Finding Loads: How to Find and Negotiate With Shippers for Direct Customer Freight 

How to Find and Negotiate With Shippers for Direct Customer Freight 

No matter the size of your fleet, if you want to make good money, you need Direct Customers.  

But how?  

As an owner operator or a small fleet owner, you wear many hats from driving truck, accounting, maintenance, business manager, safety director, human resources, and so much more.  

But the hardest skill to learn is being a salesperson.  

Why is this so hard? Well, many truckers are just not wired to negotiate, swindle, hear “no” and bounce back, shake hands, smile, and grind.  

However, to build your contract freight from shippers directly, this grind is key.  

So, where should you begin?  

Why you need a professional website 

First, look professional.  

This means stop using a gmail or yahoo email address.  

To do this, build a professional website and push your brand that provides “shipper solutions” for the type of freight or commodities you like to haul.  

For example, if you haul regional flatbed loads, your website should use phrases, such as:  

  • When you need to haul construction materials or equipment to a project site, we get it there safely and on time.  
  • It is critical that you find a carrier to transport your freight correctly. 
  • Finding a reliable flatbed carrier is essential to successfully completing your shipments. 

At CNS, our marketing team can get you set-up with a unique website with custom photos, create your professional email addresses, help create an exciting company logo, and present your company professionally online.  

[Related: New Trucking Companies Can Pay-Per-Mile For Insurance]

Create a “carrier packet” to give to shippers 

The next step to help you stand out from the crowd is to create a compelling “carrier packet” so the customer knows details about your business, your insurance information, what lanes or regions you can legally haul their product in, and what types of equipment you use.  

The goal is simple: after looking over the packet, all the shippers need to do is plug your information in to become a qualified carrier. 

Information to include are: 

  • Introduction of your company 
  • Commodities you haul 
  • Lanes or regions you haul 
  • Contact information 
  • DOT Number 
  • Standard Carrier Alpha Code (or SCAC code) 
  • Insurance information 
  • NAIC policy 
  • Reference contact information from other trusted customers or brokers 
  • Copy of your certificate of liability insurance stating what your policy has and insured limits 
  • W-9 form with your Employer ID  
  • Copy of your MC Number from the FMCSA 
  • Copy of your SCAC code renewal 

Take this a step further by offering shippers complete visibility on their loads. This could be giving them login information to see where their freight is on your telematic device or other GPS tracking system.  

Find shippers to work with directly 

Now that you have a professional website and a complete carrier packet, it is time to introduce yourself to shippers in your local or regional area that you live or like to haul in.  

This process is simple, but the grind is real.  

You can start identifying shippers you want to work with by Googling small or big towns and look for manufacturers, industrial complexes, or warehouses that manage the commodities you like to haul.  

Your goal is to introduce yourself with shipping or logistics managers.  

If you are looking for reefer loads, consider looking for shippers in the large produce markets. You can apply this strategy to any industry: go wherever your customers go and meet them. 

This is a sales call, so you need to hone your skills on getting passed the secretary or gatekeeper. This skill just takes time to practice, so don’t get frustrated and remember the skills you learned in the Dale Carnegie book we mentioned earlier.  

Remember, rejection comes with this process. Maybe for every 10-15 carrier packets you may only get one direct customer to start your relationship with. Don’t give up and follow-up a week later to keep your company in their minds. 

As you call, email, or visit these carriers, make sure you wear your brand, look professional, and meet face-to-face in person or with a Zoom call.  

But wait, there’s more!  

Join industry events and associations 

Use your sales skills and join an Industry Association where you can meet business leaders and shake hands with other competitors. Having connections in the industry to refer to, and be referred by, can be an excellent source of gaining loads and keeping shipper relationships intact. 

Lastly, find events shippers will attend. Shippers often do not attend MATS or GATS trucking shows, but there are many shipping, logistics, construction, produce, warehousing and other industry events that they do attend.  

Don’t forget those carrier packets and don’t skimp on the education talks. By investing the time to understanding the details of the industry you haul in, you can gauge future rate fluctuations in different regions of the country.  

This effort is time-consuming and often difficult but is worth the time. 

With these tools, skills, and effort, you will build new relationships, earn good customer freight, stop relying on load boards or brokers that take a cut from your hard work, and keep the cashflow flowing.  

[See Part 1 in our Finding Loads series: Three Types of Freight and Why It Matters]

[See Part 2 in our Finding Loads series: How To Use Brokers, Load boards, and Government Contracts]

Starting your own trucking company?  

If you’ve got the vision to start a trucking company, now is the time to make that vision reality. 

With CNS by your side, our startup roadmap will help you prevent the many headaches new trucking companies face when getting off the ground to year three of your business.  

One secret in the insurance industry is thatcarriers who prove their low-risk safety history will get much lower preferred rates as they go into their third year of business

Get started with your New Venture Quick Quote >>> CNSINSURES.COM/NEW-VENTURE-QUICK-QUOTE

If you’re just getting started we can help obtain all the relative information you need to be compliant and legal. If you are an established company, we can help add new or delete vehicles from your account, track and renew your vehicle registrations, title management, and more. 

For more information, contact us at 888.260.9448 or

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