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emerging technology

How smart load boards and digital freight matching tools are revolutionizing the logistics space

Chris Powers
March 19th, 2021
8 MINUTE READ

A significant chunk of all freight shipped in the US moves on a truck. It’s a competitive and crowded industry, spanning small, independent trucking companies and larger, nationwide firms. Matching carriers to loads that need to be moved has long been a headache for trucking companies, brokers, and shipping companies alike. But these days, digital transformation in the logistics space is helping to streamline processes associated with freight matching. From load boards to AI-enabled platforms, technological innovation is leading to more efficient outcomes for companies that span the entire logistics industry.

What is a load board?

A load board—also referred to as a freight board—is an online marketplace where truck owner-operators, shippers, and brokers connect to move freight. Serving as web-based matching platforms, load boards enable shippers, carriers, and brokers to link up to enter into agreements to get freight moving. Load boards are used by companies with freight that needs to be shipped, truckers that need work, and brokers that strive to connect both parties.

In the shipping industry, time is money. Shippers need to get their loads on the road as fast as possible, and trucking companies can’t afford to have their drivers sitting idle. That’s where load boards come in. Contemporary, consumer-facing marketplaces like Airbnb and Instacart help connect vacation homeowners and grocery shoppers with tourists and hungry families respectively. The same basic principle applies to load boards. They help shippers, truckers, and brokers establish a connection, engage in a partnership, and get freight moving in a timely fashion.

Because they are web-based, load boards are accessible 24/7 from anywhere in the world with a decent internet connection—making them ideal for truckers who spend most of their time on the road. Load boards also help trucking companies plan more efficient routes and can prevent “deadheading,” or the situation that occurs when a trucker drops off one load but doesn’t pick up another one for a return trip. Not only is this inefficient—that’s a lot of wasted fuel and significant wear-and-tear on an empty truck—but it can also be extremely dangerous. Trucks with an empty load are two-and-a-half times more likely to crash than trucks carrying freight.

Most load boards are free or carry inexpensive monthly fees. This means the barriers to entry are relatively low, making it possible for upstart trucking companies who lack substantial contacts in the business to compete with more established carriers. The more drivers that access the board, the more competition there is for shipping services. This drives down costs for shippers and brokers, and allows them to be more flexible in their pricing strategy, ensuring they maximize profit for every contracted load.

Load boards, however, are not a new technology—and it shows. Numerous companies are still using incredibly outdated load board software, with some instances dating back to the early 2000s and installed using CD-ROMs. These legacy load board solutions have clunky user interfaces (UIs) and lack communication tools, meaning brokers and shippers still have to work the phones daily to connect with truckers—many of whom understandably don’t like to talk on the phone while driving. Old-school load board solutions do not provide real-time visibility into where drivers are located, and are unable to integrate with other systems. All this means that while load boards can be effective at getting freight on the road, they have many inefficiencies that hinder the ability for companies to be truly agile. That’s where smart load boards and freight matching tools can make an impact.

What makes a load board “smart”?

The term “smart” has become something of a tech marketing buzzword these days. But in general, it connotes the idea that technology is harnessing the power of data to automate manual tasks and drive efficiencies. That is certainly the case with smart load boards.

Smart load board and freight matching solutions are armed with cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and predictive analytics. Using these tools, digital freight matching solutions seek to connect carriers, shippers, and brokers easily and quickly, and get freight on the road where it belongs. Smart load board and freight matching software is helping everyone from small, independent trucking companies to massive third party logistics (3PL) providers drive efficiencies, cut back on down-time, automate manual tasks, and move freight as fast as possible.

The best smart load boards and freight matching technologies

Digital transformation in the logistics space is driving some key innovations, perhaps most notably in the freight matching space. Wielding powerful AI, ML, and analytics tools, smart load board and freight matching solutions are helping to connect shippers, carriers, and brokers more efficiently. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular smart load board and freight matching solutions.

Parade

Parade bills itself as, “the first digital freight booking platform on the market.” Its suite of AI-powered tools helps brokers and carriers develop stronger, more mutually beneficial relationships. The platform uses AI and ML to analyze historical load and capacity data for brokers and carriers alike. Using this analysis, Parade generates appropriate matches that ensure the right loads connect with the right carriers.

