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International shipping is a complex process that requires time, knowledge, and finances to execute successfully. From understanding international transportation law to negotiating with shipping carriers, freight brokerage specialists can make the process much easier. A skilled and experienced freight broker agent, freight broker, or independent freight agent helps businesses with freight brokering, ensuring they receive the best possible freight rates and their shipments reach their destinations without a hitch.

Although freight agent brokers and freight brokers are often used interchangeably, there are some key differences between the two. While they both perform similar roles within the logistics industry, they are not the same. Essentially, the main difference is that a freight broker is an officially licensed business within the transportation industry, while an agent is a salesperson that usually represents a broker.

If your business is involved in moving goods internationally from the United States, you should consider hiring professional shipping experts to maximize the potential for success and to reduce the possibility of unwanted delays and fees. Before choosing between freight agents or brokers, it’s important to understand the key differences between different freight experts.

Difference Between a Freight Broker Agent and Freight Broker

Although they are closely related and often used as substitutes for each other, freight agents and freight brokers are separate entities.

What is a Freight Broker?

A freight broker acts as a middleman between shippers and carriers to turn a profit and to facilitate a successful deal for both parties. Rather than taking responsibility for the goods like a freight forwarder, a broker helps shippers and carriers to communicate and create deals that result in shipments arriving safely and on time.

A key aspect of being a freight broker is they’re required to earn a license from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and gain a surety bond. These requirements are in place to make sure licensed brokers maintain a certain set of standards, prevent fraud, and ensure carriers and shippers are paid on time. Failure to comply with the terms agreed with the FMCSA, and the security bond may result in claims being filed against the license and bondholder.

Freight brokers are knowledgeable in logistics and use their experience and expertise to speed up delivery times, reduce costs, improve supply chain efficiency, reduce the chances of damage, and more. Brokers often benefit from lower freight rates as their extensive networks of shippers and carriers mean they ship at high volumes.

What is a Freight Broker Agent?

A freight broker agent is essentially a salesperson that works on behalf of a freight broker or freight brokerage business. Rather than operate as business owners, they navigate deals with shipping companies and carriers. The work of a freight agent also involves sourcing clients and building accounts and contracts.

One of the primary differences between freight brokers and agents is that agents don’t have to be licensed brokers with the U.S. Bureau of Transportation. Many brokers or transportation companies will encourage their agents to take a freight broker course or sign them up for an agent training program to better their careers and become more highly skilled brokers. Many agents upskill through training and education programs independently, with some eventually becoming licensed freight brokers.

Depending on the specific broker that an agent works for, the details of the role may vary. However, the core responsibilities involve:

  • Client sourcing
  • Finding available carriers
  • Domestic freight brokering
  • International freight brokering
  • Planning pickups and deliveries
  • Office and administration work
  • Customer service and support
  • Increasing skills through training
  • Marketing operations

In addition to freight broker agents and freight brokers, businesses may hire an independent freight agent to help with the shipping process.

Freight Broker Agent vs. Independent Freight Agent

Independent freight agents perform essentially the same role as freight broker agents, but they do so independently. An independent agent is its own boss and operates as an independent contractor. This means they have broader career opportunities and aren’t restricted to working for a single broker. An important distinction between the two is that although an independent broker may operate as a sales agent under the authority of a licensed freight broker, they are not employees.

If an independent freight agent wants to set up their own brokerage, they must undergo freight broker training to acquire their freight broker license. However, if this isn’t the goal, they can continue with the freedom of working for a variety of employers in the shipping industry.

Benefits of Working With a Freight Broker Agent

There are many advantages to working with a freight agent from a successful freight brokerage. Whether you run your own business, are looking for additional revenue streams, or have domestic or international shipping problems, a successful freight broker can help with the process. Some of the core benefits of working with a freight broker agent include:

Strong Network With Carriers

Freight broker agents offer value through the number of contacts they have within the industry. They work with an extensive list of carriers daily, performing jobs for multiple clients. Freight broker agents handle the core shipping operations, such as scheduling and pricing, meaning you can concentrate on the critical aspects of your own work. They have access to low price freight carriers and reputable fleets of trucks, giving you the best chance of delivering your goods on time.

Access to Technology

Freight broker agents operate at the top of the industry and generally have access to the latest shipping and logistics technology. This technology allows you to track and trace shipment activity in real-time, giving you more precise information to offer your customers.

Handling Issues

If there are any issues with your shipment load, such as delays, damage, pricing difficulties, or other problems, a freight agent broker can help resolve them. Many brokers offer insurance and liability assistance, ensuring you’re covered if issues occur. Advice on licensing, additional fees, and other financial aspects of international shipping can also be gained through a freight agent partner.


As a business owner or manager, the financial aspects of the company are difficult enough to manage without having to handle shipping or gain your broker license. A freight brokerage operation works with multiple carriers, providing high volumes of business. This allows them to enjoy much better pricing than you’re likely to get yourself. The time and cost savings can lead to a significant return on investment (ROI).

Work With a World-Class International Shipping Company

No matter what industry you’re in, a world-class international shipping company can help grow your business through market expansion. Whether your goal is to expand into new marketplaces or you’re struggling to meet the current demands on your business, Asiana USA can help you reach your targets through experience and expertise.

For more information or advice, give us a call at (855) 500-1808.

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