05/15/09

  12:17:53 pm, Categories: efficiency , Tags: current economy, over-capacity

Freight brokers serve many masters. From the entity paying the freight charges, to the shippers, receivers, and carriers, and just about everyone and anyone in-between. Freight brokers, like a conductor of a symphony, must orchestrate the entire process with precision, experience, and harmony.

Some would say to define your customer by following the money - he who pays is served. While that certainly has some truth to it, it's definitely short-sited. You wouldn't have freight to haul if you didn't have a quality carrier to haul it for you. For sure right now there is an over-capacity problem, and there may continue to be for some time. But truly that just raises the bar. If your performance and service isn't exceptional, you are making it easier for others to replace you.

The over-capacity issue would indicate there are quite a few people competing for the freight you are managing. It is a good time to do more for your customers. Make yourself irreplaceable, not just to the person paying the freight but to the carrier as well, and to the shipper and receiver if possible. Take every opportunity to show you care and are interested in helping each person. It isn't about just being nice but looking for opportunities to help.

As an example of this, I knew a broker that had a receiver she dealt with on a weekly basis that always took three to four hours to unload each truck she sent in. The actual unloading only took about thirty minutes, but the process of checking in, assigning a dock door, or being sent to a holding pad was inevitably over two hours.

Some people would have started yelling and complaining and threatening detention charges, but not her, she just kept asking the receiver how she could help make things go more quickly. Finally after weeks of stonewalling the receiver let her know that they always held her customers loads until last because they were not stacked right for their rack space, creating more work in the warehouse to break the pallets down to a shorter stack. So they waited until all the other loads were done before unloading her shipments. With a few phone calls she was able to arrange a different stack height from the shipper.

Problem solved, not only for her and her trucks but for her customer, and ultimately her customers customer, the receiver.

A good freight broker recognizes that each person is a customer at some level. You serve and are served by each. Because freight brokers are the go between for so many different segments of our industry, they are in a perfect position to be problem solvers. As a problem solver you create a dependency and become irreplaceable. Having the time and organization to be a problem solver by paying more attention to all of the needs of the people you work with each day demands an efficient work environment.

If you are too busy pushing paper, and trying to find information, you will not have the time to provide excellent service. Yes, you know where I'm going with this.

In order to provide excellent service to your customers in today's environment, you must have a great freight brokerage system. You guessed it: TruckMaster's Freight Brokerage system will provide you the efficiency and organization that will allow you to spend that extra time solving problems for your many customers. Your customers, all of them, need to know that you can help them with their problems. Let us help you with yours.

If you don't have a freight brokerage system for your freight brokerage, or the system you do have isn't cutting it, contact TruckMaster today.

The money you invest in a TruckMaster system today will ensure your success tomorrow, and for years to come.

Kurtis Brown
TruckMaster Solution Provider
TruckMaster Your Freight Brokerage

05/07/09

  04:17:26 pm, Categories: starting , Tags: brokerage authority, starting a freight brokerage

What Is A Freight Broker?

A “Freight Broker” is a person who sells transportation, without actually providing it. They typically act as an intermediary between those who have freight to be transported, and freight transportation providers, whether by air, sea, or land. Freight Brokers earn their money by effectively utilizing contact networks they have established, normally charging a percentage of the gross transportation cost.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) calls them “Property Brokers”, which they define as transportation intermediaries who procure the services of motor carriers to transport property.

From the standpoint of an entity that has freight to be transported, a freight broker can serve as a single point of contact to a multitude of transporters, usually at no extra cost to them. From a freight transportation provider’s standpoint, a freight broker can be a consistent source of (discounted) freight, useful in a pinch.

Why Would I Want To Be A Freight Broker?

Regardless of the state of the economy, people need to eat, and sellers need to deliver their wares to buyers. To varying degrees, goods are therefore constantly being transported across the country. This situation results in continual business opportunities for a well connected freight broker.

The limited requirements for becoming a freight broker make it quite appealing to many, from displaced workers, to stay-at-home mothers, to truck drivers that want to remain in the industry but stay closer to home.

Entrepreneur Magazine rated a freight brokerage as one of the top 5 businesses to start in America. The Wall Street Journal recently recognized freight brokering and logistics as the largest growing sector of the transportation industry. It’s an ideal home based business for a self-starter who enjoys fast paced work.

The number of active property brokers registered with the FMCSA had increased from 16,930 in April of 2006, to 20,268 in April of 2008, a 15% increase in two years. It’s likely that a similar growth rate has been sustained in the year since these figures were published.

What Do I Need To Become A Freight Broker?

The FMCSA requires freight brokers to file Form OP-1 (“Application For Motor Property Carrier and Broker Authority”) along with a $300 fee.

You must also obtain a Surety Bond or Trust Fund from a bank or bonding company for a minimum of $10,000. The cost for this will vary depending on your credit rating. Form BMC-84 (“Property Broker’s Surety Bond”) or Form BMC-85 (“Property Broker’s Trust Fund Agreement”) must be filed with the FMCSA.

