An Asset-Based Operator's Guide to Optimizing a Load Acceptance Plan
Thought Leadership
Thought Leadership

An Asset-Based Operator's Guide to Optimizing a Load Acceptance Plan

June 15, 2023

By Optimal Dynamics

The ability to thrive in a competitive freight market depends on making well-informed decisions. For asset-based trucking companies, load acceptance is one type of decision that falls into this category. The process by which companies decide which loads to accept for fleet assignment, which to accept for brokerage, and which to reject entirely, directly affects operations and profits. If they want to improve profitability, as well as efficiency and optimization, they must take a close look at the process they use and ensure it supports their goals.


Understanding the Components & Considerations in a Trucking Load Acceptance Plan


An effective load acceptance plan should sort loads into three categories — loads for the company’s assets, loads for the brokerage, and loads to reject. If the process is equipped to handle every important factor, it can easily determine whether a load is compatible or incompatible with the given assets and resources.


Components of Load Acceptance Plan: Asset and Brokerage

The process flow is to first evaluate for asset factors, followed by brokerage factors, and finally, if any load fails to qualify for either, that load is rejected.

Asset Factors

The decision-making process should first handle various asset factors to identify the loads best suited to be serviced by the fleet’s assets. Fleet-assigned loads will align with the company's operational capacity, existing routes, driver availability, and business rules. These are the loads that can be efficiently and profitably managed internally.


One method is to approach load selection using a load scoring system, which weighs different variables to rank the available options and find optimal loads for a company's assets.


At the most basic level of qualification to accept a load, an asset must be able to accommodate:


  • Type of Freight – Some fleets may only accept certain types of freight, based on their equipment and expertise, for example, specializing in refrigerated goods, hazardous materials, or oversized loads.

  • Compliance – In hauling any given load, companies must be able to comply with all relevant laws and regulations, such as weight restrictions and hazardous material regulations.


Provided the basic qualification of available capacity has been met, fleet managers may have many combinations of options for assigning assets to loads. This level involves consideration to:


  • Pickup and Destination Location – Load managers must consider driver locations before pickup and where the load will place a driver on the map after delivery.

  • Date and Time of Delivery – The timing of the load must fit with the driver’s availability and preferences.


Lastly, two categories of consideration have some flexibility, but nevertheless, fleet managers want to weigh them when they make load acceptance decisions:


  • Profitability — The load must be profitable and worthwhile for the company to haul, taking into account details of fuel costs, driver wages, and other expenses. Higher profit margin loads should generally earn a higher load score.

  • Load Forecast – As each load decision leads to another, fleet managers must determine whether a load is a good choice with respect to future load options. For example, the load score should consider mid- and long-term profitability, not just short-term profit margins.


Brokerage Loads

Loads can be labeled for brokerage assignment once the load is given a load score. A lower load score than a predetermined threshold indicates shipments that may be more challenging to cover with the company’s own assets. These loads may not fit well with established routes, driver schedules, or business rules and strategies. Loads may also be less desirable for the fleet if they are higher risk or less profitable than other options. These are best for the company to assign to the brokerage division or reject. In this way, companies can focus on profitability and strategy for their own assets, for example, ensuring they have the flexibility to handle additional load requests through third-party collaborations.


The Challenges of Creating a Load Acceptance Plan or Strategy

One of the main challenges in creating a load acceptance plan is the sheer complexity of the task and the dynamic nature of the factors that make up each decision. It involves constantly monitoring everything from shipper requests and driver availability to asset allocation, route optimization, and more.


Despite this complexity, there is an even bigger challenge: unpredictability and uncertainty associated with load management. A load score algorithm will project capacity and enable fleet managers to make informed decisions even when the future is not certain.


There is an ever-present possibility of changes due to several factors:

  • Driver availability
  • Unplanned delays
  • New demand for a given asset
  • Weather conditions

These and more factors can introduce unpredictability. To account for this, fleet managers must have a way of representing uncertainty for every available option.


Determining which loads to accept is similar to a game of chess. For every move, there are possible moves the opponent can make; some are more likely than others. Playing chess involves seeing possible outcomes and taking a chance on the opponent's next move. Similarly, planning load acceptance involves taking a chance on future loads' availability. It isn’t known for certain how the options will play out, but fleet managers need to set themselves up for a higher chance of desirable future loads.


