Best Load Boards for Owner Operators

By David Insley

Independent car haulers know that having access to a modern, bustling owner operator load board can make all the difference in the world. While the auto transport industry has a multitude of options to choose from, a few stand out.



Owner Operators carve out a unique space within the car hauling community as well as a vital one. Just as the small-business owner is the backbone of the American economy, owner operators are the essential cog in the wheel of auto transport: They work long hours, are constantly on the road and are almost always responsible for managing their business, including decisions on what technology to acquire in order to gain a competitive edge.

Sometimes that means selecting an ePOD driver delivery app to enhance the inspection process; sometimes that means purchasing TMS or CRM software to organize leads and optimize customer information. One thing is for certain: It all starts with going online and logging on to a quality car hauling load board to find vehicles to ship. That’s why it’s essential to take a moment and discover the best load boards for owner operators.

Load board 101

Before we get to the industry load board analysis, let’s review why load boards are so crucial to all constituents in auto transport shipping, but especially the constantly hustling and ever-determined owner operator.

Think of load boards as venues of opportunity, robust digital markets where supply and demand interface and interact. If you’re an owner operator, you want to see loads shipping at reasonable prices along preferred shipping routes. Sure, you want a bustling board but you also want a modern one.

If you’re new to the business and have yet to establish seasoned relationships with brokers and shippers, you absolutely have to begin here. Perhaps later on down the road, you’ll be fortunate enough to forge relationships with brokers and shippers that translate into regular hauls with trusted partners along preferred lanes. But that’s later. Right now, you need to get your truck full and hit the road—and that means access to an industry load board that matters.

Of course, even veteran car haulers need a viable digital marketplace (load board) to find cars that need shipping. If you’re a true independent owner operator and typically do not have ongoing contracts with dealerships, auctions, large auto brokers or OEMs, a load board is simply indispensable to your business model. Having access to the best load boards for owner operators, however, is the real special sauce that puts you in the driver’s seat.

An auto transport owner operator stands outside his full truck and trailer

Load board 2020 — where the industry stands today

Owner Operators, there are two words you need to know: Central Dispatch (CD).

Many wish it were different. Most wish it were better. All have used it at one time or another with varying degrees of satisfaction.

Trying to talk about auto transport load boards without mentioning CD is like having a conversation about soft drinks and failing to mention Coke. It’s simply a basic industry fact that you have to accept before you can go forward.

But that doesn’t mean you have to like it.

Today, CD clearly ranks as the industry behemoth, an auto transport load board where brokers and carriers (and owner operators) have been stopping by since 1999 to find loads, make deals and ship cars. If only it were that seamless and straightforward...

Is Central Dispatch still a load board leader?

Central Dispatch logo



The quick answer: In terms of loads, yes. With regard to everything else, not so much.

Because CD has been around since the dawn of the digital age, it has had the opportunity to sweep up market share in an era before disruptors and apps (i.e., before competition) arrived. Their technology—a mix between analog (phone calls and spreadsheets) and online activity (the load board itself and its integral search function)—provides just enough value to lure shippers, brokers, carriers and owner operators to their site and keep them there week after week, month after month, year after year.

Their success is self-perpetuating: Brokers post there because they know carriers and owner operators will be lurking, waiting for an opportunity to pounce on a load along the right route at the right price. Carriers and owner operators realize that brokers will always post loads on CD due to the intense competition to transport them. And as the laws of supply and demand will dictate, the more that carriers compete for loads, the more easily brokers can lower the price and still move the load quickly. It’s a business logic that’s hard to assail from the broker perspective even as it outrages carriers and owner operators. Standing behind all this is the near universal acknowledgement that the technology itself is less than stellar.

And by 'less than stellar' we mean antiquated, slow, frustrating and incapable of delivering seamless digital success. For example:

  • CD doesn’t allow you to close deals online.
  • CD guarantees you will be on the phone, yammering away with brokers in an attempt to negotiate prices.
  • CD doesn’t police their site properly so double postings and ‘phantom postings’ are routine, thus throwing a wrench into the important process of vetting loads before you select them.
  • CD wastes your valuable time.
  • CD doesn’t find you loads for your backhaul.
  • CD’s 'ratings' are based on little more than feelings—nothing empirical.

Finally, for the privilege of experiencing industry-leading friction and frustration (and to be honest, a very busy load board), Central Dispatch will kindly bill you anywhere between $89 - $115/month for use of their load board. Apparently, loads don’t come cheap.

You tell us--deal or no deal?

What are you really looking for in a load board?

OK, so as an owner operator looking for the best car hauling load board what is your definition of one? A load board with bustling activity? One that includes ratings? One with trusted brokers and shippers? One that’s purely digital? One that will save you crucial time?

