How to Become an Independent Freight Broker

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independent freight broker

Independent freight brokers have the freedom to find and maintain their client load, work from home, and navigate the intricate world of global logistics.

But, how do you get started if you’re interested in this career? 

In this article, we’ll explore what an independent freight broker is, what a typical day looks like in this career, and provide a detailed how-to guide to registering as a freight broker. 

Let’s dive right in!

What is an independent freight broker?

An independent freight broker “provides and arranges the transport of goods by matching available transportation agencies and vehicles with specific cargo.”

Freight agent or freight broker?

Freight agents and freight brokers fulfill similar roles, and there is often confusion about the distinction between the two careers. 

Freight brokers are licensed under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and are legally responsible for the cargo they transport. 

Freight agents don’t require licensure since they work with a licensed brokerage and therefore aren’t directly liable for goods in transit. 

For more information on this distinction, you can read Jansson’s post on this topic here – or, to find out more about what a career path as a freight agent looks like, you can check out this article here

Now that that distinction is out of the way, let’s dive into what an independent freight broker does daily. 

What does an independent freight broker do?

Independent freight brokers are responsible for various tasks that coordinate and facilitate freight movement from one location to another. 

This involves every step of the shipment process, from signing on a new client to unloading the shipment at its final destination. Such a diverse task load can be a welcome challenge to many freight brokers!

While every day as a freight broker can look different, you might find yourself tasked to:

  • Complete sales calls and negotiate shipping rates
  • Book shipments and coordinate with freight carriers
  • Plan shipment routes to optimize for cost and efficiency
  • Invoice customers and pay carriers
  • Create custom reports 
  • Take responsibility for cargo insurance
  • Ensure compliance and safety standards are met
  • Monitor shipments from pick-up to unloading 
  • Ensure cargo is matched to appropriate transportation and packaging
  • Update customers on their shipments’ progress 
  • Keep databases up to date and maintain accurate financial records 

Interested? Let’s explore the steps you need to follow to register – and start practicing – as a licensed independent freight broker!

How do I get started as an independent freight broker?

independent freight broker

There are quite a few steps – and forms! – involved in getting started as an independent freight broker, but you don’t need to let this phase you. 

Tackle each step before proceeding to the next, keep copies of all the relevant paperwork, and seek professional advice. 

Step 1: Get licensed with the FMCSA

The first step in becoming an independent freight broker is registering with the FMCSA and acquiring your freight broker license. 

This is a legal requirement for all freight brokers, and to do so, you’ll also need to demonstrate proof of insurance in the form of a Surety Bond or Trust Fund Agreement equalling a minimum of $75,000. 

You can view and print Form BMC-84 – the form that needs to accompany your Surety Bond – by following this link

Once you have the appropriate insurance, you’ll be able to sign into the Unified Registration System and complete the FMCSA registration form. You’ll also be required to pay the registration fee of $300. 

At this stage, it can be useful to determine whether you are required to have a USDOT number since the form will ask for this.   

Step 2: Receive your MC number – and wait

Once your registration is received and approved, you’ll receive your Motor Carrier (MC) number via letter. 

At this stage, your registration will be posted on the FMCSA register, and a 10-day period will commence during which your registration can be contested. 

Once this 10-day period has passed without protest, the processing of your registration will be complete. 

Step 3: Designate a Process Agent (one per state of operation)

Next, you’ll be required to designate a Process Agent – also called a registered agent or statutory agent – for each state you operate within as a freight broker. It’s always worth checking the legal requirements for your state/s, which you can look up here

You can complete this process by filling out Form BOC-3, which you can access and print here

Step 4: Complete the New Entrant Safety Assurance Program

Next, you’ll need to complete the New Entrant Safety Assurance Program to be able to carry out interstate transportation. 

You’ll need to complete the Form MCS-150 and undergo monitoring for the first 18-month period of your operation. 

During this period, you’ll need to: operate safely, maintain up-to-date records, conduct periodic inspections as required, and pass the Safety Audit. 

Step 5: Keep your USDOT, insurance, and bond active

Finally, as an independent freight broker, you’ll need to keep all aspects of your brokerage up-to-date and active since operating without these can result in serious compliance issues. 

Looking to get a head start on becoming an independent freight broker or freight agent?

As an independent agent of the industry-leading logistics firm Landstar, Jansson has over a decade of experience navigating the complex world of logistics transportation. 

If you’re interested in getting started as an independent freight broker or freight agent or want to talk about what that would look like, reach out to Jansson today! 

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