10 Goal Setting Hacks for Freight Brokers

When you attend formal freight broker training, one of the subjects included in the curriculum is goal setting. It’s a fundamental, critical activity for freight brokers for the simple reason that you can easily get lost in the tactics and lose sight of the bigger picture in such a fast-moving environment. Knowing where you’re headed to in such a competitive industry will help you manage your time effectively and cut away the unimportant incidentals that could derail your success train.

At the end of the day, your success as a freight broker will be defined by how well you accomplished objectives that you set out to do. Here are 10 goal setting hacks designed to kick-start your freight brokering success:

1. Define goals that are relevant and important to your career as a freight broker.

The goals that you set out for yourself must be motivating and inspiring. Nothing spells failure as much as having a goal that does not excite you or catch your imagination. If the end game you’re working towards doesn’t present any value to you, then you’ll be hard put to work for it.

There must also be a sense of urgency—an “I have to do this” mindset—attached to it to minimize procrastination.  To make a goal an urgent matter, connect it to your important priorities. For example, your priority for the next year is a two-week wedding anniversary trip to the Caribbean for you and your wife. Tied to that is the goal of earning x amount of profit dollars so you can afford the vacation. Certainly, you’d want to achieve the latter so you can frolic on the sands of a tropical beach, free from the pressures of tracking cargoes, finding shippers and completing reams of paperwork.

2. Make your goals as specific as possible.

Your goal must be clearly defined—no motherhood statements and abstract generalizations. Not “I will be a successful freight broker someday.” but “I will be a 7-figure-income freight broker by December 20xx.” Create a vivid picture of your goal. Add explicit details. Don’t allow vagueness into your vision. This way, you’ll have an image of the end of the road so that when you get there, you’ll know in no uncertain terms that you’ve done what you’ve set out to do.

3. Your goals must be measurable.

A goal like “I will be a successful freight broker someday” doesn’t lend itself to tangible, quantifiable results. Just what does “successful” look like? How will you know you’ve been successful if you can’t measure it? Your criteria for success must not contain any abstract definitions but dates, amounts, and other measurement standards.

4. Set goals that are attainable.

What’s the use of setting goals when you don’t have any hope of achieving them? Spell out objectives that are doable. If you don’t have what it takes at the moment to accomplish what you’ve set out to do, then you must have a plan on how to acquire that knowing so you can go about reaching your targets. Guard against setting goals that are too easy though. Aim for something that will challenge you, not bore you.

5. The goals you set must be relevant to the direction that you’re aiming for.

It’s elementary to set goals to achieve your big picture but there are some who can’t differentiate between what’s pertinent and what’s irrelevant. There are freight brokers who get embroiled in goals that are not aligned with the brokering business. Ask yourself: Will this goal focus me on my end game or will it distract me and fritter away my energy from doing what’s necessary?

6. Set a deadline for achieving each goal.

When you have a deadline attached to a goal, you create a sense of urgency. You’ll be aware of the passing time and how much of your tasks you’ve completed. You can also adjust timelines or action plans accordingly. And you’ll definitely know when you’ve become successful because you have the finished benchmarks to show for it.

7. Write down your goals.

By putting hand to pen and pen to paper, you’re physically committing yourself to a goal. Brian Tracy says that a goal that’s not written down is no goal at all. A connection is forged between the hand and the brain when you write down and experts say you’re twice more likely to remember something you’ve written down than something in your mind. Just the physical act of jotting down a goal makes it real and tangible, enabling you to fix this picture of success in your mind much more easily.

8. Create an action plan detailing your path to success.

Some people look at their goals then freeze up. They’re overwhelmed at the enormity of the undertaking. Overcome this hurdle by breaking down your big goals into bite-sized pieces. Create an action plan with accompanying dates and milestones so you can move steadily towards your goal. The exercise will help you identify priorities and define what’s necessary, important and urgent, so you can manage your time and your energies must more efficiently.

9. Reward yourself for realized goals.

The best incentive to doing something is a reward because it speaks well to our emotional pleasure-pain hot buttons. When there’s something in it for us, we’re reinforcing good behavior—good behavior being working towards achieving what we set out to do. Your reward could be something as trivial as an hour in front of the TV watching a baseball game or something as extravagant as a ticket to the NBA championships.

