Becoming a freight broker can be a smart business move. With the growing trucking industry, and increased demand for reliable carriers, creating your own freight broker company can lead to strong business growth. You only need minimal training and registration to become a freight broker. Your biggest cost to opening the business will be insurance.
Whether you’re a truck driver looking for more home time or want to enter the industry, below you’ll find the steps to become a freight broker in as little as a month.
What is a Freight Broker?
Freight brokers, also sometimes called truck driver brokers, serve as a middleman between shippers and carriers. They handle all communication between the two parties to help make the handoff of goods simple and efficient. If you want a shipment to arrive on time and in good shape, freight brokers can ensure that happens.
For shippers, a truck driver broker simplifies communication by acting as a single point of contact from loading it into a truck to its arrival at the final destination. That way, the shippers don’t have to work with a variety of truck drivers or carrier companies if they operate in a large footprint. It simplifies the negotiation process, as shippers don’t have to regularly renegotiate rates.
Carriers also benefit. Working with a truck driver broker often means that carriers get negotiated rates and optimize their routes, which can increase their bottom line.
What Does a Freight Broker Do?
Before becoming a freight broker, professionals will need to learn the day-to-day activities of the business and build connections. After becoming a freight broker, the primary responsibility will be pairing shippers with trucks and truck drivers qualified and in the right area to haul their goods. You’ll be expected to improve the supply chain process, provide on-time deliveries, prevent damage and deal with any customer complaints.
Many truck driver brokers consolidate loads or combine shipments from various companies to share truck space, offering clients lower shipping rates. This benefit is especially helpful for smaller businesses that have a limited volume of goods to transport.
As a freight broker, you might work for a brokerage company or be in business by yourself. In addition to brokering deals between shippers and carriers, you’ll also track shipments and communicate with both parties throughout the process.
For example, if a truck breaks down, you might need to find another truck and driver to ensure the goods still arrive on time. Or if the driver encounters bad weather, you’ll need to reach out to the shipper to let them know the goods might be delayed.
How Much Do Freight Brokers Make?
The national average base salary for freight brokers in the United States is $62,105, according to Indeed.com. But on top of that, you can make commissions. On average, brokers add $28,000 to their salary through commissions each year.
Location is a major factor in the base salary you can expect. Generally, large cities offer the highest earning potential. For example, brokers in Alaska make an average base salary of $39,620 while brokers in Kansas make $75,686 each year. But experience and reputation also impact your final income. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top 10% of freight brokers earned an average salary of $69,450.
Pros and Cons of Being a Freight Broker
While job opportunities are growing, thanks to demand throughout the trucking industry, and the compensation is above the national average for all professions, becoming a freight broker isn’t for everyone. It can be a high-pressure, long-hours job that makes it hard to take time off when breakdowns or other problems occur after hours. Learn the pros and cons of the job before applying.
You’ll experience many advantages by becoming a freight broker. Here’s a look at the most impactful ones.
- Flexible location: The job lends itself to telecommuting. Work from anywhere in the U.S. or overseas.
- Set your hours: You’ll have more traditional office hours compared to serving as a truck driver. You can choose which hours you want to work.
- Independence: Greater work independence as you’ll have less daily oversight from managers compared to other jobs in the industry.
- Fewer regulations: You’ll have fewer regulations to account for than if you’re working as a truck driver.
- Opportunity: The trucking industry is growing fast, and freight brokers are in demand.
Like any job, serving as a freight broker also has its cons. Decide whether these are big factors for you or if you think you could deal with them.
- Off-hours calls: You’re on-call around the clock and could have to step in at any time to solve problems and ensure freight arrives on time.
- Networking requirements: You’ll need to build relationships to be successful. If you want to pull some strings or get something done quickly, you’ll need an “in” with the managers, which means you’re not as independent as in other careers.
- Building clients: Finding new business can be challenging, and your employer might have stringent expectations for this.
- Expectations: Like any job, you’ll be expected to perform. However, as a freight broker, your relationship with the shippers depends on the carriers doing their job right. You may receive poor reviews if carriers are delayed or damaged items.
- Competition: You can spend hours preparing a quote only to have a shipper select another carrier outside your network, which means no commission on the sale. Of course, this factor is true of many industries.
7 Steps to Become a Freight Broker
The process to become a freight broker will take some time and several steps, but you can still complete it fairly quickly to pivot careers. Experience in the freight industry will help, but it isn’t a requirement.