The final FMCSA filing requirement prior to receiving authority to operate as a freight broker is Form BOC-3 (“Designation of Process Agents”).

A fax machine and a multi-line phone with inexpensive unlimited long distance are arguably the next most important items on the list.

Although you may be able to initially get by without it, a computer will become essential for a freight broker. An investment in a good freight brokerage software system will greatly enhance your efficiency, and should be pursued as soon as revenues allow. TruckMaster would be happy to provide this to you when you’re ready.

Alternatively, you could become an “Agent” for a freight broker that provides these items for your use, typically for a share of your commissions.

Although definitely not required, there are a myriad of trade schools and local college programs that could give you training and credentials. Google for “freight broker training” to get started searching, should you decide that this would be advantageous for you.

What Revenue Opportunity Is There For A Freight Broker?

As with most businesses, there will be a build-up period where you will initially have to “hit it hard” and establish contacts. If you’re lucky enough to come into it with some good contacts, it may take you much less time to get established, but you should otherwise plan on 6-10 months to get off the ground.

Individual earnings for a full-time determined freight broker with good contacts and some luck could range anywhere from $40,000 to $200,000 per year or more.

Should you not be in a position to risk the time and money that it may take to get the business off the ground, starting off as an agent for an established brokerage may allow you to learn more about the business while saving up money to branch out on your own.


More information can be found all over the web with regard to the challenges in starting a freight brokerage, or feel free to contact TruckMaster with your questions, we have experienced ex-brokers on staff that would be happy to answer your questions.

Greg Dodson
TruckMaster Logistics Systems, Inc.
TruckMaster Your Freight Brokerage

03/27/09

If I could save time in a bottle…

As the words to the song by Jim Croce go:

“If I could save time in a bottle, the first thing that I’d like to do, is to save every day till eternity passes away…
…But there never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do, once you find them…”

Although this song is written about desiring to spend more time with the one you love, it is also applicable to today’s freight logistics world. How, you ask? by reminding me of how I could manage my time better. As a old freight logistics broker, I often think back on days when I wondered if I was ever going to see the next one – finding freight, booking carriers on that freight, scheduling carrier pickups and deliveries, following up with those carriers as to their performance on pickup and delivery, and alerting customers to problems, as well as negotiating rates with customers, finding new customers, negotiating rates with carriers, finding new carriers, satisfying customer insurance requirements, satisfying carrier pickup and/or delivery requirements, handling claims, billing customers, paying carriers, etc. – some days just seemed to go on forever. In those days there were no affordable computers or software programs to help better manage time and, therefore, business. Some brokers, with photographic memories, were extremely gifted at remembering every detail and had all of their information readily available – they were the successful ones. The less fortunate ones made use of large volumes of notepads, 3-ring binders and any scrap of paper they could find and tried their best to keep up with the demands of an ever changing market.

In today’s market, there are a number of software packages that were designed to replace the paper. The problem – they became the paper we sought so diligently to get rid of – no real functionality, just paperless paper. This brings us to the TruckMaster 2000 Software System. An intelligent software system that not only tracks customers, carriers, freight, and the movement of that freight to help us manage our time better, but has alerts, alarms and warnings that remind us of possible late deliveries before they are actually late, pending insurance certificate lapses, customer payment practices, appointment reminders, etc. – the list of time management possibilities is endless.

Now the exciting news! With TruckMaster’s web interfaces for customers and carriers, your customers can send you freight, check status of in-transit loads, view and print invoices and accompanying documentation, see trucks you have available and more, all from your webpage. Carriers can tell you where they have trucks available (so your customers can see them), bid on your available freight (including the freight just sent to you from your customers via your webpage), accept loads you have tendered to them, update the status of their trucks and update appointment schedules for any and all loads they are hauling for you, submit their invoice to you along with the appropriate paperwork, and more, again, all from your webpage.

We may not be able to “save time in a bottle,” but we can save time in our business by using TruckMaster 2000 Software System, the software program designed to make certain there will “be enough time to do the things you want to do.”

Dale Clark
TruckMaster Solution Provider
TruckMaster Your Freight Brokerage

03/12/09

  06:40:19 pm, Categories: efficiency , Tags: freight brokerage automation, web portal

Wouldn't it be nice if the majority of the mundane duties that your traffic managers are performing could be instead performed by your customers and carriers themselves?

Imagine If You Will...

Bob's Building Materials, one of your smaller customers, has an order of lumber to be shipped from his yard in Nashville, to a construction site in Sacramento. He logs onto your secure website via a username and password that you've assigned to him, and enters the load information. When submitted, the load instantly appears on your traffic manager’s screen, as an unaccepted tender. Simultaneously your traffic manager is alerted, and the software returns Bob an email confirming receipt of the tender.

At this particular moment, your traffic manager does not have a truck available for the shipment. He chooses to sit on it for an hour or two, because he knows that...

