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Most professional drivers are paid for every mile they drive while loaded, so it is crucial that drivers find loads to pick up that are close to their current location. Getting loads picked up efficiently means that the driver doesn't have to wait around and not be paid for their time.
Types of Drivers
The two main types of professional drivers are company drivers and owner-operators. Company drivers contact their company's dispatch to get their loads. Some trucks are dispatched through a computer system in the truck, while other drivers get information about the loads they need to deliver by phone or fax machine.
Each driver is responsible for getting all of the information they need, such as the name of the shipper, the address of the pickup and drop-off locations and the weight of the load they will be hauling. If the truck has a flatbed trailer, the driver needs to know if the load needs to be tarped. Each driver needs a bill of lading number to track each load so that they don't pick up a load that was meant for a different driver.
Professional drivers who own their trucks are responsible for booking their own loads. This can be a good thing because the driver has ultimate control over the loads he takes and doesn't have to take any load that he doesn't want to take. The problem is that the driver is not only responsible for driving the truck, he is also in charge of booking every load the truck hauls.
Leasing with a Company
One of the simple options for an owner-operator that needs to book loads is to lease on with a company that provides the loads for them. Their loads are booked through the company's dispatch, just like the company driver's loads. Many companies provide the trailers that their loads are hauled on, even for the trucks that are leased to their company. The company pays the owner-operator a certain rate per mile and sometimes pays a fuel surcharge in addition to their mileage. The owner-operator is responsible for their own taxes, insurance, fuel and other business expenses.
Booking Loads Directly
Professional drivers can often make more money if they find their own customers to carry loads for, but this is difficult to do. Drivers can advertise their services in the newspapers and on the internet to gain new customers, but most large companies have a hard time trusting an independent truck driver to carry their loads. They are likely to contract with a large carrier that has the ability to run as many loads as they need, all over the country. Drivers who can get regular direct customers typically make more money than those who work with a broker or lease to a company because the company or broker doesn't take a cut from the money for the load.
Working with a Broker
Many owner-operators work with load brokers to find loads for their trucks. They call the broker and tell them where their truck is and what kind of trailer they have. The broker gives the driver information about the loads they have available that pick up close to their current location. Owner-operators are not paid for their mileage when they are empty, so it is important to find a load that is picking up as close to their location as possible. The broker tells the driver the rate they will be paid for hauling the load as well as the load's destination.
Online Load Boards
Using online load boards is very similar to working with a broker, except that the driver usually pays a monthly fee to use the site, even if they don't get any loads from it. The loads are listed according to type of trailer and starting point. The driver clicks on a load for more information and there is usually a phone number listed so the driver can contact the company about each load.
Some professional drivers lease on with a company so that they don't have to worry about finding their own loads. Other drivers use a combination of online load boards, working with a broker and booking their loads directly. Each owner-operator needs to analyze their expenses and decide if the amount each load pays is enough for them to make a profit.