So you’ve decided to be a freight broker. Perhaps you’ve been in the transportation industry for many years, or you just completed the training to become a Certified Transportation Broker. After waiting what seems to be an eternity (usually 3-4 weeks) to receive your broker’s authority from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, you are ready to conduct business brokering freight. You get a customer or two, they start sending over freight loads, and you start sourcing and qualifying trucking carriers to haul the loads.
After the initial excitement fades, and the first few loads are done, the process starts all over again. Before long, you are brokering several loads a day without too much mental effort. However, the paperwork is mounting up. You get load documents from your customers, you produce quotes to some of them, you fax out broker contracts all day long, and the carriers fax back signed contracts and rate confirmations. Once loads are completed you are receiving signed bills and invoices from carriers, and sending your own invoices to your customers. When you think about it, you are nothing more than a glorified office clerk shuffling papers around like mad. And what do you do with all the papers you receive? You file them like everyone else. Manila folders, hanging files, file cabinets – you purchase them all. Without them you are drowning in a sea of paperwork.
Besides the paperwork, there is the accounting. Billing your customers is a priority. Paying your carriers is a close second. Bills from all the professionals and the fees required to go into business are mounting. The bills from utilities, taxes, and other services are starting to arrive as well. How will you track everything? Sure there’s a piece of paper associated with every transaction, both internal and external. Probably more than one copy. But you soon realize that tracking everything with paper is slow. It is inefficient. It takes too much time away from your productive activities – brokering freight loads. Brokering loads pays the bills – spending time paying the bills doesn’t.
Some people get to this point, and just knuckle down. They aren’t aware of other options, so they do the best with what’s in front of them. And when the workload from all the manual paper process is too much, they hire another person. Now there are two people brokering loads, qualifying carriers, and managing paper – hopefully cutting the workload in half, right? Wrong. The office resources are shared, which means some duties can only be done by one person at a time. Sometimes specific duties are assigned to each person to help with the confusion. But what happens when that person is out of the office, and one of their tasks needs to get done? Do you wait for them to return? Does it hold up your tasks? Does it hold up your customers? Simply adding more employees will not reduce the workload proportionately. Sometimes no efficiency is gained. Why is that?
Because the process is broken. Broken? Yes, very much so. Just because tasks can be done manually, doesn’t mean they should. Without a good process in place, most (probably all) tasks are inefficient. They take too long. Time is wasted. Wasted on looking for paperwork, sending it to those who need it, reviewing work to make sure all invoices are done, auditing bills of carriers and other vendors.
So what makes a good process? In today’s world, that means software. Perhaps a good place to start is an accounting system. There are several good inexpensive accounting software packages available, with QuickBooks being the market leader for small businesses. But eventually that won’t be enough. Accounting systems only manage the cash and finances. They don’t manage the workflow. So once you have a handle on the accounting side of your broker business, now you need to set your sights on the operational side. Where all the action takes place. That’s when you start looking for freight broker software. A good freight broker software package will be easy to navigate and accessible. It will store all your documents in a digital format, making them easy to find and distribute. It will keep track of your customers and carriers, and the relationships you have with them. It will keep all your freight loads in an easy to manage database, so you can assign the carriers, document the pay rate, and keep track of the shipment’s progress. Once the shipment is delivered, freight broker software will generate the invoice, and a carrier settlement statement so you can audit their invoice. It will generate reports showing revenues, profitability, load volumes, customer volumes, carrier volumes, and much more.
Freight broker software is an essential part of any freight brokerage operation. It gives you the ability to service your customer better, and the power to grow your business aggressively. And above all, it keeps your process efficient, and helps you make more money. Without it, you will be a slave to a manual, paper laden, inefficient, and expensive process.