10. Revisit your goals regularly.

Read the goals that you’ve written down daily, weekly or monthly. This way, you’re constantly aware of where you are and how close you are at achieving your aims. Review and refine, adapt and adjust where necessary to keep your goals or your action plans relevant and updated.

Setting goals is an important skill to acquire during freight broker training so that when you finally enter the sector, you can make a beeline to success. The path to freight broker success, they say, is paved with good intentions but unless you sit down, set goals in writing and specify your milestones, you’ll never know if you’re at the end of the road or not.

8 Traits Successful Freight Brokers Have in Common

Freight brokers live a fast-paced life, but what they may not tell you in freight broker training school is the fact that the highway to success in this industry is littered with a large number of inactive property broker licenses.

What do you do so you don’t become part of cold statistics?

In an informal round table discussion with active and successful freight brokers and agents, we were able to dig out the top eight traits that most of them (and their peers) shared, listed here in random order:

1. They are self motivated.

The successful freight broker is driven by passion, a reason for being if you like. Whether it’s more time with the family, enough resources to support a hobby, or whatever it is that drives your enthusiasm, this motivation is the key that kicks them off the bed early in the morning and gets them going throughout a hectic workday.

You’d be surprised: money isn’t often the top motivator for successful freight brokers.  The reason they give why money takes second, third or even fourth place to a burning passion? When the business is slow and the cash register’s not ringing much, this “reason for being” helps them slog through the rough patch.

2. Successful brokers have a strategic mindset.

Much of the daily routine of a freight brokerage involves a thousand and one details. When you’re embroiled in these for too long, there’s the tendency to not see the forest for the trees. You lose sight of the Big Picture—your vision for setting up a freight brokerage business. You start making decisions that’s long on short-term advantages but short on long-term benefits. When that happens, your business could quickly lose its competitive advantage and stop getting better.

Successful freight brokers with a strategic mindset continually review and refine how they do things, unafraid to learn new things. They’re also aware of what’s going on in their industry, particularly with their competitors and partners, so that their business can easily and quickly adapt to any negative (or even positive) market changes.

3. They are results driven.

Successful freight brokers can set goals and define the tactical actions to obtain the results they want. Some business owners often get trapped in the launch preparations of a new venture—crafting the business plan, studying the market, perfecting documentations and procedures and a million other details. Often, the thing that could spell success is the ability to hit the ground running even if all your ducks aren’t in a row yet.

You can always refine and redefine as you go as long as you’re doing something tangible and measurable to achieve the goals you have set for yourself and your brokering firm. Other freight brokers have found that setting benchmarks and milestones towards achieving an objective help them chop up a big goal into small, manageable, and achievable pieces.

4. They are highly customer oriented.

The freight brokerage sector has a customer-centric culture. A happy customer is a repeat (and loyal) customer. Successful brokers are helpful and devoted to the customer’s interest to keep the business flourishing. In this case, the shippers’ interest on the speedy and safe delivery of their shipments and the carriers’ focus on getting paid decently and on time.

Freight brokers who have a deep base of repeat customers are anticipatory and responsive to the needs of the public they serve. It’s not “what’s in it for me?” but “what can I do to help?” that keeps their business continually viable.

5. The best have a proactive perspective.

When loads are moving from shipper to consignee, many things are going on at the same time. Many things can also go wrong. Anticipating problem areas and having different response mechanisms to address things that could go wrong is the mark of a successful freight broker. You must know what to do when a truck breaks down in the middle of a desert highway or an accident happens. Successful freight brokers don’t only have a Plan B in place; they also have a Plan C (or even a Plan D) just in case.

6. They’re very decisive.

When you have the big picture firmly in mind, choosing what to do first among what’s necessary, urgent or important cuts your decision-making time in half. Knowing which tasks to prioritize and which to put on the back burner when crunch time comes are useful skills in this profession. Successful freight brokers know what must be done first—and quickly.

