Several moving parts exist to make the transportation and logistics industry succeed. From truck drivers and innovative technology companies, to shippers, carriers, and freight brokers, each part of the marketplace helps create smoother transfer of goods while improving efficiencies across the board. When it comes to freight brokers – the licensed intermediaries who work to connect carriers and manufacturers – the ability to run a successful operation relies on a foundation of business relationships. Freight brokers must take the time to cultivate their partnerships and connections from day one to ensure they have what they need to sustain a viable business.
Understanding the Freight Brokerage Business
Recent statistics estimate the total number of freight brokers working in the United States to be slightly more than 17,000. Some work independently under their own business structure while others are employed by large brokerage firms. In either scenario, licensed brokers have to go through distinct steps to ensure they are operating within current federal laws. The most important part of the licensing process is registration and obtaining motor carrier authority through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Along with this requirement, freight brokers must also go through formal training at a freight broker training school to learn what is necessary to become effective in the field. The licensing regulations also require brokers to hold a bond or a trust, with the most common choice being a freight broker bond. Obtaining a freight broker bond is one of the first situations where a strong relationship is necessary.
A bond is a form of credit extended to the broker, based on their financial track record and credit history. If a claim is made against the bond because the broker has engaged in business practices outside the lines of federal regulations, the claim amount is paid from the bond on behalf of the broker. This structure means that the surety company offering the bond must trust that the freight broker is a good candidate for the bond, meaning there will be minimal claims in the future. Maintaining a relationship with the surety company is beneficial when bonds renew, and it can be helpful when claims arise.
Relationships and Cash Flow Help
Business relationships are also a crucial aspect of a freight broker’s business when it comes to financial partners. Banks, credit unions, and online lenders exist to help small businesses fund large projects, expansion, or to cover cash flow when the need arises. However, without a relationship with certain lenders or finance companies, freight brokers may find themselves in a hard to navigate position.
For some freight brokers, cash flow can become tight when customers are slow to pay or when business slows down. The business still has overhead to pay, and there may be a need for increased marketing or advertising to entice new customers to connect. Each of these issues requires available capital. A relationship with a finance company, such as an invoice factoring, small business loan, or line of credit lender can make all the difference in getting through a dry spell or a time of high growth.
Keeping Customers Satisfied
Finally, relationships are essential to freight brokers when it comes to working with their customers. Although the size of the freight brokerage market is small compared to other facets of the transportation or logistics industry, competition grows each day. The barriers to entry to start a brokerage business are minimal, as are start-up costs, and so many with industry experience join the ranks of freight brokers consistently year over year. The increased number of licensed brokers can make it challenging for seasoned professionals to keep the upper hand on competitors.
Maintaining strong working relationships with customers, business connections, and networking partners are necessary to keep ahead of the competition. When other professionals in the industry know that a particular broker is known for delivering on his or her promise to shippers and carriers, they are likely to stay busy with work. Similarly, having processes in place for clear communication and managing issues when they come about helps strengthen relationships over time.
Being in the freight brokerage market can offer a lucrative career path for those with a passion for moving freight efficiently. However, healthy relationships are a must throughout nearly every aspect of the business. Brokers need to ensure they have built up and can maintain good connections with their surety company, finance partners, and of course, their customers and business partners, if they want to be successful now and in the future.
Eric Weisbrot is the Chief Marketing Officer of JW Surety Bonds. With years of experience in the surety industry under several different roles within the company, he is also a contributing author to the surety bond blog.