Step 1: Complete Freight Broker Training
The industry imposes no requirements specifically for freight broker training, although becoming a broker involves licensing and insurance. Learning about the industry and how it works will help jumpstart your understanding of shipper and carrier needs and start to build your network. You may choose to skip this step if you have worked in the logistics business or as a trucker or dispatcher.
Many freight broker training classes are online, making it simple to prepare for your new career even while working another job. But you can also find options to attend the classes in person.
Most classes take only a few weeks. In the end, you’ll get a certificate that you can use on your resume to show you’re prepared for the job. You’ll learn about these important aspects of the job.
- Best practices
- Industry trends
- Technology and tools
- Operating a brokerage business
- Building contracts
Step 2: Register your Freight Broker Business or Find a Job
Consider the best framework for your brokerage business. Generally, brokers select a limited liability corporation (LLC). You’ll need to register your business to get a tax ID and be able to work under that name.
This process will also allow you to open a bank account for the business and take out loans on behalf of your business to acquire the necessary equipment. You’ll also need to register your business with your local licensing department.
Alternatively, you can find a job with an existing brokerage company. If you’re just getting started as a broker, working for an existing company might be the way to build experience and industry contacts before starting off on your own. If you choose to work for an existing company, you don’t need to build a business plan and register your business.
Step 3: Obtain Broker Authority
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) oversees the trucking industry. You’ll need to get a broker license for trucking before you can start working in the field.
Brokers must pay $300 to obtain a motor carrier number. As part of the application, you’ll need to prove you have insurance and a surety bond. Most brokers purchase a surety bond of $75,000.
Getting your full Motor Carrier (MC) authority generally takes about 10 days, so leave plenty of time to complete this process.
Step 4: Seek Out Carriers
Finding reputable carriers is essential to your business success. Without a good list of carriers, you’ll struggle to build and maintain quality relationships with shippers.
Look for carriers with a broad network of trucks and drivers and a diverse footprint. This practice will make it simpler for you to work with them and partner with shippers throughout the country.
Additionally, you’ll want to consider the types of freight these carriers can haul. If you’re planning to work with special types of freight, such as oversized loads or hazardous materials, make sure the carriers can accommodate these options.
With more quality carriers in your network, you’ll have more negotiating power when serving as an intermediary between parties.
Step 5: Purchase Insurance and a Surety Bond
To operate a truck driver broker business, you’ll need contingent cargo and general liability insurance as well as a surety bond. Both are requirements for obtaining your broker authority with FMCSA.
Your annual surety bond premium will be about 1-10% percent of the total amount of the total value of your bond. If you didn’t already get insurance and surety bond in step 3 above, be sure to secure it now before moving on. This action will protect you in the case of cargo damage, accidents or other issues.
Step 6: Build a Budget and Acquire Capital
Starting a freight brokerage company requires capital to get started. You’ll need technology tools and the funds to pay for your insurance and surety bond. The overhead required for a freight brokerage business is something you won’t want to ignore. Calculate these needs carefully before approaching lenders.
The total will vary based on the type of cargo, area of operation and expected initial volume. It’s worth making financial projections including the break-even point for the first year of operations. If this isn’t your strength, you can enlist the help of an accountant or friend with a financial background to make sure your budget is sound.
Step 7: Reach Out to Shippers
Now that you have your business requirements in place and have built relationships with carriers, you’re ready to start finding shippers in your area. Whether you start your own business or work for an existing brokerage company, you’ll need to regularly reach out to local shipping companies to find new business. You can include this process in your business calendar to make sure to build new business.
Additionally, consider how you’ll market yourself to make shippers aware of your business so that they reach out to you directly. Get involved in local industry groups and engage in social selling on platforms like LinkedIn to get started. Consider writing informational articles for local newspapers and news outlets to expand your reach.
Tap into a Growing Business with Freight Brokering
Becoming a freight broker can be a smart career pivot if you have experience in another aspect of the trucking industry or you’re looking to get off the road. Whether you’re new to the industry or have years of experience, success for your freight brokerage business depends on building relationships and networking. With a strong foundation of reliable carriers and contacts, you can grow a business that benefits shippers, carriers and your bottom line.
How long it takes to become a freight broker will depend on what type of certification course you do and whether you start your own business or work for an existing company. You can usually get your freight broker license within 10 days, and many professionals can become freight brokers in a month or less.
Freight brokers can find loads from existing contacts, load boards, marketing campaigns, features in industry-specific media, referrals and by seeking out new shippers with both cold calls and warm calls.
Yes, as a freight broker you can choose to work full-time or part-time. Of course, you may get off-hours calls in case of problems on the road. After becoming a freight broker, you can set your own hours and choose how much business you take on.
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