Freight brokers don’t necessarily need to come from a trucking background. (Further down, I’ll tell what’s more important).
Some shippers will need “power” only. For example, they will have their trailers load and ready for a power unit to hook up. The driver will then deliver the cargo and leave without the trailer. It’s a hook and drop.
There are many types and models of truck cabs as well trailers. At times a shipper will require a certain year and model power unit. These requirements are mainly the result of clean air regulations. There may be other reasons as well. Older power units may have to get retro-fitted before entering particular highways or areas. Trailer units may be fitted with skirts and other devices to make them more aerodynamic thus reducing drag and increasing fuel mileage. These are issues that truck owners decide upon.
Now, before I started working in the brokerage industry, I thought the shipper would give me an order and then leave it up to me to find the proper trailer. This is not the case. Shippers normally know exactly what they need and they will provide that detail to brokers when giving the order.
The most popular types of trailers that a shipper will require will normally be either a dry van, a refrigerated unit (reefer) or a flatbed. Tankers may also be required for certain industries like chemicals or clean food cargo.
Dry vans are probably the simplest type of trailer. Just about any type of product can be moved that does not require refrigeration or is not over-sized. Dry food products, machine parts and clothing are examples. Cargo can be loaded in boxes, placed on pallets or some other configuration.
Some shippers may require inexpensive dunnage (cardboard, foam, etc.) to keep loads from shifting, for ventilation or to permit access/egress for forklifts.
Reefers deliver items that need to be temperature controlled. Fresh produce, meats, even some plants. The shipper will normally indicate a temperature of 38-40 degrees for produce; and for meat or other food items, a temperature of below zero is required.
Reefers are normally equipped with a temperature recording device that gauges and tapes the temperature for the duration of the trip. It’s up to each driver to set the temperature and maintain it in the correct manner.
Refrigerated cargo is perishable; the driver has to maintain a fine line between driving fast enough to get the product delivered yet hoping not to violate their hours of service limits.
Flat beds can come in different configurations. There is the regular flatbed with nothing fancy. Flatbeds are ideal for over-sized or heavy freight. Cargo can be loaded and off-loaded from several directions. Trailers can be step decks, low boys, extendable stretch, removable goose neck and others. Flatbeds can have sides put in place to haul bulk items or they can be tarped.
Whatever the case may be, the shipper will explain what they need. It’s up to the freight broker to accurately relay the information to the truck driver. If there is any question after taking the order from the shipper, it is important that the broker call the shipper back for clarification. Don’t wing it.
Now, as mentioned above, brokers don’t need to come from a trucking background; the most important requirements are to learn how to run a business. Learn how to not only work with shippers and carriers but also how to acquire customers, how to prequalify motor carriers, how to manage cash, how to set up effective operations and how to set aside time for planning.
By mastering these requirements a freight broker may well be on his way to major success.