Opening a freight brokerage can be a great way to accelerate your earnings. Freight brokers play an important role within the transportation industry by connecting shippers with transportation companies for trucks required to deliver their goods. While some shippers have contracts with specific trucking carriers, others rely on freight brokers for added flexibility, greater speed of delivery, and lower costs.
Freight brokers are required to comply with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s regulations for licensing. There are a few different types of operating authority licenses that freight brokers need to operate within the US, depending on the type of cargo they broker. All of the different types of freight broker operating authority require brokers to meet certain requirements, including being bonded with a freight broker surety bond. Here is some information about freight broker bonds so that you can get started with your business and ensure that it successfully operates.
What Is a Freight Broker Surety Bond?
Also known as a BMC-84 bond, a freight broker surety bond is a type of guarantee issued by a surety company that the principal holder will perform the work as promised. It is not insurance since the principal broker is not protected from liability by the bond. Instead, a BMC-84 bond is required by the government before a broker can become licensed. It is meant to protect the companies that rely on the broker and contract with it for services and to ensure that the broker will comply with the applicable regulations and laws while operating.
If a freight broker fails to fulfill its contractual obligations, a claim can be filed against the bond. However, the surety company is not responsible for paying the claim. Instead, the freight broker must pay claims filed against its bond. The surety company only steps in when the freight broker fails to pay its claim. If a freight broker has unpaid claims, it could lose its surety and its ability to continue operating.
A broker that fails to pay a carrier what the carrier is owed might have a claim filed against its bond. The carrier’s claim will be in the amount the broker owes for the services the carrier provided for the shipper the broker connected the carrier to for the transportation of freight. An unpaid claim against the surety could result in the surety terminating the bond and the loss of the broker’s license. It can also make it more difficult for the broker to secure a new freight broker bond, forcing the broker out of business.
Why Are Freight Broker Bonds Necessary?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires brokers to secure operating authority licenses and to renew them annually to continue operating within the US. One of the requirements for securing and renewing an operating authority license is to secure and maintain a surety bond for freight brokers.
The governmental requirement for brokers to be bonded is meant to protect the companies that depend on them. This is why surety bonds for freight brokers protect the parties with which the brokers contract instead of the brokers themselves. If you do not secure and maintain a BMC-84 freight broker bond, you will not be able to operate your freight brokerage since you will not be able to secure or renew your operating authority.
Which Parties Are Involved in a Freight Broker Surety Bond?
The three parties that are involved in a freight broker bond include the following:
• Principal – The freight broker seeking the bond to secure or maintain its operating authority license
• Obligee – The governmental agency requiring the bond, which is the FMCSA
• Surety – The surety company issuing the surety bond
How a Freight Broker Bond Works
A freight broker must find a surety company to issue a bond so that the broker can secure an operating authority license from the FMCSA. The surety company will go through an underwriting process before agreeing to issue the bond. It will review the broker’s credit and financial history, ensure that the broker has sufficient working capital to cover the maximum bond amount and check its history for past problems.
The bond functions similarly to a person’s credit score. If a broker has a history of multiple claims or past unpaid claims, the surety company might deny the application for the BMC-84 bond. If it does agree to move forward with issuing the bond, the freight broker bond cost will be much higher than if the company had instead established a good operating record.
The principal must pay a percentage of the maximum bond amount upfront to secure the bond. This cost might range from 1% of the total bonded amount for freight brokers with good credit and reputations to 15% for those with poor credit or with marks on their records.
Freight broker bonds expire, but they can be renewed. Since a freight broker must also renew its operating authority annually with the FMCSA, it must maintain its surety bond and renew it if it is getting ready to expire. A surety company can also terminate a bond when the principal has unpaid claims and refuse to renew it.
While freight broker bonds are not insurance and do not protect your business, they are a necessary part of operating a freight brokerage in the US. You cannot secure or renew your operating authority to broker freight between shippers and carriers within the US without having a valid freight broker surety bond.
Since your history with your bond could potentially harm your business reputation and your ability to continue operating, it is critical for your company to establish a good record and to meet its obligations if any claims are filed against your surety. Establishing a good history by complying with the law and meeting your contractual obligations can help your business to be more successful.