May 2012 | Commentary | Viewpoint

Load Boards Evolve Into Social Networking Tools

Tags: Logistics I.T., Trucking

Charles Myers is General Manager, Freight, uShip.com, 804-894-2499

When you look at an Internet-based load board, it's hard to believe how far the freight and logistics sector has come. It wasn't long ago that carriers all over the country found much-needed backhauls by posting handwritten notes on truckstop bulletin boards, and brokers used those same boards to locate trucks.

But technology—particularly the Internet—has boomed. An array of products and services helps shippers, brokers, and truckers arrange transportation and reduce the number of empty miles driven, which benefits all parties. Load boards list available freight, and truckers search for the loads that best fit their desired destination, equipment compatibility, and price.

Here are three ways today's online load boards are evolving to create even greater levels of efficiency.

1. Going social. Load boards are incorporating social networking to help shippers and brokers manage shipments and carrier capacity more efficiently in a closed, trusted network. The new breed of load service combines the familiar process of social sites with leading freight technology products to create online freight marketplaces with more useful, necessary, and pragmatic features.

Similar to social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook, load board sites allow shippers and brokers to invite preferred business contacts into their personal network. Shippers can add loads lists, auto-tender shipments, transfer documents, track shipments, pay carriers, and monitor carrier compliance and performance—all on an efficient and secure platform.

The marketplace can be public (available to all qualified participants) or private (available only to invited participants). And it can be used to manage all transportation spend—not just the spot-market portion—with real-time analytics to provide insight into pricing and load dynamics.

2. Built on trust. These new services are available through a single access point, and are designed to integrate with an existing transportation management system or function as a standalone platform. They allow shippers to build a private network by inviting trusted trading partners. Within the private network, they can push loads to targeted groups or make them available to the entire carrier population.

Trusted trading partners can "self-dispatch" loads at an offer price, or bid on select loads in an auction-based format. Shippers approve the final carrier selection, then track the load in the system from dispatch through delivery. If they fail to cover a load within the private network, the load can be sent to the public network to attract capacity from new sources.

3. More mobile. Online tracking using GPS systems or smartphone technology, automated driver check-in calls, and the latest apps continue to make load board functionality more accessible, further assisting in managing the public and private marketplaces. It is becoming necessary for all supply chain parties to adopt mobile technology.

Social networking and good old-fashioned trust continue to transform the way we think. When coupled with technology, they transform how we do business. From bulletin boards in truckstops to handheld computers, trucking is evolving. Social interaction and discovery are becoming a way of life, and embracing it will help shippers better utilize resources and take their business to the next level.