We’re betting all the above are on your list...but does such a load board truly exist in 2020?

Best load boards for owner operators that aren’t CD

Currently, a vast array of logistics and technology companies offer load boards that serve the auto transport industry. Some would say too many. Most providers realize that they cannot compete with a dominating force like Central Dispatch on a level of paid subscription, so they have decided to offer free load boards for owner operators and monetize elsewhere.

Car haulers—you have options when it comes to owner operator load boards. Increasingly, both enterprising disruptors and blue chip logistics firms are racing to fill the “free load board” category with their own digital marketplaces, and pleading to carriers and owner operators to give them a spin. Let’s take a look at some of the top offerings.

Ship.Cars logo
  • Ship.Cars — Sure, it’s the house brand but it’s the #1 load board that’s not CD for a reason: loads, ease of use, value-enhancing negotiation tools and more:
    • Connect with brokers without making a call
    • Book instantly, manage loads effortlessly
    • Negotiate prices without leaving your desktop
    • Use smart filters to find preferred loads & routes
    • Explore exclusive load board listings
    • Close deals with a few simple keystrokes
    • Responsive design enables owner operators to find loads from their phone on the go

Ship.Cars Market Load Board is part of a true end-to-end platform that serves all parties within the auto transport industry, ensuring that once loads are selected they move quickly (and digitally) from pick-up to delivery to inspection to payment.

That’s where Ship.Cars really delivers.

Map view of Ship.Cars Load Board 2.0

With an elegant user interface, nifty features like saved searches and built-in negotiation tools that help orchestrate increased carrier pay, owner operators can seize not only the car hauling day, but a seamless, frictionless experience that gets them on the road and earning. And that’s only the beginning. In mid-January 2020, Ship.Cars will release Market Load Board 2.0  complete with a mobile-first design, enhanced map view, advanced filters and a host of other highly anticipated premium features.

The others:

  • Haully (via United Road) — We mentioned these guys previously during our larger loadboard roundup a few weeks back, but they’re here again because they frankly deliver—especially in terms of third-party carriers. Haully is a mobile native load board app that helps owner operators more easily find backhaul loads, build loads via built-in logistics tools and switch payment preferences seamlessly. With a solid reputation as a major player in auto logistics, United possesses major industry influence. Haully is their attempt to build a carrier and owner operator following for their load board and import them into their bustling ecosystem. Early reports suggest success, but only time will tell if their free load board will generate long-term interest with owner operators.

  • Super Dispatch — Not many tech companies in the auto transport companies have better relationships with carriers than SD. With a mission to deliver cars not paperwork, they provide their load board to the industry free of charge and allow 24/7 access, bidding, load requests and load suggestions. The Super Dispatch load board—called Super Load Board— promises to connect all constituents in the industry---including that happy warrior, the owner operator. We’ll see; it’s early. Released in the second half of 2019, the industry is still weighing in on its effectiveness and waiting for load volume to increase.

  • 1Dispatch - Ready Auto Transport (RAT) — Ready boasts a top-tier industry load board with thousands of loads and access to online tools to close deals. Like the others on this list, their 1Dispatch load board is free. If you’re looking for short distance work inbound to auctions, certainly check out 1Dispatch--they have a reputation for specializing in such moves. Popular with carriers, 1Dispatch also attracts owner operators, who are generally happy to comply with the higher standards demanded in order to receive the possibility of superior pay. By fully vetting drivers Ready ensures that an emphasis is put on quality, which over time can lead to enhanced relationships with brokers and dealers--something owner operators are always on the lookout for.
Driver_stepping to truck

Lessons learned, lessons lived

There’s a reason you’re an independent car hauler—you want control of your life, you hunger for freedom and you’re willing to put in the extra time to ensure that you’re in charge of your hauls.

Maybe you used to haul for a large carrier fleet. Money was solid. Work was steady. But you had to go where the company sent you and that took you away from home and family. Now things are different. You call the shots. And you want a load board that reflects that—not a dumping ground for low-quality, obsolete loads by fly-by-night brokers playing games with their competitors. Especially when you’re dealing with inevitable truck-related breakdowns, flat tires, insurance costs, DOT fees and skyrocketing fuel prices. No, you want legit loads at rates that honor the hard work that you put into your job every day.

So check out the various load boards. Nothing is stopping you from opening up a few tabs on your computer and following the best deals as they emerge. Find distances, rates and routes that work for you and your truck. Then pounce when the right load appears and get those wheels turnin’.

Good luck on the boards—and happy shipping!

Tags: Carriers, Owner operators, Load Board, Truckers, Drivers

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