For individual truckers and small fleet managers, success often depends on securing the ideal loads to maximize revenue and keep trucks on the roads as much as possible — while minimizing unloaded transit time.
This is where load boards come in. Load boards help carriers, brokers, and truckers browse available loads, compare rates, and connect directly with freight brokers and shippers.
Load boards are simple enough, but there are dozens of them — and some are better than others.
This guide will cover the best load boards for truckers, covering both free and paid options. It will also explain everything else you need to know about using load boards to maximize profits and improve the efficiency of your small business.
How Does a Load Board Work?
First and foremost, what is a load board exactly — and how do they work?
A load board is an online platform that matches truckers with loads of freight that need to be moved.
Brokers and shippers can post available loads on these platforms, while truckers can search for loads well suited to their preferred routes and capabilities. Some load board companies also allow truckers to post their availability and truck details (capacity, refrigeration, etc.), potentially opening up the door for brokers to contact them directly.
You can think of a load board like a digital “middleman” between you and the companies who need goods moved — or even like a dating app that allows you to “match” with brokers that are a good fit for your truck, routing, and availability.
Load boards vary in functionality. Some allow you to bid your rate instantly on routes. Others have clearly posted route or lane pricing (that is added by the broker). Others simply connect carriers to brokers, and require rate negotiations to be handled separately.
Load boards help manage the complexity of the transport industry, and serve as centralized marketplaces to match drivers to loads. In the United States, more than 72% of goods are moved by trucks, and more than 3.5 million people are employed as truck drivers. The logistics behind such a massive industry are complex, and load boards are an important component.
How Much Does a Load Board Cost?
Most load boards require paid memberships to access. Costs can range from $20 to $400+ per month, depending on the specific board and the desired features.
Load boards are usually cheaper for carriers, and more expensive for brokers. For instance, a load board might charge truckers $45 per month, and brokers/shippers $200 per month.
There are usually different tiers, as well. For instance, DAT Load Board, one of my top picks, starts at $45 per month for truckers, but has plans with different features at $85 per month, $135/month, $180/month, and $295/month.
What Are the Benefits of a Load Board for Truckers?
Using a freight load board can benefit truckers in a variety of ways. Load board benefits include:
- Provides a centralized place to find freight loads
- Helps truckers match routing preferences and truck capabilities to compatible loads
- Helps carriers find round-trip routes or pair multiple loads to minimize unpaid transit time
- Helps provide rate transparency and gives truckers better pricing data for routes
- Facilitates relationships and connections with freight brokers and shippers
For independent operators and small fleets, load boards are certainly worth the money — but you should definitely prioritize finding the best freight board for your situation.
What Are the Best Load Boards for Truckers?
There are many freight load boards online these days. I’ve narrowed it down to the top 10 load boards, based on a combination of available loads, monthly pricing, competitiveness, and features.
These are the best trucking load boards on the market today.
DAT: Best Overall Load Board
Pricing: From $45/month
The DAT Load Board is an efficient, cost-effective, and comprehensive load board for independent truckers and small fleets. It’s a high-volume board, with more than 448 million loads and trucks posted annually (that’s around 1.2 million posts per day, on average).
There’s all sorts of features on this board that truckers will appreciate. Some highlights include:
- Automated filters to help you find the loads that are most relevant to your truck and routing preferences.
- Company reviews allow truckers to review brokers and shippers, providing you with more insights into the companies you’re working with.
- Accurate route pricing estimates allow truckers to compare typical rates for various routes, helping you maximize your profits and avoid low-balled loads.
- Extensive selection of loads to help maximize your options and rates (DAT claims to have more loads than any other live load board, and I’ve found that to be accurate).
- Useful mobile app to help you manage loads and contact brokers on-the-go. The app also has many other useful features beyond just the load board. Search rates from your phone with ease.
DAT’s pricing is also reasonable. Packages for truckers range from $45 per month to $295 per month, depending on the features you want. Most smaller carriers will be fine with the base plan or the upgraded $85/month plan.
