Trucks seeking freight. Freight seeking trucks. Matching the two up used to mean considerable phone time with brokers or carriers and then even more time waiting for the right match to come along — freight and a truck headed to the same place.
While most freight moves via contracts, the spot market still represents 30-40% of the freight market, according to industry estimates. And in times of tight capacity, some spot rates are better than contracted ones.
Over the years, technology has made the process of matching trucks and freight much easier. First, with load boards and then with Internet-based load-matching services. Now, truckers, shippers, brokers and third-party logistics providers have more options than ever to find trucks or loads and to do so much quicker.
Greg Sikes, vice president at DAT Solutions, said the foremost change seen in load-matching services “is what we call velocity. The ability to get online and get an answer to a question almost immediately.” Another key change: the ability to access information from a mobile device, which allows both truckers and shippers or brokers to find a truck or a load from anywhere.
DAT Solutions, which was founded in 1978 as Dial-A-Truck, a service of Jubitz Truck Stop in Portland, Ore., has seen many of these changes. The company eventually installed electronic load boards in truckstops across the country, using modem connections to update information presented. But truckstop load boards have gone the way of truck stop phone booths as the Internet, cellphones and now mobile devices have changed the way people and businesses communicate. DAT removed its last truckstop load boards at the end of last year, Sikes says.
“Now, when truckers want to gain access to information, they can do it through their computer, phone or tablet,” he explains.
The type of information online load boards offer has also evolved. In the beginning, it was mostly limited to equipment availability, load availability and contact phone numbers. Now, these services also provide rate information, carrier and broker qualification information and even “Yelp-type reviews on brokers,” Sikes adds.
Among the first to offer Internet-based load-matching service was Internet Truckstop, New Plymouth, Idaho, founded in 1995. Since that time, the company has grown into one of the largest Internet-based services in the industry and, like other service providers, it offers a host of transportation-related products, such as a fuel optimizer and IFTA reporting applications, broker credit ratings, carrier registration services and access to online training courses.
The changes in the load board market have been dramatic, says Brent Hutto, chief marketing officer at Internet Truckstop. “As the trucking industry has accepted and utilized the Internet as a business tool, online freight matching offerings have increased dramatically.” For instance, Internet Truckstop has gone from one product when it started in 1995 to more than 40 offerings today.
Speed and scale have been the main improvements to freight matching. “Google search has had an effect on everyone — users now want their information immediately and in quantity.” And where the spot market was once primarily for finding backhauls, evolving technology has allowed carriers, shippers and brokers “to coordinate their entire freight business on a technology-based platform, made possible because of the ease of using cloud-based applications,” Hutto adds.
A number of other companies have entered the load-matching space in recent years. Literally dozens of these services can be found via a Google search. Below is a look at a few of these.
"Now, when truckers want to gain access to information, they can do it through their computer, phone or tablet.”
— Greg Sikes, DAT Solutions
Truck It Smart, Haines City, Fla., has been offering services to carriers and brokers for six years and recently announced it has reached an agreement to have its software pre-installed on Rand McNally’s recently introduced TND Tablet — an Android tablet that includes Rand’s GPS device along with a number of pre-installed trucking applications. Truck It Smart’s President and CEO Nick Shaughnessy says the partnership with Rand McNally was a great fit for his company as it “hits our target audience, owner-operators and small fleets.”
The Truck It Smart application is cloud-based and can work on any device, Shaughnessy says. Noting that “every second counts,” when looking for loads or trucks, he says his company was “constantly trying to make its product more user-friendly and intuitive. “When they post a load, automatically results show up that match their criteria.”
Like other services, Truck It Smart provides credit histories on brokers and a link to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s website so brokers and shippers can check out carrier qualifications.
ComFreight, Long Beach, Calif., recently launched a new mobile-friendly web application to help owner-operators and small fleets find loads. As a web app, there is no software to download or install and it works from any smartphone or tablet with a data connection.
Carriers and brokers just set up customizable alerts that are activated when freight shows ups within specific lanes that meet defined criteria, such as weight, length and time window specified by the user. Future tools planned for the service include freight indexing that tracks current market rates for specific types of freight and an improved mobile interface.
Post.Bid.Ship., headquartered in Scottsdale, Ariz., released its system in 2012, which is a bit different from other load boards in that it operates as an online load-bidding system. The system allows shippers and brokers to receive bids from carriers for their freight, potentially reducing their freight costs as carriers bid against each other. The system also monitors carrier qualifications. Carriers can use the service to solicit bids from other carriers for their over-capacity freight.
In another twist on the typical load board, Myriteload.com is a matching system designed to connect truckers and shippers directly. Truckers pay a monthly per-truck subscription fee to participate. Shippers post loads and what they will pay on the site. Truckers interested in the load respond directly to the shipper using the site’s private mailbox system. The site is restricted to truckers and shippers — no brokers allowed — and users found to be brokering or trip-leasing loads from the site will have their memberships cancelled.
Borrowing from the Uber model of providing taxi and other transportation services to individuals, Cargomatic, Venice, Calif., aims to bring the sharing economy to transportation. The company offers an app that connects local truckers and local shippers. In January, the company announced it had raised $8 million in funding to grow its system, which is designed to give shippers access to available truck capacity while helping drivers keep their trucks full.
Shippers post loads, and truckers signed up with the system receive a message that a load is available that matches their profile. They can then accept or decline the load as posted. Launched in 2014, the company began its service in Southern California and the metropolitan New York City area. It says it will use the funds raised to expand the service to other transportation hubs around the country and to improve the system.
10-4 Systems, Boulder, Colo., offers a suite of products that connect shippers and carriers. Designed to work with a carrier’s existing trucking management system, 10-4 Marketplace provides real-time data, allows users to set freight parameters and facilitates communication between shippers, brokers and carriers. The NonStop product lets carriers post and remove trucks, track trucks on a live map and negotiate online.
A mobile app, NonStop Mobile, connects carriers with their drivers with messaging, document capture and shipment status. Owner-operators can use the app to post their truck, negotiate rates and view freight matches.
Apex Capital Corp., Ft. Worth, which offers factoring and other services to the transportation industry, will launch NextLoad.com, its free load board, March 26. The service will partner with PostEveryWhere, a subsidiary of Grizella, LLC, Hebron, N.D., which posts loads and trucks to several dozen load boards and freight-matching services. Apex said this will allow NextLoad to average 50,000 loads each day. The service allows users to create custom filters to find loads that meet their criteria and delivers alerts when such loads are posted. It’s accessible on any device or smartphone.
Finding the right match doesn’t have to be hard — it just takes the right matchmaker.