Using Parade’s intelligent Smart Rules technology, brokers can limit the visibility and booking of certain loads on load boards to predefined groups of carriers. Additionally, Parade uses natural language processing functionality to comb through and mine emails and other files for capacity information directly from carriers. Using this information, Parade’s AI can send targeted freight opportunities directly to carriers, forging strong partnerships.

FreightFriend

FreightFriend is a cloud-based freight matching software and carrier relationship management (CRM) platform. FreightFriend’s strengths lie in its Capacity Guru routing engine. Using blended algorithms that incorporate public, private, and shared data, Capacity Guru gives brokers and logistics companies unparalleled visibility into available carriers. It also updates and ranks carriers for any shipment or shipping lane. This helps brokers and logistics companies quickly identify and engage with the right carrier to deliver freight, saving precious time and money. 

For carriers, FreightFriend offers a key feature that makes it more valuable than a standard public load board. It allows carriers to add certain shippers and brokers as “friends,” and control who has visibility into their capacity. This bolsters carriers’ ability to negotiate and helps them form long-lasting relationships with like-minded shippers and brokers.

Cargofy

Cargofy strives to deliver a holistic, all-in-one solution for freight matching. Offering more than just speedy, automated load matching based on location and equipment, Cargofy’s suite of tools is geared towards helping trucking companies, fleet managers, and more cut down on time-consuming tasks to ultimately save money. The software includes powerful route planning and shipment tracking tools, as well as timely proof-of-delivery, billing, and payment processes. 

Most notably, Cargofy offers an intelligent, AI-powered virtual assistant that can help truckers locate nearby loads, plot routes, draw up documentation, and even save on fuel. Drawing on data such as price dynamics, supply and demand, and road conditions, Cargofy’s algorithm can effectively serve as an AI broker, connecting truckers with freight instantly with no human involvement.

Loadsmart

One of the most popular digital freight management providers, Loadsmart is at the forefront of innovation in the freight matching space. Its innovative Smart March tool integrates directly with carrier fleet management platforms using APIs. Then, it uses ML functionality to effectively match available trucks with freight that needs to be moved. Perfect for enterprise-grade carriers, Loadsmart connects truck capacity with shipper needs, cutting down on manual tasks and providing for the timely movement of freight.

KeepTruckin Smart Load Board

This offering closely resembles a traditional load board, but incorporates some key features that make it a powerful tool for independent trucking companies. KeepTruckin is primarily known as a fleet management software provider, but it partnered with eight of the largest US freight brokers—including Uber Freight, Convoy, and Echo Global Logistics—to deliver Smart Load Board, its intelligent freight matching solution.

Smart Load Board aggregates loads from these brokers, and then uses sophisticated algorithms that incorporate electronic logging device (ELD) data to match them to relevant carriers. The ELD data provides valuable insights and context, helping Smart Load Board to provide more accurate and impactful load recommendations for carriers.

Optimizing your business with freight matching tools

The logistics industry is extremely dynamic. An industry in motion needs on-the-go technology that can be accessed whenever, wherever. Smart load boards and digital freight matching tools can serve as a key component of your organization’s tech stack, helping to drive efficiencies and improve customer satisfaction. 

As a leader in delivering cutting-edge logistics software solutions—and experts in digital transformation—Codal is uniquely positioned to help logistics companies grow, scale, and achieve long-term business success. From freight matching to equipment monitoring and maintenance, to operational workflows, we’re experts at modernizing legacy technology and creating more lean, efficient logistics organizations. 

Codal can help revitalize your legacy load board solution, or implement an intelligent freight matching platform that satisfies all of your organization’s unique needs. We can ensure your solution takes advantage of ELDs, AI, and ML to find available opportunities to move freight, while our experienced UX/UI designers guarantee the solution is easy to navigate for everyone in your organization. We can also make sure your freight matching solution can seamlessly integrate with the rest of your technology stack using smart API calls. 

Interested in learning more about Codal’s logistics solutions and capabilities? Get in touch today.

Chris Powers
AUTHOR

Chris Powers

Chris is a Content Marketing Specialist at Codal. With a background in journalism and marketing, Chris has written about a variety of tech topics, including open source, fintech, and cybersecurity. Chris loves taking on new challenges with just a pen, paper, and his brain.

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