If you’ve worked with an auto transport broker in the past, or are working with one now, you might have heard them reference “the board” or “Central Dispatch.” You might be wondering what the heck they’re talking about.
In this blog post I’m going to take you behind the scenes of the auto transport industry and show you what Central Dispatch is all about and how auto brokers use it to transport vehicles around the country.
What is Central Dispatch (aka the Load Board)?
Central Dispatch is the largest and most popular platform used by auto brokers and carriers to help move vehicles all over the country. It’s a national load board that matches auto brokers with auto carriers.
This load board, however, is only available to shippers and licensed auto brokers and carriers. It’s not available to the general public. It’s essentially a private platform used by those in the auto transport industry.
How Does Central Dispatch Work?
When an auto transport broker needs to get a vehicle moved, they can post a listing on Central Dispatch to find a carrier that might be interested in hauling their customer’s vehicle.
Here is a partial screenshot of what the listings look like on Central Dispatch for vehicles that need to be transported from Dallas, TX to Los Angeles, CA:
*I have blurred out the brokers names and their telephone numbers for privacy considerations.
The second column on the screenshot is the type of vehicle that the broker needs hauled and what the broker is willing to pay a carrier for that transport. If a carrier is going to be on that route and they like the fee the broker is paying, they will contact the broker and iron out the details.
The fee the broker is offering for a given transport is totally up to the broker. Generally speaking, the more a broker is willing to pay, the quicker the vehicle will get moved because more carriers will be interested in completing the job for the broker. The less a broker is willing to pay, the longer it can take to get a vehicle moved because carriers just pass on the listing and look for more attractive ones. This is why pricing is so crucial when it comes to auto transports!
The carrier can haggle with the broker on the fee he’s paying. In fact, that happens a lot, especially if the broker isn’t offering a realistic fee. Of course the broker can stand firm on the fee or adjust the fee to meet the carrier’s price.
Bonus Tip:If you’re working with a broker and you know they use Central Dispatch and it’s taking forever to get your vehicle moved, the best thing you can do is talk to your broker and have your broker increase the amount they are offering on Central Dispatch. Increasing the carrier fee even just a small amount can make a huge difference. Sometimes a small increase of just $50 can get the job done!
What Role Does the Load Board Play with J&S Transportation?
We are both an auto carrier and an auto transport broker. We always strive to use our own trucks whenever we can to complete a transport for our customer. When our own trucks aren’t available, however, we have to put our broker hat on to get the job done.
As a broker, we have two options to find a carrier. We can turn to our network of partner carriers, or we can use the Central Dispatch load board.
Fortunately for us, we’ve been around long enough now (20+ years) that we have a large network of partner carriers that we can turn to. These are carriers that we have established relationships with and have worked with in the past. This is our “Rolodex” of carriers we know and trust. These are the guys we turn to first on every transport we work on.
When we are working on a transport that we don’t have a partner carrier we can use, we turn to the Central Dispatch load board. There are thousands of carriers on the road that are checking Central Dispatch daily to find vehicles on their routes that they can haul. It’s a highly effective and efficient tool to use.
Our process of finding a carrier looks like this (in this order):
- Haul a vehicle on our own trucks
- Haul a vehicle on one of our partner carrier’s trucks
- Haul a vehicle on another carrier’s trucks found on Central Dispatch
Most auto transport brokers aren’t also carriers with their own fleet of trucks so the first option isn’t available. Most brokers also haven’t been around for 20+ years so the second option isn’t really available either. Their only option is to use Central Dispatch and other lesser-known load boards.
What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Central Dispatch?
The primary advantage to using a load board like Central Dispatch is that it can be quick and efficient to find a carrier if you’re paying a fair price for the transport. If you try to go cheap, then transports can sit and languish for days.
The disadvantage of using Central Dispatch is that you don’t always attract the best carriers on the road. Well-established, reputable carriers don’t rely on Central Dispatch. They have their own network of customers and brokers so they don’t spend a lot of time on Central Dispatch. They typically only use Central Dispatch to fill the occasional open spot they may have on a trailer.
There are thousands of carriers on the road on any given day. As I touched on briefly in my blog post about working with auto transport brokers, “mom and pop” carriers rule the road. A lot of these carriers are just getting started or barely getting by. As a broker, you have to be really thorough with your vetting process to ensure any carrier you’re going to assign a transport to is properly licensed, insured, and reputable.
How Does J&S Transportation Attract the “Best of the Best” Carriers on Central Dispatch?
The primary way to attract the best carriers on Central Dispatch is to pay carriers a fair price. Most brokers on Central Dispatch try to pay as little as possible to get their transports completed. When you go cheap, one of two things happens. You either attract sketchy carriers or your transports sit forever because no carrier is interested in working for peanuts.
If you compare our instant quotes with quotes from other brokers, you’ll find our rates are usually somewhere in the middle or slightly more. We make no bones about it, we are not the cheapest auto transport broker out there. We believe in charging our customers a fair rate so that we can also pay a carrier a fair rate. We want carriers to be motivated to do our transports and to do a good job! We also want our transports done promptly. The only way to make those things happen is to pay a carrier a fair price.
The other thing we do to attract the best carriers on Central Dispatch is we have unique terms as part of our contract with carriers. For example, we pay the carrier directly and only after a transport is successfully completed. We don’t do “cash on delivery” terms which is very common on Central Dispatch.
We have found over the years that carriers that demand cash on delivery from a customer are usually struggling financially and aren’t going to be around too long. By contrast, carriers that are comfortable getting paid by us after a transport is completed tend to be very stable, established, and reputable.
Speaking of being reputable, we work hard to maintain our reputation rating on Central Dispatch to attract the best carriers. We have a 100% perfect rating on Central Dispatch as shown here in this screenshot:
When carriers see our listings on Central Dispatch they know they are working with a reputable and fair broker so we tend to attract high quality carriers.
How Does J&S Transportation Vet Carriers on Central Dispatch?
As I outlined in the previous section, we tend to attract high quality carriers but that doesn’t mean any carrier interested in working with us is going to get the assignment! We thoroughly vet every carrier interested in our transports listed on Central Dispatch.
For starters we check the FMCSA website to verify their USDOT and Docket Numbers to ensure they are properly licensed.
We also make sure the carrier is properly insured. Because we are also an auto carrier, we know how much auto transport insurance a carrier should have to properly cover your vehicle in the rare event there is damage during the transport. We also know what insurance companies are reluctant (or slow) to pay damage claims. If a carrier is using one of these insurance companies, we know to avoid working with the carrier!
Finally, we look over their history and reputation rating on Central Dispatch. Do they have a low or high rating? What do other brokers say about them in their feedback and reviews of the carrier? How long have they been in business? How many transports have they completed on Central Dispatch? We look at all of these things before considering assigning a transport to a carrier!
Concluding Remarks on Central Dispatch
The Central Dispatch load board is a great tool for any auto transport broker to have in their toolbox – IF used properly. Unfortunately, a lot of brokers just list their transports on Central Dispatch at the lowest price and wait endlessly for a carrier willing to accept their price. And then when one comes along, they just assign it without giving much thought to the quality of the carrier.
For us, Central Dispatch is just one tool we use. We rely heavily on our own trucks and network of partner carriers to complete our transports. When we have to use Central Dispatch, we use it wisely to attract the best carriers so our transports are completed promptly and safely for our customers!