As freight brokers, we are the link between our customers and the transit of their goods. Properly vetting motor carriers is a critical responsibility and we walk you through the steps.
What is a Freight Broker? A Freight Broker is an intermediary that connects transportation companies with companies that need goods shipped. So, why can’t carriers and shippers work together directly without a freight broker’s involvement? What compels a shipper to pay extra to a broker instead of dealing directly with a carrier? In this blog, we will address these questions and more.
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What Defines a Freight Broker?
Let’s begin by defining what is a freight broker. According to the FMCSA, a freight broker acts as the intermediary between a shipper and a motor carrier. Freight brokers arrange for the transportation of property or household goods. They do not transport the property, operate motor vehicles, have drivers, or assume responsibility for the cargo transported. Thus, they do not directly engage with the cargo.
What Does a Freight Broker Do?
In a typical transaction involving a broker, a shipper will tender a load to a freight broker. The broker then contacts a motor carrier that meets the shipper’s specific requirements for that load (such as equipment type, insurance coverage, pickup, delivery time, etc.). The broker negotiates a rate for the shipment and sends a rate confirmation, detailing the shipment specifics to the carrier. These details are identical to those provided by the shipper, except for the rate. The broker charges a fee for locating the carrier, arranging pickup, funding the carrier, and tracking the shipment through to delivery. Once the load is delivered, the broker pays the carrier and invoices the shipper. Typically, the carrier is paid before the broker receives payment for the shipment, usually within 15-20 days. Sometimes, the carrier is paid sooner for an additional fee, known as a quick pay fee. Subsequently, the broker receives their payment from the shipper in about 30 days.
Why Do Shippers Use Freight Brokers?
Now, many ask why shippers don’t just work directly with carriers and bypass the freight broker. In fact, most shipments in the market are direct transactions between shippers and carriers without a freight broker’s involvement. So, why and when would a shipper need to use a freight broker?
Consider a common scenario where a shipper needs to work with a freight broker: unexpected changes in shipping volumes. For instance, imagine you’re a manufacturer of this year’s most popular toy, “The Barbie Movie Collectible Doll.” You expect to sell five truckloads of this toy every week from now until Black Friday, planning months in advance to ensure sufficient inventory and warehouse space. However, upon product launch, sales exceed expectations, leading to stockouts at retailers like Target and Walmart, resulting in customer complaints. This situation presents logistical challenges as each retailer requires different numbers of truckloads on varying days.
This is where a freight broker steps in. They provide temporary capacity to manage the unpredictable fluctuations in customer orders. They quickly access the open market of carriers to hire them temporarily, meeting the seasonal need. This benefits both the shipper, who obtains needed trucking capacity swiftly, and the carriers, who gain work from an unexpected customer.
Another example is seasonal shipping volumes, like in agriculture. Consider a watermelon farmer who needs to ship produce during a brief harvest window. The farmer’s regular carriers might not be available or may no longer operate in the area. Here, a freight broker is invaluable in ensuring every load of watermelons is picked up and delivered, preventing spoilage and loss.
What is a Freight Broker, TL;DR
So what is a freight broker? In summary, freight brokers provide flexibility in a constantly changing market. They are instrumental when shippers need to rapidly adjust to changing order volumes or when carriers need to fill gaps in their schedules. This open market collaboration between freight brokers, carriers, and shippers ensures efficiency and responsiveness to dynamic market needs.