In the continental United States, there are over 16,000 freight brokers and freight broker agents who handle the logistics of moving cargo and goods throughout the country. These professionals may be a smaller brokerage who handles the shipping for a particular client, or large brokerages who handle many clients, arranging international shipments worldwide.
Choosing the correct freight broker in the US does not have to be a difficult decision if you are careful to look for the underlying regulations and professional requirements that guarantee excellent service and proven business practices.
Also, bigger is not always better since shipping requirements vary depending on the type of cargo, the distance shipped, overseas shipping or the freight broker’s ability to ensure the security and safety of your shipment.
The final choice is up to the client, but there are some things that all qualified brokers have in common. Choosing the right broker can alleviate the stress of shipping and allow you to focus on other aspects of your business.
Look for Someone to Partner With
Transparency and trust are major components in choosing a freight broker to work with. In the US, this is of the utmost importance because you want to look for a broker who you can form a strong partnership with. This way of approaching the selection of a freight broker removes the fear that can be associated with loading your product on a truck or train and hoping that it will get to where you want it to go.
You want to make sure that the broker is accountable to you and their services meet the demands of your supply chain, arrive in the best condition possible, and that the price they charge is within acceptable rates. In short, the broker you choose should be reliable and provide good service.
The concept of partnership is not a new one, but in this day and age when owners just want to get things done quickly and for the lowest price, they may forget about the unwritten benefits of working closely with a professional and allowing them to share in the fostering of success. This added element of expectation can be a deciding factor on how you choose your freight broker agent.
Ask the Right Questions
When consulting with a potential freight broker, it is beneficial to have an idea of what general operational practices drive the foundation of their services to you as a shipper. Other than licensing, the broker has to have a proven track record for excellent performance in at least four areas. These are listed as questions for your use as you can use these as a template to interview a potential freight broker agent. Seeking the answers to these questions can guide you in finding a perfect match for your company’s shipping needs.
First Question: Does the Freight Broker Choose the Right Carrier?
The qualified broker will have an experienced network of carriers, and they will understand the capabilities of each one. The broker will be able to assess the contents of your cargo, and they will know what mode of transportation works best, what to expect when loading and unloading your cargo, and which operators will follow through with any special directions that you require to have a successful shipment.
On the surface, this seems like a simple task, but with so many different modes of transport and select cargo, sometimes the need to save money influences the type of carrier the broker chooses.
If the broker has a tendency to move and manipulate cargo just for the sake of fitting your cargo onto a more convenient mode, but not the correct one for your goods, then they may not be the right choice. If you suspect that the broker is saving money at your expense, then it may be better judgment to look elsewhere.
Second Question: Is Your Cargo Protected?
The quality broker will always ask you the value of the goods that you are shipping. This is very important because there has to be adequate insurance on the service the broker provides as well a liability coverage that the carrier should have. If there is no assurance that your cargo is protected, then the broker is quoting you a price to get your business, and he is not looking out for your best interests.
Each carrier has to have specific liability insurance for such things like the class of the shipment, the type of commodity being shipped, and the overall value that it should be the insured amount. Always be prepared to provide the broker with the value of your shipment.
Third Question: What is the Safety Rating of Each Carrier?
There is more to safety than just getting the loaded cargo from one place to the other without incident. In the shipping business carriers have to establish a safety rating that means their service has a track record of handling customers’ cargo in the most efficient and secure method possible.
The broker who offers the best price for the shipment may not have your bottom line in mind especially if he is cutting corners by placing your load with another load, using poor carriers with inadequate equipment, or holding your freight hostage due to an insurance claim that cannot be settled.
One of the most recent safety concerns is the need for brokers to check the identities of the carriers. There has been an increase in identity theft within the trucking business that results in shipments being stolen and sold to organized crime schemes.
When the carriers are improperly screened this criminal activity can occur. The good broker knows that this situation exists and takes pains to check the background of all the carriers. The Asiana USA International Shipping Company has a very experienced and qualified staff on board to handle all of your shipping needs. They will ensure that your cargo gets where you want and in the condition you expect.
Fourth Question: What are the Details of the Shipment?
