Load board catering to bulk load haulers plans additional service offerings
The lifeblood for many small trucking companies and independent truckers is the load board. There is no shortage of load boards, and differentiating between them can be difficult. For truckers who specialize, though, finding loads on a generic load board can be time consuming. Want to move a load of widgets from Kansas to Oklahoma? That load is front and center. Want to move a load of grain? Well, finding that one is a bit more challenging.
With equipment names like hopper bottom, live bottom, walking floor, pneumatic and end dump, any general freight hauler who ventures onto Bulkloads.com will quickly know they don’t belong. That’s the same feeling that many agricultural product haulers felt looking for loads on traditional load boards. That’s why Jared Flinn’s Bulkloads.com has quickly found footing within the agricultural trucking community.
“There are other types of load boards, but we wanted to focus on just the agricultural and bulk markets,” Flinn, operating partner, tells FreightWaves.
While estimates indicate trucking companies of fewer than 20 trucks make up more than 90% of the general trucking community, there are only a few agricultural haulers - with their specialized trailers – that own more than a handful of trucks. In a market that is worth nearly $140 billion, according to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, that makes for a very close-knit community. In fact, Flinn says, a number of farmers are also truckers who haul product out of season when not farming their land.
Flinn founded the board in 2011 with Matt Fredin. “Matt is the technical piece of it and I’m more of the sales and marketing side,” Flinn notes. Fredin co-founded a load board for livestock and his family runs a cattle trading business in Minnesota.
Bulkloads.com offers some free options, such as access to the forum, classifieds, commodity listings and news, but a premium subscription is required to access available loads or trucks and the shipper database. According to Flinn, Bulkloads.com reaches out to all the large agricultural businesses and loads are available to any of the more than 50,000 U.S. ag haulers. Shippers pay carriers directly and Bulkloads.com takes no fee for enabling the connection.
In recent years, the board has expanded beyond agricultural products to include some bulk liquid hauling and other commodities, although the focus remains on more typical agricultural commodities.
“Some of these guys can haul scrap metal and grain too because their trailers are set up the same,” Flinn says. “Anything that is going to be loaded in bulk is our focus.
“But, he adds, “for the more specialized [carriers], the harder it is because the equipment is so specialized.”
Like other freight movement, though, the agricultural market is ultimately driven by price. “The one thing about trucking is that there is always a price out there to move the freight,” Flinn says. “If the price is there, you will find a trailer to haul it.”
Within the bulk sector, whose average length of haul is approximately 250 miles with most moves fewer than 500 miles, weight remains the primary method for determining rates. Loads are priced on a per-ton basis rather than a per-mile basis, as they are for general commodities carriers.
Because Bulkloads.com makes no money off the matching of loads, there is a constant push to keep participants engaged.
“Once these guys develop those relationships, they may have those customers forever and may even do loads outside the board,” Flinn says. Because of this, Bulkloads.com is positioning itself as a leading indicator of ag moves in the U.S.
“It’s a great benchmarking tool, too,” Flinn adds. “If you want to get knowledge about rates, and even if you don’t pull a load off the board, you can see what is going on” in the industry in terms of rates and volume.
That has also led Flinn and Fredin to expand the potential reach and product offerings of Bulkloads.com. Whether it is through mobile apps that make it easier for truckers to connect to the board, or potential opportunities the company is currently exploring to improve the entire process of securing loads and making/receiving payments, Bulkloads.com is not done expanding its services.
“Our biggest thing is harnessing technology and developing processes,” Flinn explains. “We’ve done really well at connecting shippers and carriers. Now we’re working to create more streamlined opportunities and automate some of the processes. Our focus is on how do we bring more value, not just to our existing user base, but to new users.”
With a growing number of loads being posted to the website due to rising commodity prices and record harvest, it appears the opportunity to harness the agricultural community is there for Bulkloads.com as it looks to the future.