One of the best values lies in the DAT One Enhanced plan, which is $85 per month for carriers. This plan adds two key features to the base level plan: Average lane rates, which show average spot market rates for all the routes you search, and call to post/search, which allows you to call in from the road and search routes or post your availability without needing to look at a screen (or even have WiFi).
DAT Load Board is one of the biggest load boards on the market. While bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, I’ve found DAT’s product to be superior to many competitors. There are millions of loads on the platform at any given time, efficient searching and filtering features, and genuinely useful perks for truckers like the ability to call in when you’re on the road.
Truckstop: Best Reefer Freight Load Board
Pricing: From $39/month
Truckstop is a popular load board operator that’s reasonably priced and covers a wide variety of freight loads. It’s a particularly good choice for reefer freight, as it tends to have tens of thousands of reefer loads available at any given time — and allows for easy sorting by load type.
Some key features of Truckstop include:
- Unlimited load searching (even in basic plan) allows truckers to search, sort, and filter available loads without any restrictions. Even the basic, $39/month plan has unlimited searching (some competitors limit searches in the cheapest plans).
- Heatmap functionality that allows you to view available routes close to a given desired route, along with pricing. For instance, you can see all available routes starting within 100 miles of Chicago, and ending within 50 miles of Los Angeles.
- Built-in routing and fuel optimization to help you save money. Truckstop’s “Fuel Desk” function lets you map out routes for the most efficient path, and find the cheapest fuel en route.
- Broker credit checks to help you evaluate potential broker partners before committing to loads. This feature lets you see a broker’s review score, average days-to-pay, and even verify insurance/bonding details.
- Free access to Truckstop Go app to keep you connected while you’re on the road. The Truckstop Go app, available for iOS and Android, offers full functionality right on your mobile device.
At first glance, Truckstop looks like one of the most affordable load boards for truckers. The $39 base price is certainly attractive. However, many features are reserved for the higher tiers.
The Truckstop Pro plan is the best value. At $149/month, it’s more of an investment — but it has better load comparison tools, heat mapping, best-paying loads search, multi-trip, and real time load board updates to find the latest posted loads.
Truckstop Load Board is a good choice for reefer vans and refrigerated trucks — and really any trucker looking for the features that Truckstop offers. While the initial price point is attractive, keep in mind that some of Truckstop’s best features are only in its higher-tier plans.
DirectFreight: Best Free Load Board for Truckers
Pricing: From $0/month
DirectFreight is a load board that has an entirely free tier ($0/month). It’s not a free trial, either — the account is genuinely free, and will remain free forever. There’s also a paid tier at $34.95/month, which includes extra features like premium loads, days-to-pay details from brokers, profit reports, and freight rate averages.
The free tier has solid features, as well, including:
- Free load search allows for unlimited searching of loads and boards.
- Load alerts that help notify you whenever a load matching your criteria is added to the platform.
- Free truck posting allows you to post your own truck to open up the possibility of brokers contacting you directly.
- Basic broker credit scores allow you to evaluate potential business partners based on their past record (though full credit reports are reserved for the paid plan).
- Mileage calculations help give you an at-a-glance estimate of the profitability of a given route.
DirectFreight is relatively basic, but it’s obviously a great value given the free price point. The $35/month tier adds useful features — if you end up using DirectFreight, it’s likely worth paying for the subscription. That said, one great perk of a completely free platform is that it’s easy to use in combination with other load boards, without racking up subscription costs.
DirectFreight even lets you browse available loads without even signing up for a profile, so you can see if it’s worthwhile and compare it to other platforms without even giving out your email address.
DirectFreight is the best free load board for truckers because it has a free-for-life plan that’s actually genuinely useful. Only a handful of features are locked behind the premium subscription, and even that is only $35 per month (while many competitors cost $100+ per month for premium plans).
