Do you have an interest in the transportation and logistics industry? Maybe you’ve always been drawn to trucking or shipping but don’t know how to put that passion to good use? Becoming a licensed freight broker may be a smart career move for you if these are questions you have pondered over time. A freight broker works as an intermediary between manufacturers and shippers, helping move products and goods from one location to the next. Freight brokers can make a steady living working for themselves or as part of a team, and they have an opportunity to do the work they love from home or an office setting.
However, there are certain steps one must take to become a licensed freight broker, including getting the right training, developing a business plan, meeting legal requirements, and obtaining a bond or trust fund. Here’s what you need to know if becoming a freight broker is in your future.
Get the Right Training
One of the first steps in becoming a licensed freight broker is obtaining the right training. Industry experience, in trucking, shipping, or logistics, goes a long way in laying the groundwork for a successful career as a freight broker. However, there are also classes and courses that can and should be pursued in order to get a full understanding of the business. These training opportunities are not legally required to become a freight broker, but they do offer information about trends in the industry, best practices, technology tools, and operating a business in the field.
Several freight broker training schools offer classes and coursework to those who want to work as a freight broker. Some schools offer in-person classes that provide a more personalized curriculum while others are self-study classes completed online. You can use this resource to uncover the top freight broker training schools as well as the classes you might want to complete in order to get your brokerage up and running successfully from the start.
Develop a Business Plan
In addition to industry experience and formal training in the freight broker field, you will also want to develop a business plan to set yourself up for success. Having a strong business plan allows you to evaluate what you need to establish your brokerage now as well as what is required for a solid, profitable future. A business plan includes detailed information about revenue sources, customer acquisition, strengths and weaknesses of the business, and projected financial information that acts as a budget. You can utilize business plan templates like those found on the Small Business Administration’s website to tackle this task.
Meet the Legal Requirements
After developing your business plan, your next step is understanding the meeting the legal requirements to become a licensed freight broker. You will need to register as a motor carrier and receive your motor carrier number through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA. You will also need to secure your motor carrier authority which is done through an application submitted online. This application requires you to pay a non-refundable $300 fee, so be prepared for this cost when applying. The process of obtaining these legal requirements and submitting the application can take several weeks. Be sure to review the information needed as part of the application process beforehand, and gather the right documentation before submitting your application.
Obtain Your Bond or Trust Fund
In addition to the application process mentioned above, new freight brokers must also satisfy the bond or trust fund requirement. The license to become a freight broker requires you to have a freight broker bond or to establish a trust fund in the amount of $75,000. The bond or trust fund protects shippers and carriers against bad business practices of the licensed broker.
The good news is that if you select the bond option, you do not have the pay the full bond amount of $75,000 up front. Instead, your surety agency charges you a percentage of the total bond amount, with the out of pocket cost ranging from $500 to $2,000. The price you pay is heavily dependent on your financial standing, including your personal credit score and history, so be sure you have your financial ducks in a row before applying.
Have a Marketing Strategy
After you have developed a sound business plan, met the legal licensing requirements, and obtained your freight broker bond, you’re ready to start working with customers. However, you will need a marketing strategy to help you get off on the right foot as a newly licensed freight broker. Many brokers use a combination of business relationships and freight load boards to create potential business, while others use social media, e-mail marketing, and an online presence to generate interest. Any combination of these marketing strategies can be beneficial. Just be sure to budget for the marketing methods you plan to use, and be flexible in your approach if one seems not to work as well as you intended.
The steps to become a licensed freight broker may seem daunting, but following this order makes it easier to get up and running in the industry quickly.
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.