How To Select The Right Freight Broker Agent Program
Freight Brokers / Trucking / Logistics - Delivering the goods that make the world go around
Currently there are over 15,000 licensed freight brokers in the United States and a growing number of them offer freight broker agent programs. Agent programs typically allow experienced freight brokers an opportunity to earn a significantly higher income, the convenience of working from home and the ability to be your own boss! Top agents earn $300,000 to $500,000 or more a year while many other successful agents are more focused on the benefits and flexibility of working from home while earning above average incomes typically ranging from $40,000 to $100,000 a year. Regardless of your goals, desires or reasons for considering an agent program it is important that when selecting a company to partner with, you ask the right questions to determine if the company and program are the right fit for you and the goals you are trying to achieve.
The goal behind publishing this information is to help freight brokers and freight broker agents to determine what goes into a successful agent program above, beyond the infamous "commission split." The key to evaluating any agent program can be summarized in four key areas: Technology, Finance, Marketing and Support.
The following information is not designed to downplay or degrade any other company's agent program but to simply highlight a series of questions and topics you should consider if 1) You're interested in learning more about becoming a freight broker agent or 2) If you are interested in learning what's out there that your current freight broker agent program is not providing you?
Technological innovation is critical to the success of almost any business and your freight brokerage business is no different. If you are using antiquated technology or your company is not investing in technology to position them for the future, they are a dying breed and will surely go the way of the buggy whip manufacturer that did extremely well 100 years ago but has been all but unheard of in the past 50 years. You have to think about where the company will be in 5 to 10 years down the road not just today.
A. Are they using antiquated, inadequate or difficult to use software to manage their freight, dispatch, invoicing, documents or any part of the freight brokerage process from beginning to end?
B. Does their dispatch/brokerage software have efficiency features like: auto posting to load boards, comprehensive reporting capabilities, detailed historical lane/rate history, online tracking for customers, paperless office with access to documents digitally?
C. Are new features being developed or added on an ongoing basis to try to help their people earn more money or better service their customers?
D. Do they offer agents a corporate email address to enhance the agent's image?
E. Do they have a team of people that are experienced in technology that know the ins and outs of developing, managing, monitoring and fixing their software, systems and networks?
F. Do they offer helpdesk support for their users that are having technology related problems or are the users on their own to figure it out?
G. Do they have redundant backup for their data, systems and network as a whole in case of power failure, internet outages or hardware, software failures?
Finance is another critical factor when selecting a freight brokerage to partner with that can help grow your business. Why? Because you are only as good as their financial resources, credit and willing to invest in their business no matter how much you are willing to invest in yours!
A. Do they pay their carries in less than 30 days consistently as evidenced by their Transcredit, First Advantage, ITS and DNB credit reports?
B. Do they offer carriers the option to receive quick pays?
C. Do they offer drivers advance options?
D. Do they have at least $100,000 in contingent cargo insurance?
E. Are they a NASTC Best Broker?
F. Are they a Compunet/First Advantage Gold Book Broker?
G. Do they offer a realistic commission plan or are they offering an unrealistic and unsustainable commission plan because they have little else to offer?
H. Do they offer incentive programs or contests to allow earn additional income, trips and other valuable goods?
I. Do they pay agents weekly, biweekly or monthly?
J. Do they pay agents based upon invoiced to customer or when the customer pays the invoice?
K. Does the company have a cash surplus or do they have a debt surplus?
L. Are they operating profitably and if so for how long?
M. Are the owners investing profits back into the business to help you grow your business? If so how much?
O. Do they have a $100,000 or higher broker bond so carriers of all sizes feel comfortable in doing business with them?
Marketing is always a critical element to the success of any company. Some companies invest more than others, some are better at marketing than others and some don't do any at all but ultimately marketing is critical to any agent's success.
A. What freight related services can you offer your customers?
B. Do they have a well designed and established website?
C. Do they provide quality marketing materials like brochures and business cards?
D. Do they provide targeted sales leads so you are not forced to use google.com every time you want to make a sales call?
E. Do they give agents hot freight quote leads from their website traffic?
F. Do they charge for marketing materials, business cards or sales leads?
G. Do they have an online newsletter to help stay in front of your customers?
H. Do they provide customer giveaways like pens, calendars, pocket knives, mugs to you and your customers to keep you top of mind?
I. Do they offer sales assistance for transitioning your clients or help in getting new clients?
J. Are they a member of the Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA)? www.tianet.org
Agent support should be a major factor in making a good decision on what company to represent. Simply put, if the people you will be working with are not service minded and experienced operators it can cause you to lose loads and become frustrated quickly.
A. Do they have an established carrier base with the equipment to meet your specific needs?
B. Do they setup your carriers and customers quickly and efficiently allowing you to focus on growing your business as opposed to shuffling paperwork?
C. Do they provide comprehensive and ongoing training in areas like sales, operations, software, goal setting, time management, marketing and even writing a business plan?
D. Do they provide freight claims assistance and management?
E. Do they offer after hour support in case of an emergency?
F. Do they offer driver advances for fuel and load/unload cost?
G. Are you able to communicate directly with the CEO and upper management to convey your ideas, thoughts and needs?
H. Do they answer their phones and emails or are you forced to wait for an extended period for people to get back to you?
A. Do they have a solid industry reputation with both carriers and shippers?
B. How long have they been in business for 5 years or more?
(The SBA has stated that only 50% of new businesses will survive beyond 5 years.)
C. Do they offer medical and dental benefits to their agents?
D. Will they provide agent references that you can talk to?
E. Do they have an agent recognition program?
The list could go on and on but the topics and questions listed above touch on all the main areas that one needs to consider when selecting a freight broker agent program. The days of just focusing on just the commission split are gone, now it is critical to find a technologically advanced, well financed, marketing savvy company with an impeccable industry reputation that is willing to and has the resources to truly help you navigate the increasingly competitive freight market place.
Good luck in your search and while it can be a daunting task our goal is to help you to better define each company's strengths and weaknesses so you can make a good decision for you, your family and the future of your business.
By Dennis Brown / www.logisticdynamics.com
Dennis Brown is the CEO of Logistic Dynamics, Inc. click here for full bio. LDi is an agent based third party logistics provider (3PL) specializing in freight management and freight broker related services. LDi is ranked as one of the top 25 freight brokerages in the U.S. by Inc. Magazine. For more information on our freight broker agent program click here.
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