123Loadboard: Best Load Board for New Owner-Operators
Pricing: From $35/month
123Loadboard is a simple, easy-to-use load board platform. It’s a good option for those just getting started for two reasons: It’s affordable, at $35/month (and with a free 10-day trial), and it’s quite easy to use. It’s also a high-volume board, with more than 57 million loads posted annually.
Some highlights of 123Loadboard include:
- Real-time notifications to alert you to loads matching your desired preferences. These can be customized to your needs, and notifications can be sent via the mobile app or via email.
- Rate comparisons lets you compare the posted rate on an available load to average rates for that lane.
- Efficient routing and mileage calculation lets you plan out an appropriate route for the most efficient pathing — and also lets you avoid tolls.
- Quick Pay and fuel advances to get you cash fast. 123Loadboard uses a partner freight factoring company to provide cash advances within 15 minutes of loading your trailer.
- Fuel card helps you save money at the pump (up to $0.60/gal) while also providing access to fuel lines of credit.
The pricing structure of 123Loadboards is quite competitive. Plans range from $35 to $55 per month, and all come with a 10 day trial. You can also access limited functionality for free, via the mobile app. The more advanced plans also support multiple users (many competitors charge per-user).
123Loadboard is a relatively simple but powerful load board with millions of loads posted annually, an efficient mobile app, and competitive pricing. It’s a good option for those just getting started as independent owner-operators, as well as for small teams who can benefit from the cheap multi-user pricing.
TruckLoads by Trucker Path: Best Load Board with Advanced Navigation
Pricing: From $29.99 per month
TruckLoads is a simple load board that’s part of a suite of services offered by Trucker Path. You may have heard of Trucker Path before — they’re mostly known for navigation tech (more on this later). But TruckLoads is a pretty solid load board, with around 150,000+ loads posted daily.
TruckLoads (the load board) comes with Trucker Path membership, which starts at $29.99 per month and provides the following highlighted features:
- Web-based and mobile load board lets you search for and secure routes from just about any device.
- Advanced trip planning to help you save time and fuel. Trucker Path makes it easier to plan out routes with nearby truck stops, fuel stops with competitive prices, etc. There’s a lot of customization here — for instance, you can search for Loves stations specifically, or Walmarts.
- Crowdsourced truck parking data to help you find safe overnight parking. Trucker Path has the largest database of overnight truck parking locations, and it’s constantly being updated by Trucker Path users. You can even book paid spots directly from the app, at select locations.
- Truck-ready fueling locations to help you find truck-friendly gas stations with competitive pricing.
- Exclusive fuel discounts at select locations to help you save money. Look for gas stations with the Trucker Path logo when using the app.
There’s actually a free version of the TruckLoads load board, but it’s fairly limited. You can only access 5 load views daily, and the app is ad-supported on the free tier. The free version also doesn’t include many of Trucker Path’s best features, like the fuel discounts or parking data.
Trucker Path is a great service to use as it covers a lot of bases for those of us on the road frequently. The integrated TruckLoads load board is relatively basic, but it’s a worthy addition to your routine — particularly if you can make use of Trucker Path’s other features.
Convoy: Best Load Board for Power-Only Loads
Convoy is not so much a traditional load board as it is an entire freight network. It’s a service that blurs the lines between broker, shipper, and marketplace. Unlike most load boards on this list, when you secure loads with Convoy, you get paid by Convoy — right in the app. Convoy negotiates directly with shippers, and gives equal access to truckers across the nation.
There’s many unique things about Convoy, but one that particularly stands out is their selection of power-only loads. These loads allow truckers to bobtail to the pickup location and hook to a preloaded trailer, which is then dropped at the destination. This saves time and eliminates deadheading.
Some highlights of Convoy include:
- Digital freight network technology to help you find better loads and earn more for your time. Convoy utilizes machine learning and artificial intelligence to match loads to carriers, while increasing efficiency.
- Direct booking and payments right through the Convoy app, which eliminates the need to negotiate with shippers, send invoices, or hassle with paperwork.
