Public & Free Load Boards: Are They Worth Brokers' & Shippers' Time?

Freight brokerages can access free load boards to recruit more carriers. Additionally, brokerages and shippers have a common problem—limited capacity. Limited capacity is the result of severe disruptions or massive market growth causing an imbalance between supply (capacity) and demand (brokers and shippers looking for capacity). The irony of the current situation comes from the fact that both of those possible causes (growth and disruptions) of tight capacity occurred in tandem since early 2020. At the same time, booking high-quality loads to make every trip more worthwhile and profitable is the top priority for carriers. And while free load boards might seem ideal, they can come with some risks. Regardless, load boards can save time and money for both freight brokers and shippers. Utilizing these tools can further help shippers gain shipper-of-choice status and provide a resource for capacity procurement among brokers. Let's dig into the real pros versus cons of public or free load boards and whether they’re worth the time.  

Pro: Free Load Boards Are a Resource for More Connections

Finding carrier connections and reliable capacity in the modern supply chain is difficult for shippers. The purpose of free load boards is to lead shippers to potential carriers and brokers that may have available capacity. For carriers, free load boards provide an unpaid way to secure profitable shipping loads, not just a number of loads. Remember that shippers need carriers that can provide the best service, on time, in full, and without damage. It’s not necessarily the lowest cost per shipment either; it’s all about the unique needs of each shipment. Meanwhile, brokers need a reliable and collaborative space to work with carriers and shippers for short- and long-term shipping contacts. It’s for these reasons that utilizing load boards effectively helps everyone by creating a new way to network with other potential business relationships. 

Pro: Free Load Boards Provide a Testing Ground for Your Business Model

Another great benefit of low-cost or free load boards is the freedom they offer to use the platforms to test business models before committing to other services. As a free service, there is little risk involved in using the resource for a trial period. This means managers and business owners can see what does and doesn’t work before making huge investments into integration and onboarding. When used as a testing center of sorts for a brokerage or for finding capacity, free resources offer a way to improve truckload service and price in one stroke. However, there are a few limits that come with free resources when it comes to a shipper and brokerage view. Since early indicators of easing capacity are barely visible today, given experts’ predicting that capacity will not begin to wane until late fall 2021 or even early 2022, says Supply Chain Dive, a free resource is still a resource that should be considered as a tool in the toolbox.

Cons: Brokers and Shippers Need to Recognize a Few Issues

Although there are many free load boards for transportation service providers to access, they sometimes do not provide worthwhile or impactful benefits to shippers and brokers. From optimizing the trucking network to locating carriers, brokers and shippers need to acknowledge a few critical issues with free load boards. Remember that the value of the load board ultimately comes down to connections and numbers. Without a large enough network, the load board is just another random posting of information that may not add value. In addition, free resources may increase risk through the following issues:

  • Might contain stale data. Data gathered from these boards might not happen in real-time. Be wary of the potential lack of updates, outdated rates and availability numbers. 
  • Might have some security risks. The cheap solution might work, but it could come with potential cybersecurity vulnerabilities.
  • Might rely on outdated technology. Technology makes life easier for the logistics industry, but free resources could lack the most recent technology, again resulting in stale information.
  • Might be a limited-time-only as a free offering. Nothing is truly free, and that is true of some load boards as well, especially when a paid, higher-tiered version is offered by the same software vendor.

Choose Between Free and Paid While Considering Freight Aggregators Too

As technology expands and experts learn how digital tools improve the transportation procurement process, it is up to the individual broker and shippers to improve their procurement process. Using available resources, such as free load boards, is critical for continued growth and survival. This is especially true in the beginning stages of growing a business and can help save time and money, but they also have their caveats. All parties need to stay up to date on current market research and stay vigilant for all possible resources. That includes taking advantage of the connections present within a freight capacity and load aggregator like newtrul. Request a newtrul demo to find out how our solution works better today.

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