Which Load Board / DFM Marketplace Should I Use?
In this post, we explore DFM Marketplaces as an important tool in every digital freight brokerage’s operations. This post is part of a series of posts that aims to shed light on the many new and innovative freight tech solutions that empower freight brokers to transform digitally.
This post was written in collaboration with Nick Dangles @ Kinetic. Kinetic is committed to helping freight tech companies stand out by educating transportation providers on their freight tech options
Digital Freight Matching Marketplace (DFM Marketplace) is a newly coined term that can be used to describe traditional load boards. Historically used to “post” and manually connect trucking companies and freight brokerages, DFM marketplaces are designed to act as a digital bridge between trucking companies and loads. These marketplaces enable freight brokerages to find new carriers, share freight opportunities, and discover capacity options.
What Makes DFM Marketplaces Useful?
Generally, loads are first offered and accepted within a freight brokerage’s carrier network. This is due to the fact that in-network carriers are less of a wild card: they have a proven track record of success, and their pricing is often within an acceptable range.
However, if a last-minute load is tendered and your core relationship carriers are busy, or your team aims to grow your operations beyond its current capacity, new carriers are needed.
Offering a way to discover new carriers (and turn one-off carriers into core repeat carriers), DFM Marketplaces are designed for both 3PLs and freight brokerages. They allow carriers to post available capacity, shippers to share freight opportunities, and brokerages to connect the dots between the two.
These platforms are important components to digital-first brokers AND brokerages undergoing a digital transformation, as digital freight natives like Uber Freight and Convoy are already deploying a dual capacity management strategy that taps into both in-network carriers and marketplace carriers, when the time is right.
Benefits of DFM Marketplaces
Transforming and automating a previously manual process has a lot of unique benefits for each party involved in freight movement. Here are just a few.
Brokers: Find Carriers & Post Loads
Brokers can post load opportunities on load boards to be discovered by the carriers living on each platform. As basic carrier qualifications are built into these platforms, a more targeted set of carriers will discover your freight, and your in-network carriers can be given the opportunity to immediately book the freight.
Carriers: Self-Serve Loads & Post Trucks
The back and forth of load booking can make the carrier experience frustrating for owner-operators and dispatchers. DFM Marketplaces streamline the process by allowing carriers to post their availability and book the freight with brokers they trust, on their own.
Digital Bidding & Booking
There’s been a recent shift in the way carriers do business. Now, digital bidding, booking, and load sharing are mostly online. To keep up, many freight brokers are turning to Capacity Management platforms that connect with DFM platforms to handle both sides of the relationship -- including managing private network access and bidding.
Who Are the Major DFM / Load Board Players?
There are quite a few DFM Marketplace options out there for freight brokerages to use. Let’s look at the vertical leaders.
As one of the most well-known players in DFM, DAT received over half a million searches and a quarter million loads last year alone. The platform is home to over 1.3 million carriers, and it comes equipped with many extra features like market mapping, pricing suggestions for complex routes, payment protection, and DAT RateView.
Truckstop offers tools carriers need to book loads. You can post loads to qualified groups. And carriers can book on their own, plan multi-step trips, and map routes based on fuel opportunities and mileage.
Designed to help carriers find the best loads for their lane preferences, equipment, and pricing, KeepTruckin’ matches them with relevant freight opportunities, automatically. Once the carrier has selected a load, they can bid, book, or contact you directly for more information. You can even track trucks while in transit to keep a pulse on the freight status.
With thousands of qualified carriers regularly booking loads and 150,000 loads moved daily, 123Loadboard is a great option for brokerages of all sizes. Carriers can search and post loads for free. And 123LoadBoard carriers can pre-plan and pre-book loads to maximize their ROI. 123Loadboard even provides drivers with fuel advance payments and fuel cards to alleviate the front-load cost for carriers.
As with the others on this list, Truckerpath has every core feature carriers need to plan, negotiate, and book loads. However, Truckerpath also offers a few unique features to build trust between you and its carriers. When searching for freight, Truckerpath carriers can review your “credit score” to make sure brokers pay on time and in full. And truckers can set their mobile app to receive push notifications, so they never miss an opportunity.
Unlike the other DFM Marketplaces we’ve highlighted, Newtrul is strictly designed to be a private platform where you and your existing carriers can negotiate and book freight. Within the dashboard, carriers can select loads based on location, send counter-offers, book directly, and even determine their payment timing.
As a cutting-edge DFM Marketplace, TruckerTools enables real-time booking features to help its carriers get back on the road faster. This, when coupled with the carriers brought in from its track & trace customer base, make TruckerTools a notable next generation marketplace.
How to Pick the Right DFM Marketplace
Since your needs (and your shippers’ needs) are unique, you need to select the DFM Marketplace that works best for you. To do that, you need to consider the following factors:
Pricing for carriers may dictate different types of users. More expensive load boards are likely to cater to more premium carriers, whereas free load boards will widen the option pool to more experience levels and bid ranges. Knowing what type of carrier you need and posting your loads to the right channels will ensure they’re picked up by qualified drivers every time.
Every marketplace touts a large carrier audience, but how do you assess this? And more importantly, how do you know the carriers will see your loads at the right time?
The answer is pretty simple. The more valuable the tool is to your carriers (i.e. the more value-added features are included), the more likely they are to use it regularly. For example, KeepTruckin’ provides ELD monitoring and a fleet management platform in addition to their DFM features, so that carriers can manage all of their administrative tasks from the same place. Meanwhile, Truckerpath and TruckerTools offer mobile apps to help drivers find fuel-stops and parking. And DAT provides aggregated freight ratings to help users understand what’s going on, at all times.
Regardless, if you want to find a DFM Marketplace with a large and active audience, you need to identify the marketplaces with the right capacity for your business. Furthermore, you need tools and analytics to help you identify whether or not these DFM Marketplaces are truly bringing capacity for you and your team.
There are many different load boards out there, with seemingly more new market entrants being built off unique carrier-facing experiences (e.g. ELD, carrier TMS, carrier tools). And this is incredibly exciting as each offers a value-additive experience that helps brokers and carriers streamline their administrative processes. However, DFM Marketplaces are no longer a nice-to-have tool. To find and turn new carriers into repeat carriers, your capacity management strategy must connect to these platforms in some way.
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