Loads of Interest on the Web

If computer networks haven’t eliminated the hassle of securing backhauls, at least they’re trying. Even using up-to-the-second Internet services, you usually have to make the calls and the deals yourself. But the right load-matching services can give you a competitive edge.

And load-matching services are becoming more savvy about the services they offer. DAT Services and Link Logistics, rivals in the electronic freight-matching business, recently announced plans to combine their databases of foreign or cross-border freight and equipment. Customers with DAT Services will gain on-line access to information about Canadian loads and available equipment maintained by Link Logistics, while Link Logistics customers will be able to search DAT Services’s database of leads on cross-border or U.S. domestic freight. “A lot of our customers use both services,” says Link Logistics vice-president Rick Court. “Now what’s going to happen is that when someone posts a load with DAT Services, it gets posted with us, and vice-versa. You won’t need two separate pieces of software, get two separate bills, etc. It’ll be seamless.”

The move is a tell-tale sign that bigger is better in the load-matching business, even if it means teaming with a competitor.

DAT Services, headquartered in Portland, Ore. and on the web at www.dat.com, opened an office in Toronto last year to build its database of Canadian loads and available equipment. Mississauga, Ont.-based Link Logistics (www.linklogi.com), the predominant freight-matching service in Canada, has been pursuing opportunities to give customers on this side of the border access to a greater variety of loads in the U.S. The combined database accomplishes both. DAT Services and Link Logistics each will charge a subscription fee for customers to use the combined database.

“We’ve got the best database of Canadian loads and trucks anywhere,” says Court. “I’m sure DAT Services feels the same way about their U.S. data. We’re going to focus on what we do best: developing and honing that database and developing technologies that will make it easier to use and more effective.”

Indeed, Court said the agreement with DAT precipitated the cancellation of an information-sharing arrangement with The Internet Truckstop, which posts available loads and trucks in the web (www.truckstop.com). The deal would have prohibited Link from offering Internet-based database access on its own. “We want to give customers a web address and let them post and retrieve everything online, live, instead of accessing the site only to download the latest postings for use offline,” Court says. “We’re already well advanced on being able to do this.”

SIGHTSEEING Using most load-finding sites is simple enough. All you need is a computer, a modem, browser software, and a connection to the Internet. Most sites explain their ground rules and how-to’s on the opening page.

Some free services allow anyone to browse the listings. Others require a password, and will e-mail you one (which can take as little as a second or two) if you provide your name, e-mail address, and some information about your company. (And then brace for junk e-mail.)

To access larger subscription services, like DAT Services or Link Logistics, you have to establish an account and may have to use proprietary software for access. Regardless, most companies offer free trials-periods of limited enrollment during which you have access to posted loads. Some free trials require a phone call to the service provider. Others can be easily arranged online and used immediately.

Some sites allow access only to pre-approved carriers. Schneider Brokerage of Green Bay, Wis., which launched a web site a year ago, is one example. According to Mark Mullen, director of Schneider’s brokerage services (www.schneider.com/service/brokerage.html), the site helps trucking giant Schneider National balance its traffic lanes. In the process, of course, it might help you balance yours.

SMART SHOPPING Whether they’re based on the Internet or some other type of network, the better services offer clear instructions and intuitive search tools to help you sift through thousands of available loads. Typically, you will be queried on what kind of equipment you have available-van, reefer, flatbed, etc.-and the location where you want to pick up and the desired destination. Some services let you increase or decrease the radius around any pickup point in mile increments. If you can’t find a load within 10 miles of any one city, for instance, you can widen the search to 20, 30, or 50 miles.

Some services offer active agents that seek loads for you. That means if a suitable load is not available, you can request to be notified as soon as one is listed. That notification might be an e-mail or a fax, which can be a valuable headstart in securing the load before someone else does. Less sophisticated services, often the free ones, simply provide a list of loads sorted by location. But if you find a suitable backhaul on that list, it was worth the look.

GETTING PAID The better subscription services rate the creditworthiness of particular shippers. Loads from those with good payment histories are highlighted, color-coded or otherwise marked.

At least one web site goes a step further. If you book a load from an approved shipper on the NetTrans site (www.nettrans.com), NetTrans will buy your billing for 94% of its face value. The company calls the option QuickPay. Other sites link to third-party factoring services-companies that buy accounts receivable at a discount for immediate cash.


Anyone who has fought in the backhaul wars knows the most desirable loads disappear fast, going to the carriers who first see them posted. Fresh information is the best information. Ask how often new listings are posted; the better services update frequently throughout the day.

Also, ask if posted loads are exclusive on a site. Duplicate listings are a fact of Internet life because some sites bolster meager listings with loads found posted elsewhere. The practice is called “poaching.” Some claim it’s fair use of information in the public domain. To others, it’s thievery. Whether or not to do business with a “poacher” is entirely up to you.

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