Railroads once owned U.S. commerce, but with the rise of interstate highways in the 1950s, it has been trucks every since. The government figures that, on a typical day, roughly 43 million tons of goods worth $29 billion move on highways in the United States.
The ebb and flow of demand, plus the sheer chaos of managing loads in many directions, creates an opportunity for freight brokers, individuals who help shippers find empty trucks and truckers find loads to move, all for a cut of the deal.
Getting started being a freight broker
Online courses on being a freight broker claim all it takes is fax machine, phone and time. Not quite. You’ll need a federal license and insurance at a minimum to be a freight broker. The Federal Motor Carrier SAfety Administration manages licensing for freight brokers. Price freight broker contingent cargo insurance with Navigators, Gales Creek, Allianz Global Risks, CNA Financial, and Travelers Companies.
Establishing credibility in the market as a freight broker
Other than a license, you won’t be really required by law to do much more. But shipper won’t touch you with a 10-foot pole unless you can show you have broker authority and a surety bond. Get your operating authority paperwork in order with the feds through the FMCSA site. Find a surety bond provider at the Surety & Fidelity Association of America, a trade group of bond companies, or consider creating a trust-fund agreement, which allows you to put up your (higher) own cash bond instead.
Before becoming a freight broker, you should get your financial status in order
Shippers are very wary of seat-of-the-pants freight brokers who take over their logistics but might not make it to the end of the week financially. Establishing financial credibility is as important as professional credibility as a freight broker. Shipper use online credit-check services to vet freight brokers. Many offer “broker memberships” which will let freight brokers take control of records online. Take a look at RTS Credit, Truckload Credit, and 247 Credit. Red Book Transportation rates freight brokers on reliability.
Experience the industry first hand to build contracts as a freight broker
One way to build a future business as full-fledged freight broker is to learn the ropes as an agent for a larger logistics provider. Some of the bigger national freight logistics companies . Find a smaller, local freight broker to work for in the Transportation Intermediaries Association directory online. See directories on freight, freight brokers, freight broker training and LTL (Less Than a Truckload) shipping.
- Being a freight broker sound like a lot of trouble for a startup business? Consider working as an agent — a freight broker representative — until you feel you have a command of the freight broker industry.
- Watch out for expensive online freight broker schools. The information they offer may be legit and even worthwhile, but short-course freight broker programs are in no position to place you in a job any more than you would find one yourself.
- Be ready for an immediate hit to the wallet: New freight brokers scramble to survive for the first two years or more, until clients begin to trust them. If you aren’t ready to finance that curve, reconsider