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April 10, 2023
How to choose a freight broker
Every shipper faces challenges in securing capacity at the right cost for their transportation needs. Those with large freight volumes typically seek capacity in lanes that can handle it. Shippers with lower volumes can have trouble contracting reliable carriers, especially during busy times of the year, when facing supply chain bottlenecks and other external factors.

Regardless of the challenge, shippers need a simple solution to manage their needs and the ensuing complexity. That’s where a freight broker comes in.

What are freight brokers? Simply put, they are specialists with access to carrier networks. A broker makes sure all the pieces of the logistics puzzle run smoothly so you don’t have to. They help find the right carrier for your load, based on its characteristics, equipment needs, additional services, and any pickup or delivery appointments. Once booked, they also work with the carrier to ensure that freight is picked up on-time, and they track and manage any disruptions such as traffic or weather delays.

The big three options
Based on how brokers operate with their customers and carriers, the industry classifies brokers into three categories: traditional, digital, and hybrid. While each may have other offshoot derivatives as the industry continues to expand and innovate, for the sake of simplicity, it generally boils down to these three.

A traditional freight broker typically interfaces with shippers person-to-person. This means you can reach out to them via email or phone. Digital freight brokers have self-service capabilities for shippers to secure rates, book loads, and then track the loads. Hybrid freight brokers are a combination of traditional and digital, offering a mix of self-service capabilities and customer support.

How to choose the right broker for you
Which type of broker you choose depends on your needs. So, before you go further down your selection path, assess your shipping situation looking at factors such as: the volume and frequency of your shipments, the value of goods you are transporting, if you need live load/unload or a drop trailer, and if you have the same or new origins and destinations. Then consider the criteria below to make the best decision.

#1 A carrier network and established reputation
As a shipper, you want the reassurance that your freight will be picked up smoothly and arrive on time. To help that happen, you’ll want to book with a broker who has access to or manages a large carrier network. That way, if a carrier doesn’t pick up on-time or at all, the broker will be able to find you another available carrier.

You’ll also want to consider the manner in which the broker accesses their carrier network. Does the broker have their own carrier-facing load board, or do they use a public load board? Using a broker’s own load board ensures better carrier vetting, but you should also ask the broker how they evaluate new carriers and manage existing carriers based on their performance.

At the same time, you want to look for stability. The ups and downs of the supply chain have caused disruptions that freight brokers have to face and many have had to close their doors. An established broker likely means they have the experience to weather the storms. With that experience also come historical relationships with carriers and the knowledge of the ins and outs of the transportation network.

#2 Automation over manual processes
The freight space still has processes rooted in manual mechanisms such as tracking shipments with emails and spreadsheets or even paper and pen. While these processes offer the comfort of the status quo, they are inefficient compared to what technology can offer.

Your freight broker should fully embrace the latest in technology. That starts with the ability of the broker to automate the process of securing rates from your transportation management system (TMS) or an enterprise resource planning system (ERP). Doing so can help optimize loads and secure the best prices.

You’ll also want to see how your broker deploys machine learning and artificial intelligence to optimize the transportation network, reduce empty miles, and forecast rates. Then there are the basics that make the gears of freight run smoothly such as GPS tracking and electronic proofs of delivery.

#3 They know you and can execute
Finally, your optimal freight broker knows your shipping needs. Whether you’re transporting a few loads a month of industrial equipment or hundreds of pallets of kitchen décor, your broker should know the intricacies of your freight. That includes your truck yard layout for easy pickups, how to properly handle your goods, and what your priorities are.

It also means they give you top-notch customer support. While in number two above we declared the importance of technology and automation, human support is still key. Your goods are moving seven days a week, 24 hours a day so your broker should be available throughout the journey if you have questions or concerns.

Picking a freight broker isn’t as transactional as ordering another bundle of stretch wrap but that doesn’t mean it has to be difficult. That's where Amazon Freight and its network of more than 50,000 trailers and carriers can help. Create an account and start getting quotes instantly.
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