John's Get-It-There Express, a carrier you use from time to time, logs onto your secure carrier website using the username and password you've assigned him. There he sees limited information about a flatbed load that picks up in Nashville and drops in Sacramento. It so happens that John has a truck ending up in Nashville, so he enters a bid of "$1.25 per mile" on the load and submits it.

He also updates positions of a few of his trucks so that your traffic manager sees where and when they'll be available.

Your traffic manager is instantly alerted to this bid, but would rather not book it with John’s company, due to performance issues that the system alerts him to on past loads he done. He chooses to hold off, rather than immediately declining John the load. He’d like to move it, good paying loads are hard to come by. He still has an hour or so to accept or decline the load tender from Bob's Building Materials, and he knows from past experience that he should wait, because he knows that..

Suzie-Q Carriers Limited sees the available load via her RSS feed to your available load web page. This gives her the ability to view loads that you have available without even logging onto your website. She quickly enters a bid of "$1.20 per mile + FSC" on the Nashville to Sacramento load and submits it. Once again, instantly, the traffic manager is alerted of the new bid. He's never worked with Suzie before, but the system runs a check and shows that her qualifications are in order, and her performance on past loads was good.

With a single keystroke, the traffic manager tenders the load to Suzie. She is sent an email with a link to the page to use to accept it, which she does. Your traffic manager is immediately notified of the acceptance, and in turn accepts the load tender from Bob's Building Materials. The system takes care of notifying John's Get-It-There Express that the load is no longer available, so he doesn't have to worry about that. Nor does he have to worry about calling Bob, the system has already sent him an email alerting him that the tender has been accepted.

Suzie doesn't have a decent trucking software system with EDI, so she uses your carrier website to enter in the load appointment and status information as it moves. Immediately after she submits the data, it's available to your traffic manager, and more importantly, Bob can see the location and system-generated ETA for his load from his customer website as it progresses. Your traffic manager knows that he does not need to monitor this data, as if Suzie’s truck gets behind, the software will automatically change the status of the load to "late" and send him an alert. It doesn't, so he instead spends his time matching up a few of the available trucks that John submitted with some lesser priority loads.

Once the load has been delivered, Suzy logs on and enters the delivery dates and times. She also creates and submits her invoice to you through your website, along with scanned copies of the proof of delivery documents. This speeds up your cash flow, as well as hers, as you can electronically bill Bob for the load now via EDI, or...

You can create an electronic-only copy of the invoice to Bob, which he'll receive via RSS feed. Immediately after you create the invoice, the POD documents that Suzy submitted (minus her invoice of course) are attached to it, and Bob can access all of them in a single PDF document. No emailing, no snail mailing, no hassle.

Suzy can access information on any load she's ever hauled for you, and that means a lot to her. In fact, it's a factor in the rate she offers you, she doesn’t need to purchase better software when you offer her the services that you do.

After payment is received from Bob, and an allocated amount of time has passed, the system generates a check to Suzy.

Bob was so satisfied with the service he received from you, he immediately views the other equipment you have available for booking on your website, and tenders you another load.

Time your staff spent on the entire lifecycle of this load: 15 seconds. Nice, huh?

Ask us today for a free demonstration.

Greg Dodson
President
TruckMaster Logistics Systems, Inc.
TruckMaster Your Freight Brokerage

  02:27:09 pm, Categories: regulations , Tags: carrier qualifications, regulations

Within the recent court ruling in "Schramm V. Foster" the court said that a brokerage company was required to use "due diligence" in selecting a carrier. It is now more important than ever that you qualify your carriers prior to tendering them a load or you may be held liable along with the carrier.

"Due diligence" as applied by this ruling, requires each brokerage company to establish a corporate policy on qualifying carriers and always follow this policy before tendering to a carrier.

The following should be considered when establishing your policy:

  • Create a file for each carrier.
  • Include in this file a copy of the carrier’s operating authority and insurance filings with the FMCSA, along with the carrier’s insurance certificates.
  • Check the FMCSA safety rating and include in the file.
  • Do not use a carrier if their safety rating is "unsatisfactory".
  • If the safety rating is "conditional" or there is no safety rating at all, develop a program to check the carrier yourself. Always follow this policy before tendering a load.
  • Every carrier file must be kept current with any information received and should be review when appropriate. A monitoring process should be employed for this purpose.

A freight brokerage software system should include a way to establish a carrier file easily (preferably in electronic format to save time and money) and provide a monitoring process to know when it is time to update the carrier file with new insurance certificates and check their FMCSA file again.

TruckMaster Logistics Systems, Inc. has both the carrier file with electronic document storage and the carrier monitoring process which will not allow you to book a load on a carrier with expired qualifications.

You can't afford to ignore this court ruling, and I encourage all brokerage companies to stay current on this issue.

Craig Sorensen
TruckMaster Solution Provider
TruckMaster Your Freight Brokerage™

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