The Risk of Manual Decision-Making in Load Acceptance


Even for a single truck, optimized load decisions are too complex for a person to make manually. With a fleet of 10, 100, or 500+ trucks, this becomes exponentially more difficult. Human decision-making is prone to error and bias, and it is nearly impossible for humans to account for the multitude of factors and potential combinations in real time. Decisions based on gut feeling or incomplete information can result in inaccuracy. A person is likely to inadvertently choose loads that lead to less desirable future outcomes, overburden certain routes, or under-utilized assets.


Manual decision-making opens the door to poor planning and is a missed opportunity for optimization. Fleet managers can leave money on the table by making less-than-optimal decisions with respect to profitability. A pattern of accepting loads that do not fit well with the company's assets and routes can lead to wasted resources, increased operational costs, and dissatisfied drivers. In the long run, this could lead to driver turnover, reduced business growth, loss of market competitiveness, and decreased overall profitability.


How Technology & Digital Transformation is Improving Load Acceptance Plans for Carriers


Technology and digital transformation are shaping new paradigms in many areas of trucking and logistics, including load acceptance planning.


Integrating artificial decision intelligence can simplify and streamline this traditionally complex and multifaceted process. An AI solution can process high volumes of data in real time and generate accurate forecasts of capacity, shipper requests, and driver availability. It can calculate load scores, assess network fit, and simulate the entire network, helping simplify planning. A tech stack with AI optimization technology helps fleet managers ensure that decisions are grounded in accurate and complete data. The benefit is improved asset utilization and maximized profits, while reducing waste and inefficiencies. And when unforeseen circumstances arise or new loads become available, artificial decision intelligence can reevaluate and adjust decisions accordingly.


How Optimal Dynamics' Load Acceptance Module Provides Optimized Planning for Improved Profits


Execute by Optimal Dynamics is designed to streamline and optimize the daily decision-making process, including asset versus brokerage load assignment decisions. With technology, Execute uses artificial decision intelligence to analyze thousands of options and present the best ones using a Load Score to represent how well a load fits with the business’ capabilities and priorities. The Load Score algorithm factors in asset availability, established business rules, and profitability to provide valuable insights that help drive decision-making.


True Profit, Average Profit, and Network Health: Critical Components in Load Scoring


Optimal Dynamics’ Load Score contains detailed algorithms finely tuned for complex decision-making. It takes in the big-picture context rather than just assessing a single load. In addition to Loaded Mileage, Empty-to-Pickup Mileage, and Empty-to-Home Mileage, the Load Score shows the breakdown of the following factors influencing overall profitability.

  • Average Profit – Average Profit shows the profitability of the load across the scenarios in which it was taken. It includes costs incurred for empty miles driven to pick up the load and, if applicable, to return the driver to their home location after delivery.

  • Average Network Health Bonus – This shows the average bonuses and penalties for moving the load in various scenarios. It considers the value of getting drivers back home and penalties for delays in pickup or delivery.


With Optimal Dynamics' Execute product, trucking companies can unlock the most valuable loads and optimize their decisions, backed by artificial decision intelligence.


Case Study: How BCB Transport Optimized Load Acceptance


When BCB Transport, based in Mansfield, Texas, sought to optimize operational decision-making, it partnered with Optimal Dynamics to implement artificial decision intelligence. With the automation of AI-powered load acceptance and dispatching decisions, BCB saw a revenue increase of over 19% per truck per week, and the opportunity to operate with 16% fewer tractors, despite low market volumes and rates.


“Our dispatchers are planning 60% more freight in the same amount of time, while even more importantly exceeding our operational efficiency goals,” said Rick Larkin, Chief Information Officer at BCB.


Read more about BCB Transport’s success using artificial decision intelligence.


Discover Optimized Load Decisions


Artificial decision intelligence is the tool that allows trucking companies to manage increasing complexity and uncertainty within their load acceptance decisions. Optimal Dynamics’ solution provides a way for fleet managers to achieve optimal decision-making with less time and effort, with the calculation of thousands of possibilities plus forecasting that plans for uncertainty. With the Execute and Plan products, companies can take the proactive approach necessary to stay competitive.

Get a demo with Optimal Dynamics and learn more about optimizing load acceptance.

With AI technology, asset-based trucking companies gain optimization for load acceptance decisions, determining which loads to assign to their fleet, send to brokerage, or reject.

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