7. Freight brokers nurture relationships.

Building and nurturing relationships for the long term is vital to growing a robust freight brokerage business. At the heart of your engagements is (1) the ability to cooperate with a diverse mix of individuals and organizations with an equally diverse culture and values; and (2) the communication savvy to maintain helpful, beneficial and harmonious relationships.

8. They’re very flexible.

In this fast-paced environment, the successful broker has a firm handle on everything that’s going on while doing other things at the same time. Multitasking is a skill that most think they have in spades but only a few has actually mastered. Make sure that you’re multitasking smartly—that is, you’re working on your strengths, not on your weaknesses.

Making it to the freight brokerage big leagues doesn’t only mean knowing the theoretical stuff that you learn in freight broker training. Like these characteristic traits of successful freight brokers show, making it big means having a firm handle of the intangibles, too.

6 Legal Areas All Freight Brokers Must Know About

Because freight brokers have to answer for shipments that cross state lines, your business will be overseen by federal authorities, particularly the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration under the 49 CFR §371 rule. In freight broker training school, you’ll have a chance to study in detail all the rules that deal with freight brokering.

You already know the basic requirements for freight brokers – an operating license from the FMCSA, the services of process agents, and a surety bond for possible financial liabilities. Here’s a quick summary of the other rules that govern freight brokering:

1. Working with Authorized Motor Carriers

A property or freight broker is part of the transportation industry so they go under the oversight of the Department of Transportation. Since you’ll be working closely with motor carriers (or truckers), you’ll have to register with the DOT using your FMCSA freight broker license.

Make sure that you only work with recognized entities to avoid risk or liability. That is, the motor carrier moving your load must carry an authority that matches yours. For example, if you have a property broker license, then you can only transact loads with a carrier that has a valid property motor carrier authority. If you arrange a load with a carrier that doesn’t have the right license, say a household goods motor carrier authority against your property broker license, the FMCSA may subject you to penalties and fines. Frequent violations may lead to a cancellation of your freight brokering license altogether.

2. Record-Keeping

Liabilities are an unfortunate part of brokering that’s why freight brokers need to maintain a record of each transaction for future reference. You’ll be dealing with the same motor carriers and shippers most of the time so to simplify this task and eliminate unwieldy records-keeping, you can create a master list of these records. The following are the information that FMCSA must see in each transaction/master list of transactions:

  1. Shipper’s name and address
  2. Carrier’s name, address, and registration/USDOT number
  3. Bill of lading/freight bill number
  4. Freight brokering rates and the person who paid for the brokering service
  5. Other non-brokerage services you did with regards to the shipment, how much you were paid for it, and the person who settled the obligation
  6. Freight charges you collected and the date the motor carrier was paid for the shipment

There’s no cut-and-dried rule on how to sort out this information. You can create a record tracker that fits your work flow as long as you capture all these data correctly.

Both your shippers and carriers have legal access to those transaction records that pertain to brokering services you did with or for them, up to a period of 3 years. After the third year, you can destroy these records.

3. Freight Broker Accounting

You may have other businesses alongside your freight brokerage. When it comes to revenues and expenses, the law requires separate financial records for your brokering firm. In case your businesses share common expenses—say rental and utilities—third parties must be able to identify what outlays are from the brokerage and what are not. Of course, it goes without saying that you must be able to explain how and why you assigned these amounts to the brokerage in an audit.

4. Misrepresentation

Whatever advertising that you do—whether in print, radio or web—your business must be what you say it is. That is, you cannot go around introducing yourself as a carrier to your customers if you are not. You have to use the same name which was approved in your freight broker license in any transaction that you do. Misleading information on your broker status can be a cause for liabilities or heavier penalties.

5. Double Brokering and Co-Brokering

Due diligence is required of all freight brokers, mainly because heavy penalties and liabilities could arise from unethical brokering practices. Two common industry practices—double brokering and co-brokering—present some problems.

Co-brokering is when you work with another freight brokerage in arranging transportation for a load that you can’t handle anymore. This is legal and acceptable, as long as the agreement with the shipper allows for this arrangement.