Although this seems like a simple question it is essential to make sure that the broker has the capability of accurately recording all the details regarding the shipment. This includes special instructions that may seem untraditional but nevertheless required. Some of the standards of delivery request include Government, liftgate, Limited Access, Residential, COD and by appointment. The broker should be able to confirm that he will deliver your goods as specified and confirm your shipping rates.
A Closer Look
Once you have a general feel as to how the freight broker operates the business, there are a few things that are important to confirm just to make sure that the broker is running his business in accordance with the rules and laws of the profession. Here are a few more tips to consider before you make a final decision.
Does the Broker have the Experience?
We are all capable of handling the shipment of a cargo of goods given a telephone and a directory of trucking companies. However, the last thing you want is to send your shipment with your next-door neighbor or with your brother-in-law who is trying to earn a little extra money on the side. You want to make sure your freight broker knows the ins and outs of the business and can use that knowledge and expertise to benefit your needs. Experience and networking are key to the success of the freight broker agent.
Does the Broker have a License?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issues a license to all brokers, required by Federal law, known as the federal property broker license. This law requires that the broker maintain a bonding requirement of $75,000. In 2013 this amount was raised from only $10,000 causing many small freight brokers to drop out of the business. Make sure the broker you choose has the correct license and bonding.
Does the Broker have the Correct Bonding?
Always ask to see the broker’s bond details. The freight broker agent needs to have a Motor Carrier Operating Authority (MC Authority) to run a business as a freight broker. This authority is granted by the FMCSA and provides a broker registration number that you can verify by checking the FMCSA records if the broker cannot provide it to you.
This bond holds the broker accountable to follow all the rules and regulations of the shipping industry. In many cases, the freight broker will also carry additional cargo insurance, liability insurance and “errors and omissions” insurance. The more protected the broker is, the more protected your shipment will be.
How is the Broker’s Credit?
For any given trip or shipment, there are unexpected events that can occur. Brokers should have a good history of paying their carriers on time without a problem, and they should treat their carriers fairly. It is very easy to run a credit check on the broker to make sure that they are financially sound, pay all of their bills on time, and have the financial security to handle any crisis or other transportation issues.
How does the Broker Verify Carrier Authority?
Make sure that the broker has a screening process for the carriers that he uses and copies of their safety records. Remember, when you employ a freight broker to handle your shipment you forfeit a certain amount of direct control over this process. You usually have no choice as to who the carrier is.
Is the Broker Associated with an Affiliated Group?
Trust in the Broker can be enhanced by confirming their membership in a national organization that promotes an ethical standard for doing business. For freight brokers, the Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA) is a well-known group that has a published ethical operations policy that members strive to adhere to in everyday transactions. TIA is the premier organization of its kind in North America. Always look for these positive signs when interviewing a freight broker.
Is the Broker an Asset-Based Carrier?
An asset-based carrier (3PL) is a freight broker that may have its own fleet of trucks available for use. This can be important if there is an immediate need for shipment and other carriers cannot be scheduled. If this situation occurs, the freight broker can assign one of their own trucks to handle the shipment thereby saving valuable time and money for the customer. A freight broker with these kinds of resources has proven that he can succeed in a competitive business by ensuring excellent service for his customers.
Is the Contract in Writing?
Any qualified broker will have standard contracts that outline the services and expectations that he will adhere to. In addition, the estimates for the shipping costs will always be in writing to confirm the expenses that are incurred by the shipper. If you ship internationally there can be the additional unexpected costs for fees, duties, or tariffs, and sometimes these costs can add large amounts to the final shipping bill. Always clarify all of the terms and conditions of the shipping agreement and have them in writing.
The many thousands of freight brokers and freight broker agents in the United States provide both opportunities and concerns for the shipper who has goods ready to send to a waiting buyer. The shipper has to be sure that they have established a partnership relationship with the broker to ensure that all of the logistics involved are completed professionally and efficiently.
In addition, the choice of a broker should be based on correct licensing, good business practice, knowledge and experience in the business, and a clear record of operating under a common ethical standard.
The International Shipping Company at Asiana USA handles many customers in the United States, and we meet all the qualifications for excellence in freight brokerage. Call us at 855-500-1808 for an estimate to ship your cargo.