Technically speaking, a freight agent is a bit like a real estate agent or a salesperson. He or she deals with customers directly, secures new business, helps accounts needing service, takes orders, and secures sales. However, the actual approval and authorization come from the freight broker that the freight agent works for, that person is the one who signs off on the contractual commitment of the freight services to the customer. This permission is provided via the broker’s license and his or her FMCSA operating authority.
Freight Agents are Not Handheld When They Start
A broker in many situations could have multiple freight agents working for him handling different customer accounts and taking care of the daily in-person contacts, but the key for the freight agent is growing a sufficient portfolio that he or she becomes successful in their own right, making up a substantial portion of the broker’s overall market. This provides enough of a commission layer for the freight agent to grow and expand a business presence versus just jumping from one sale to another to make ends meet.
However, the amount of training a freight agent receives has a big influence on how successful he or she becomes out of the gate. With little or no training, a lot of rookie mistakes are made, and ultimately they end up becoming a cost or loss of market for the broker. Too many failures, and the broker cuts ties with a non-producing agent. So, the agent is under pressure to learn fast, but there are no ready resources to learn the job many times. There is only so much that the agent can rely on with the broker’s name before he or she has to succeed personally.
Add in the fact, freight agents are limited in which shippers they can work with via the broker. That means a limited potential that the agent doesn’t want to squander, as it’s not possible to just go and replace a bad shipper situation with another one. This restriction helps avoid overlap and cannibalization of multiple agents stealing clients from one broker to work through their broker.
Lots of Learning on the Job Traditionally
All the above is learned either through upfront training, experience, or both. In many cases, unfortunately, freight agents too often have to learn the ropes by trial and error, word of mouth, and filling in the general directions of the broker they have signed up with. No surprise, a good number fail because too many mistakes get made.
If one is successful in starting off as a freight agent, then comes the next challenge of trying to grow that business and expand it to a larger presence in the market. Again, this can be stumbling in the dark without having a clear roadmap on how to proceed. Fortunately, there is an alternative.
Uncommon, But Comprehensive Starter Training is Possible, and Smart
Operator brokers like Tallgrass make it a point to train freight agents comprehensively. This avoids the ambiguity so common in the industry, as well as spending a lot of time, energy, and work making rookie mistakes. Instead, freight agents operating under a full training plan benefit from direct, applicable training, mentorship specific to their assignment, and the ability to grow measurably from day one to the first six months in operation. It will be rapid learning, but the approach of a hands-on comprehensive training program pays dividends.
Growing a freight business with direct support makes a huge difference. It starts with weekly calls and check-ins. Target-setting pushes production, but agents also get valuable guidance and support on how to achieve targets effectively. Coaching and teaching help new agents adapt to market demands as well as grow rapidly into a successful position that delivers real results. The approach isn’t for everyone, and growing a freight business is still challenging, but go-getters thrive in these conditions.
Fundamentally, the freight business is about service sales, but there is a lot of new room for new entrepreneurs and agents-to-be who want to realize bigger successes on their own terms.