Double brokering, on the other hand, is when a motor carrier contracts another carrier to handle a load you have given the first trucker. This practice is frowned upon and fraught with risks, particularly when shipment problems happen. Whether you are aware of the double brokering or not, you may still have to pay the shipper for losses incurred related to the load. Authorities will examine due diligence steps you’ve taken to determine whether you’re answerable for this error or not.

6. Brokering Exempt and Non-Exempt Commodities

When you arrange transportation for loads from shippers, you must be aware of the following rules governing exempt and non-exempt commodities:

  1. 49 U.S.C. §13506(a)(6): list of items that are exempt from USDOT regulation
  2. 49 CFR §372.115: list of non-exempt items that are similar to exempt cargo or created from exempt cargo
  3. Administrative Ruling No. 133: freight not exempt under 49 U.S.C. §13506(a)(6) as stated in 49 CFR §372.115
  4. Administrative Ruling No. 107, March 19, 1958

You can always arrange shipments that contain unregulated freight. Shipments that have non-exempt cargo bring you under FMCSA oversight.  Keep in mind that specific commodities require specific authorities for both freight brokers and motor carriers. The long and short of it:

  1. If a shipment is exempt, then you don’t need authority to broker the load nor does it need to be moved by an authorized carrier; and
  2. If the load is non-exempt, then both you and the carrier need the appropriate authority to handle the cargo.

Failure to comply with exempt/non-exempt guidelines could be grounds for penalties, the suspension of your operating license, or worse, revocation of your freight broker license.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute legal advice; if you require legal assistance, please consult the services of a professional who has the necessary legal education, certification, training and experience in the freight brokerage sector.

3 Legal Requirements to Become a Freight Broker

Freight brokers make sure that carriers deliver the goods to where they’re supposed to go. Because of this enormous responsibility and the potential for great economic loss should freight brokers fail to do their duty, the industry is regulated by the federal government.

Every freight broker wanting to enter the business has to satisfy three legal requirements to become a licensed property broker—the DOT official designation for freight brokers.

Freight Broker Authority

It’s the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), an agency of the Department of Transportation, that receives and facilitates the application for and grants freight brokers the authority to operate. You’ll have to fill out the OP-1 form with the “broker of property” checked. Some of the information you’ll be providing includes your business name, contact information and a USDOT number. The USDOT number is not mandatory to being a freight broker but you need one so you can file an application with the FMCSA for a property broker license.

Once your freight broker application has entered the FMCSA system, you’ll be assigned a motor carrier (MC) number. The MC number will be instrumental in acquiring a surety bond, which is the second part of the whole process of granting you the license.

There are instances when FMCSA may dismiss your application for an operating authority. You may have stalled at some point and failed to complete the whole licensing process, surety bond information was missing, or some other information was lacking. Be mindful of these factors so you won’t have any headaches later on.

Freight Broker Surety Bond

You must submit proof of a surety bond before the FMCSA can issue an operating authority to you, filing a BMC-84 or BMC-85 form along with it. Usually, the surety bond is for $10,000 but depending on a credit and background check on you by the bonding company, this amount could increase.

Why the need for a surety bond? Although it’s not insurance per se, the freight broker’s surety bond guarantees that carriers are compensated for moving loads. If and when shippers default on this obligation, freight brokers will have to pay carriers out of pocket for services rendered. Freight brokers usually don’t have the available cash to settle this obligation so the bonding company will take on the role of creditor and settle the carrier’s costs up to the amount of the bond.

Legal Process Agent for Freight Brokers

Freight brokers have the one license granted by the federal government to operate across the nation but like any business, they need a point of contact to operate in individual states. This is where process agents come in.

Simply, process agents act as legal representatives for freight brokers in the states where the brokerage plans to operate. Should claims or other legal actions arise against the freight broker in a state, the process agent will be the legal point of contact or representation in the area. Instead of a single individual in each state, you might want to consider engaging the services of a law firm with branches in the states where you’ll be operating.

A freight broker will have to register these process agents for each state where the freight brokerage firm will do business. You’ll use the BOC-3 form (Designation for Process Agent) to list your legal representatives. Once the fee has been paid, FMCSA deems the application complete. Your operating authority should be issued within four to six weeks of submitting this final form.