Freight brokers act as intermediaries by arranging for the transportation of cargo between shippers and motor carriers. The freight broker then receives a commission for his or her matchmaking skill. Freight brokers are also known as truck brokers, transportation brokers, property brokers and 3rd party intermediaries.
While the business concept in freight brokering is very simple, there are many details and procedures that need to be mastered. The broker needs to know what to do, when to do it, how to do it, why it’s being done and with whom to do it. Since this is a service-oriented business, it only makes sense to learn the multitude of demands and requirements. Especially in light of the fast-paced environment that becomes more and more common.
While actual “on the job” experience is the best teacher, formal training by qualified individuals helps pull everything into perspective for the beginning broker. As a result, the new broker strikes out on a note of confidence.
Having said this, let’s take a look at a typical day in the life of a freight broker.
After the freight broker has placed many prospecting phone calls and contacted as many current potential shippers as possible, he or she should have perhaps 20, 30, 40 or more shippers in their database. The initial information that each broker will collect will be general in nature: what type of cargo is the shipper shipping, where are the normal pick up and deliver points, what kind of truck is required and so on.
1. With this information on hand, the broker will want to start asking for the order by placing phone calls to shippers early in the morning – perhaps from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. This is when most shippers are putting the final touches on their needs. Basically, the broker is asking if the shipper is looking for any trucks on that particular day.
If the answer is “No”, the broker goes on to the next and the next. At some point, the broker hits a “hot” one (or several) and that’s when the action begins.
After the broker has “proved” him or herself, the shipper will actually initiate calls to the broker instead of the broker always calling the shipper. And the shipper may want to work more proactively by looking for trucks 3-5 days out instead of just on a day-by-day basis.
2. The next step is to take the order from the shipper. The shipper will go into detail on what is required. Any uncertainties that the broker has should be cleared up immediately. It’s imperative that the broker communicates the correct information to each caller when they start calling in.
3. Then the broker will either work up an estimate of what rate is needed and they’ll get back with the shipper; or the broker will ask the shipper what they want to pay. After some calculations the freight broker will come up with an amount that they will offer to the truck. The ideal starting point is to get at least a 10% profit margin on each load.
4. The next step is to post these loads on the internet loading boards. There are numerous loading boards where loads are posted as well as searches for trucks that may be done.
5. After these loads have been posted, the broker will then go to his or her database of available trucks. The broker will then call each carrier to see if they have a truck available. In the meanwhile, the broker may be receiving incoming calls from individuals who are responding to the posts on the loading boards.
6. At some point, the broker is looking for the driver or dispatcher who will say, “Yes, I want the load”. Sometimes the broker will not find a truck. This is not like shooting fish in a barrel; however, with experience and by earning repeat business, the broker will “cover” more and more loads.
7. After the broker gets the “Yes” from the carrier, he or she then immediately calls the shipper to tell them that the load is “covered”.
8. The broker will then fax their set up package to the carrier. While the carrier is processing the papers, the broker will check out the carrier to make sure the carrier is properly authorized and insured. This is done either on the internet or telephone.
9. The last item sent to the carrier is the “confirmation”. The carrier should immediately sign and date this document and fax it back to the broker.
10. Once the broker has this confirmation on hand, the broker will want to call the truck driver if the driver himself hasn’t called the broker. The details of the load are then given to the driver along with any instructions. For example, the broker will ask the driver to call when they get loaded and when they get empty or if there is any problem. The broker will also ask the driver to call in at least every morning if it is a multi-day trip. These are important requirements that each broker should be ready to enforce and penalize if there is a blatant disregard by the driver.
11. After the load is delivered and the carrier has reported back to the broker, the broker will want to call the shipper to let them know of the status.
12. Any problems on delivery which may include missing pieces or damaged cargo should be dealt with between the shipper and carrier. Sometimes the broker will intervene; however, the broker is never liable for any damage or missing pieces unless the broker is negligent.
13. Lastly, with the load delivered safely and in a timely fashion, the broker is ready to do the process over and over again.
While this routine may seem casual and boring at times – this is hardly the truth. Most of the time the broker will experience smooth going. However, there will be times when problems will arise. Late deliveries, failure of the carrier to pick up a load, damaged cargo or missing pieces, long delays in picking up or delivering cargo – all of these need to be dealt with by the broker.
It is impossible to avoid problems, but it is possible to stay alert and ready to deal with problems proactively. If the broker works hard and works smart for the shipper, if the broker deals honestly with the truck and pays them on time – the broker is well on his or her way to a successful venture.