Struggling to get your products to market? You’re not alone. Trucks move more than 70% of U.S. freight, and the trucking industry is facing historic labor constraints. By the end of 2021, the industry was short 80,000 drivers. By 2030, that figure could double, says the American Trucking Associations.
That makes it increasingly difficult for shippers to find trucking companies with the capacity to move their goods. But plenty of trucks are out there; you just need to know where to find them. Here are a few ideas on where to find freight carriers so you can keep your business growing even as the supply chain trembles.
Where To Find Freight Carriers: 5 Places To Start
Companies with freight to move fall under the umbrella of “shippers,” a catch-all term that carriers use to describe their customers. The first place shippers look for transportation services is often a “broker”—a third-party agent who connects shippers and carriers. But those brokers may also struggle to build relationships with trucking companies.
Whether you’re a shipper or a broker, these tips can help you build relationships with reliable carriers. Start the hunt for a trucking company at any of these five places:
1. Load Boards
The struggle to connect shippers and carriers is not a new one. Online marketplaces emerged to simplify these connections. These sites are called load boards, and they’re the first place many shippers and brokers go to find available freight carriers. Post your freight on a load board to connect with brokers or start a direct relationship with a carrier operating within your lane. These are paid services, typically with monthly subscription fees.
Here are a few great load boards to explore:
- DAT Load Boards. To access DAT load boards as a shipper, or to find rates, start by filling out this form.
- Truckstop.com. Shippers can choose one of three plans: Basic ($99/month), Advanced ($160/month), or Pro ($219/month). Sign up here.
- LoadBoard Network. This load board aggregator allows shippers to post freight on multiple load boards through one system. Fees start at $38/month for 25 shipments or fewer, and go up from there based on volume. Sign up to learn more here.
2. Trucking Company Databases
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) collects Motor Carrier Census data on every trucking company that files for a DOT number—without a DOT number, these companies can’t operate. So the DOT has a list of all the trucking companies in your region (and in every region of the U.S.).
Unfortunately, they don’t make it easy to search that data. You can download a file containing all up-to-date Motor Carrier Census information here, but it’s all raw data. Luckily, websites compile this information into a searchable database that you can filter by location. Explore these sites to find freight carriers in your area:
3. Big-Name Carriers
Infrequent shippers may want to simply stick with the biggest names in the business. These international giants will have multiple divisions, so they’re likely to be able to service any type of freight. You may pay more than you would with a smaller carrier, but going with an established carrier can simplify your shipment. Here are a few of the biggest freight carriers:
4. Google Searches
While a Google search is a fairly blunt tool for finding a freight carrier, it can at least get you some options for cold calls. Search for “trucking company” or “freight carrier” plus your location and start making a list. Check out company websites to see if they can service your freight. Often, you won’t be able to tell from the website.
In that case, you can do a bit of background research to narrow down your call list. Enter the trucking company’s name or DOT number in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Safety and Fitness Electronic Records (SAFER) database. That provides information on trucking company sizes, commodity options, and safety records.
With your final list of trucking companies, start reaching out to get rates and see who has capacity. It’s not the fastest way to find a freight carrier, but it works.
5. Job-Seeking Sites
Still striking out? Maybe it’s time for an indirect approach. If you’re a shipper on the hunt for brokers, job-seeking sites may be your best bet, strange as it sounds. Go to Monster.com, Indeed.com, or ZipRecruiter.com and search for “freight broker” in your area. You’re not looking for the job; you’re looking for the companies that are hiring.
To find carriers directly, use the same tactic but substitute “truck driver” for “freight broker” as your keyword. With the results, you can build your cold-call list and spend some time on the phone.
How To Become A Favored Shipper With Freight Carriers
Finding a freight carrier is just the first step in your shipping operation. Ideally, you want to build a long-term partnership with a reliable carrier. At a time when demand outweighs trucking supply, you’re competing for that carrier’s services. Follow these tips to make sure your first load with a great trucking company isn’t your last:
1. Provide as many details as possible upfront.
To provide an accurate quote, carriers need a lot more information than you might think. Come prepared with answers for at least the following questions:
- How much will the load weigh?
- Is the load palletized?
- What are the hours of operation at your shipping facility?
- Are drivers expected to assist with loading or unloading freight?
- Should drivers make an appointment at your dock, or is it first-come, first-served?
Few shippers provide these details early in the bidding process. Doing so will start you out on the right foot with your carriers.
2. Keep open lines of communication.
Things change quickly in the logistics industry. As long as you communicate these changes with carriers, they’ll do what they can to accommodate. Transparency, reliable availability, and open communication will go a long way toward building a successful relationship between shippers and freight carriers.
3. Avoid delays at the dock.
The cardinal rule of logistics is simple: “Don’t waste anyone’s time.” A poorly run dock can quickly knock a driver off schedule—while also delaying your freight. Dock delays are one of the most common frustrations for trucking companies. If you can avoid them, carriers are more likely to work with you in the future.
That may mean booking appointments rather than running a first-com, first-served operation. It might require more staff, or even improvements to the dock. Do whatever you can to keep drivers happy at the dock, because an unpleasant experience can stop a burgeoning partnership in its tracks.
It’s not easy to figure out where to find freight carriers. Even after you develop the knack, it’s a time-consuming process. That’s why it’s crucial to keep trucking companies happy with your business. Forming strong, long-term partnerships with brokers and trucking companies means you won’t have to repeat the hunt for a freight carrier. These tips—along with good, old-fashioned professionalism—will help you develop the connections that can keep your freight moving long into the future.