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What is power-only truck brokerage?

AskWaves: A look at the acceleration in truck-only brokerage options

Power-only brokerage gaining share (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Power-only truck brokerage involves a load that requires only horsepower — a tractor or truck to move it. For these shipments, the shipper has procured a trailer or already owns one. Or the carrier leases a trailer from an affiliated third-party pool and simply picks it up loaded from a shipper facility and hauls it to a destination.

The offering is advantageous to carriers as a driver can arrive at a facility and hook a preloaded trailer without waiting at the dock. There’s also flexibility for the shipper, which can load a trailer on its own terms without coordinating and timing a truck’s arrival. The additional trailers also give a shipper incremental storage space, eliminating congestion and improving fluidity at its terminals.

For small fleets, it’s about improved tractor and driver utilization. The ability to swoop in with a driver/tractor and quickly get back on the road to the destination is the real benefit. For midsize to large carriers, which usually operate with more trailers than tractors, lending underutilized trailers to pools supporting power-only service is another way to drive asset utilization higher.

Power-only brokerage is growing in popularity, with most large brokers and asset-based fleets embracing the offering. There are different variations of the service as well.

Convoy launched a drop-and-hook service to shippers, Convoy Go, three years ago. The broker now has the largest power-only service in the nation, providing access to a platform of more than 300,000 trucks and a pool of several thousand trailers.

Through the program’s recent expansion, private fleets now have access to the broker’s power-only capacity

Private fleets often operate with much higher trailer-to-tractor ratios and need to continuously reposition trailers throughout their networks. The expanded service allows the not for-hire market the ability to find supplemental power to haul their preloaded and empty dry van trailers.

Uber Freight’s (NYSE: UBER) Powerloop service allows small carriers to rent trailers and connect with Fortune 500 shippers on the Uber platform. The carrier can then run essentially a power-only model, picking up preloaded trailers and hauling them to destination end points. The service allows the carrier to avoid delays at facilities and maximize driver hours of service and the utilization of its trucks.

Asset-based carriers with large trailer fleets like J.B. Hunt (NASDAQ: JBHT), Knight-Swift (NYSE: KNX), Schneider National (NYSE: SNDR) and Werner Enterprises (NASDAQ: WERN) are in on the offering as well.

Knight-Swift’s brokerage unit reported its power-only service segment accounted for 27% of brokerage revenue and more than 25% of brokered loads during the second quarter.

This is part of FreightWaves’ AskWaves series. If you have a question for our editorial team to explore, click here. For more AskWaves articles, click here.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Todd Maiden.


  1. Stan Shoemaker

    If you are doing a power only move, make sure it is roundtrip, or you will be stuck deadheading. Or better yet, ask the shipper/broker, “what am I going to do when I get to point B?”

  2. Alex D.

    Screw convoy they are the bottom feeders of trucking right next to TQL. Power only is not back provided the trailer is in good condition and no or over weight. But quite often power only leaves you with more deadhead and less paid miles. Almost everyone wants a power only truck and wants to low-ball the rate because they own the trailer. That said if I power only I want triple the money I normally get paid using my own trailer… More often then not your deadheading out

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Todd Maiden

Based in Richmond, VA, Todd is the finance editor at FreightWaves. Prior to joining FreightWaves, he covered the TLs, LTLs, railroads and brokers for RBC Capital Markets and BB&T Capital Markets. Todd began his career in banking and finance before moving over to transportation equity research where he provided stock recommendations for publicly traded transportation companies.