- Same-day payments to get you paid faster. 2-day payments are free (no fee), while 8-hour payments are available for a small 1.5% fee.
- Free access to loads with tens of thousands of loads available. Convoy doesn’t charge carriers a monthly fee — their business model involves matching carriers to shippers, and their margins are already worked into the offered rates.
- Power-only loads to save you time and money. Many loads on the Convoy network are power-only, meaning they provide the (often preloaded) trailers for pickup, and you supply the tractor.
- Easy detention requests in-app to ensure you’re paid for your valuable time.
While Convoy isn’t a traditional load board, it’s worth mentioning on this list as it provides a valuable service for truckers.
Carrier is a unique service that helps everyday drivers gain access to some of the best shippers in the country. The power-only loads on offer are also quite unique, and can often increase a driver’s total weekly capacity by reducing detention time and other inefficiencies. Plus, Convoy is free to use.
NextLOAD: Best Load Board with Advanced Filter Sorting
NextLOAD is a free load board for truckers and brokers with an easy to use interface. One thing that sets it apart is its advanced search and filtering capabilities. For instance, it lets you plug in certain keywords to filter for, in addition to all the standard filters like weight, length, minimum rate, etc.
Some highlights of NextLOAD include:
- Free load board to reduce your monthly expenses (and allow you to use multiple load boards).
- Advanced search filters to make it easier to find the loads you’re looking for. Search by company name, keywords, FTL/TL, origin/destination and more.
- Optional Apex Capital features to expand on functionality. Apex Capital offers factoring services, a fuel discount card, credit checks on brokers, and more.
- Optional Apex Fuel Card to help save you money at the pump. In 2023, Apex Fuel Card users saved an average of $0.49/gal by using the Fuel Card.
The load board features of NextLOAD are relatively simple, but that also makes it easy to use. The only more advanced functionality is the advanced keyword search. But again, this load board is free to use, so it makes a great add-on to the use of other load boards.
NextLOAD is simple, cost-free, and easy to use. It might not be the best primary load board (due to a relatively small selection of loads), but it’s great to use in combination with other paid boards.
Amazon Relay: Best Load Board for Regional Freight
Amazon Relay is a freight network and load board developed by Amazon, the popular e-commerce retailer. It’s specifically for Amazon freight, so if you use the platform, you’ll be hauling exclusively Amazon-owned loads. It’s also primarily regional freight, so if you’re hoping to stay close to home, this might be a good option for you.
Some key features of Amazon Relay include:
- Access to Amazon Freight loads to give you access to one of the world’s highest-volume shippers (and Amazon doesn’t typically post loads on third-party freight boards).
- Short-term contracts provide consistent weekly or multi-week work for drivers and fleets, and allow you to lock in work ahead of time.
- Amazon Exclusive rewards, including discounts on tires, maintenance, and fuel to help you cut down operating costs.
- Efficient check-ins via the mobile app to cut down on wait time and keep you on the road.
- Advanced commercial navigation helps you avoid low bridges, winding roads and other potential hazards.
A key differentiator here is the ability to get consistent, short-term contracts to haul multiple loads. This allows independent owner-operators and small fleet managers to plan ahead multiple weeks at a time, rather than scrambling for loads at the last minute.
Keep in mind that Amazon has some hefty requirements for joining, including adequate commercial and auto liability coverage, a DOT number that’s been active for at least 180 days, a FMCSA Safety Rating of “Satisfactory,” “None,” or “Not Rated”, and several other requirements.
Amazon Relay is a great platform to join. It’s the main route to becoming eligible for Amazon freight, which is a massive amount of potential work. It’s also entirely free to join, so long as you meet the requirements.
Motive: Best “Smart” Load Board
Pricing: Free (paid add-on features available)
Motive is an artificial intelligence powered load board that helps match drivers to the ideal loads for their needs and preferences. “Smart Load Matching” gives you suggested loads automatically, so you don’t have to search manually (though you still can search if you want).
