourite, are they good, bad etc/  [email protected]