How to optimize your load board

You’ve signed up for a load board — now what? Hear from experienced owner-operator Chad Boblett on how to make the most of your subscription and grow your rate.

Once you have your trucking authority and have taken care of all the proper paperwork, the only thing left for new owner-operators to do is to start finding new customers and growing your business. The best way to do that is to sign up for a load board and get hauling.

The DAT Load Board in particular is a valuable platform for truckers. While there is a lot to figure out and sort through at first, once you begin to understand how the load board works, you can take full advantage of all it has to offer. And with the DAT One app, that power is in the palm of your hands anytime, anywhere.

Here are a few tips for owner-operators to optimize their DAT load board experience and make the most out of its features.

Post your truck with a rate

The moment you sign into your load board for the first time, the number one optimization you can make is to simply post your truck and provide as detailed information as you can. This is important because it allows brokers and shippers to find you and offer you loads directly, as opposed to having to search and bid for them.

Posting your truck should include basic info like your trailer type, your current location, and your desired destination. On top of that, one feature that separates DAT from other load boards is that you can also post your desired rate, helping you weed out bad offers and bringing the best loads straight to you. 

In addition, details like weight restrictions or requirements and whether you’re available for full or partial truckloads can help direct you to more specific loads that best fit your needs.

There is also a comments section where you can leave notes for brokers and shippers about any additional information they may need or even on personal preferences. For instance, an owner-operator may include a note stating “no recyclables” so that brokers and shippers know not to approach you with that kind of haul.

While carriers should always be searching for loads with the load board as well, posting your truck upfront will help you get offers consistently and find loads catered to you.

Look for key indicators in broker reviews

While the star ratings for brokers on the DAT Load Board are great for an at-a-glance look into a broker, it doesn’t necessarily speak directly to the broker’s quality. For instance, a large broker may have two-star and one-star reviews that are a result of dealing with so much freight and working with many different carriers, but their credit data shows that they are reliable and have a good average for days-to-pay. That said, owner-operators should always be cautious and do as much research as they can to ensure that they are working with reputable brokers.

What’s important is to skim the written reviews and see what carriers are actually saying. For example, if a broker has multiple reviews that say “truck order not used” (TONU), it means they must have a habit of canceling loads last minute, or that loads are consistently not ready for truck drivers when they arrive at the loading bay. 

In addition, looking for key indicators in broker reviews can better prepare you for the negotiation process. If there are multiple comments saying that this particular broker doesn’t pay detention, you can directly address that in a call with them and see if they intend to provide a meaningful solution — otherwise, you know for certain that you should avoid doing business with that particular broker.

No owner-operator wants to be wasting their time and lose money doing so, and in the case of a truck order not used where you don’t get paid, it can be extremely difficult to fight that. It’s much better to avoid that kind of situation entirely and do the research ahead of time.

View load counts by state to understand supply and demand

The load counts by state feature is available with every single DAT load board subscription plan, and in my experience, it’s one of the most useful ways for owner-operators to use their load board and optimize their trucking routes. Lane rate information is essential, but load counts by state give carriers valuable insight into the current supply and demand of certain areas.

Let’s say that I see a load going to Tampa, FL that seems to pay well. But looking at the load counts by state feature, I might notice that far more loads are going into Florida than are coming out. I can reach the conclusion that it’ll be extremely difficult to find a load out, and I may end up increasing my deadhead miles if I take that load, which can negatively affect my profits even though the load seemed great at first.

Understanding the supply and demand within areas of the country can help you determine the best routes and the best loads to take, and give you the ability to look one step ahead and make more efficient decisions for your trucking business.

Master the DAT Load Board

The DAT Load Board is one of the most valuable resources for truckers out there, giving you virtually everything you need to optimize the process of finding and booking loads. I’ve been using it for nearly a decade, and it’s only gotten better at helping me maximize my rates.

Check out DAT’s load board packages to learn more. And for more insight on how to grow your rate, head over to The DAT Exchange, our new carrier resource hub.

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