Some highlights of Motive include:
- Smart Load Matching helps you find the ideal loads using artificial intelligence (AI). You can also search manually if you prefer.
- Free load board helps you save money. Motive has many paid features for fleet managers and owner-operators, but the load board specifically is free to use.
- Top-tier loads from trusted names to help you secure high-quality work from trusted businesses. Motive has partnered with Convoy, Uber Freight, J.B. Hunt, Knight/Swift, Schneider and more.
- Comprehensive feature set for freight companies to expand far beyond just a simple load board. Motive has a full feature set covering ELD compliance, driver safety, fuel optimization, maintenance and more.
Motive’s load board takes a quality over quantity approach. There are many loads posted on the network, but it’s definitely not as wide of a selection as some of the bigger boards. The difference is that Motive only works with trusted brokers, most of which will be household names for truckers (think J.B. Hunt and Knight Logistics).
Motive is a great product for independent owner/operators and fleet managers alike. Whether you use the other features or not, you’ll likely appreciate Motive’s completely free-to-use load board. The Smart functionality can be genuinely useful, too, especially if you’re securing loads for multiple drivers.
TruckSmarter: Best Free Load Board with Integrated Factoring
Pricing: Free to use; factoring from 2%
TruckSmarter is a free-to-use load board that has over 100,000 loads added each day. The platform covers loads from more than 300 brokers, so there’s plenty of selection. It offers rate transparency, efficient searching, and built-in factoring with reasonable fees.
Some highlights of TruckSmarter include:
- Load board aggregation to help you find more loads in one place. TruckSmarter pulls available loads from multiple external load boards, and displays them all in the app.
- In-app bidding and booking to help cut down on back-and-forth communications. You can handle everything efficiently right in the app.
- Automated invoicing to cut down on paperwork. Just upload load details to the app, and TruckSmarter will generate an invoice for you.
- 2% factoring to get paid faster and more efficiently. The fee is only 2%, which is competitive. And with the TruckSmarter Visa Card, you can earn 1% cash back when you spend your hard-earned money.
TruckSmarter is a great choice if you’re looking for a factoring company with good terms that also has a load board. Even just using the load board by itself is worthwhile, given the selection it offers and the zero-cost model.
TruckSmarter is a simple to use, modern load board with an efficient mobile app and a solid feature set. It’s even more powerful when combined with the 2% factoring service they offer (though this is optional).
Frequently Asked Questions
Have questions about the best load boards for truckers? Here are answers to some of the most common questions that carriers have.
What Load Boards Pay the Most?
Each load board will post loads from a variety of brokers and shippers. It’s typically not the load board that sets rates, it’s the broker — although average rates may be worked into the pricing algorithm.
To find the best paying loads, it’s a good idea to use multiple load boards and check them frequently.
What Are the Best Load Boards to Use?
Some of the best load boards are DAT, TruckStop, and DirectFreight. Amazon Relay is also great for Amazon loads, and TruckSmarter is a great free option.
What Is the Best Load Board App for Trucking?
Most load boards now have apps. However, some of the best-rated mobile apps include TruckSmarter, 123Loadboard, Convoy, and TruckLoads.
What Is the Best BROKER Load Board?
For brokers, the best load boards may be ones that don’t charge brokers to post loads, like NextLOAD. Brokers may also appreciate boards with automated load posting, like 123Loadboard.
Are Load Boards Worth It?
Absolutely. Load boards allow you to find better-paying loads, and stitch together routes to minimize deadheading. Some are free, and even the paid ones tend to pay for themselves pretty quickly through increased earnings.
Load boards help carriers compare available routes, research fair spot rates, connect with brokers, and ultimately secure routes — all of which is vital to running a successful transport business.
They’re generally not free, however. And these days, keeping costs down is important — so it pays to find the best load board for truckers. The list above compares the top options on the market.
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