It’s every freight broker’s worst nightmare: You finally landed the big account you wanted, and you’ve been awarded a contract to serve as freight broker. If you can keep your client happy, you could see your business grow by double. But on the day their first load arrives, you get a call from your client — and they’re not happy. The driver was late, his service was terrible, and worst of all, the freight was damaged. Now, you won’t get paid the full amount for the load, and the shipper has cancelled your contract. Why did this happen? And, more importantly, how can you keep it from happening again?
If you’re a startup broker or a smaller broker, finding quality carriers can be a struggle — but it doesn’t have to be. You can protect your reputation and your bottom line by learning a few simple tips:
1. Get Connected.
One of the easiest ways to build your carrier database is to ask other freight brokers for referrals. Even if you don’t know any other brokers, you can start networking by joining an industry organization, such as the Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA). TIA is a freight broker membership community that can be a great source for building relationships, accessing resources, and getting educated on important topics in third party logistics.
Members of TIA can access a Freight Broker Directory to find qualified drivers, and take advantage of the organization’s widely used TIA Watchdog feature. Think of it as the Angie’s List of the trucking world: it allows TIA members to inform one another about fraudulent operators. Users can report unauthorized re-brokering of shipments, no-shows, cancellations, theft, unjustified loss of freight, and other issues.
2. Get what you pay for.
If you needed a life-saving operation to remove a brain tumor, you wouldn’t go to an unlicensed, back-alley surgeon and ask for their best rate. You’d want the best doctor money could buy (assuming you’re insured.) Why? Because the more experienced and credentialed the doctor, the higher fee he or she can demand. While truck driving isn’t brain surgery, the same idea holds true: experienced drivers charge more. Generally speaking, low-paying loads attract low-quality drivers, and high-paying loads attract high-quality drivers. Be sure to understand the going rate for loads that are similar to yours, and offer a rate that is in line with the market.
You can get an idea of what other brokers are paying — and search for quality drivers — on reputable load boards, such as DAT Solutions. While load boards like these aren’t free, the freight matching services they provide may pay for themselves. You can use these services to post your loads immediately, and find safe trucks and reliable carriers fast. According to DAT’s website, their load board is searched by carriers an average of 303,000 times per day, increasing the likelihood that you’ll find the best match for your load quickly.
While it is possible to get a low quality driver from what seems to be a high quality carrier company, many load boards include tools that can help you minimize risk. Look for one that verifies carrier credentials and provides independent, third party information on carriers’ operating authority, insurance, and CSA safety scores. You can also read reviews to see what other brokers have to say about prospective carriers.
3. Get quality drivers by being a quality broker.
One of the best ways to attract a reliable, responsible carrier is to be a reliable, responsible broker. That means treating truckers the way you would like to be treated, and conducting your business in an ethical manner. If you pay carriers on time, communicate respectfully, and follow through on your commitments, they are more likely to do their best work, and even refer others to you. If, on the other hand, you don’t treat carriers well, word will get around. Truckers talk — and you want to be sure that they’re saying good things about your business.
It’s also important to understand the rules and regulations of the trucking industry, including Hours of Service (HOS) regulations. These rules establish maximum hourly driving limits, required rest breaks, and sleep requirements for drivers. They are essential to ensure the safety of drivers, passengers and other vehicles on the road — and it’s against the law for drivers to violate these rules. When truckers are assigned loads with unrealistic delivery deadlines, they are placed in a tough position that can compromise safety for everyone on the road. Be sure to set realistic expectations for your clients, and never ask a driver to stay on the road longer than HOS regulations allow.
Finally, show that you’re a reliable broker by never double-brokering carriers. Not to be confused with co-brokering, double brokering is illegal and takes place when a carrier (who may also own a freight brokerage) accepts a load from a freight broker under the guise that he will transport the load, but then brokers it off to another carrier. Be transparent in all of your dealings. You’ll avoid legal battles, and show carriers and shippers that you’re a trustworthy partner.
Quality carriers are attracted by fair brokers who pay well, and pay reliably. If you need assistance to working capital that can help you pay drivers faster (even when you’re waiting for payment yourself), contact Blaine Waugh, at Triumph Business Capital. He can provide you with a few more resources to help you become a more successful freight broker.