July 14, 2023

How To Work With Freight Brokers When You’re a New Carrier

Now that you’re a new carrier, finding loads and finding them fast is a top priority. You’ll need to know how to work with brokers for this.

If you’re new to this, a broker is really the middleman between a shipping company and motor carriers. Most require a new carrier to have at least 30 days on the road, while others want someone with at least 6 months or even a year’s worth of experience (as this Motor Carrier HQ blog talks about).

To help, the Motor Carrier HQ site provides a free, updated guide that lists freight brokers who will work with new carriers. Check back to see how the list changes as brokers change policies.

With this guide in hand, the biggest way you can build your reputation is to show you’re a professional. We’re talking foundational stuff: being on time, paying attention to details, communicating, and being organized. For a deeper dive, the Haulin Assets podcast goes into customer service and broker lists in Episode 32.

Here are a few ways to avoid common mistakes when you’re new.

1. Be honest about being new

When you find a load on a load board, be truthful about being a new authority within the first 30 seconds of a call. Don’t try to hide this information. Brokers will find out anyway (they can quickly look this up online), and not being upfront will waste your time and theirs. Being honest up front helps you build trust quickly.

Once they know you’re new, follow up with a strong statement about how you want to build a good reputation in the industry, show brokers what you can do, and are willing to negotiate a cheaper rate since you’re new – especially during your first 30 days.

2. Be bold: ask for that reference

After you’ve negotiated a rate with someone – especially if the rate doesn’t fall as much in your favor – one of your bargaining chips is to ask the broker to be a reference for you once the job is complete. Not only does this ask for trust early on, but the broker will take you more seriously as a newbie when you do a good job and come back to collect the reference. All of this shows follow through, and that’s an attractive trait in the industry.

It’s best to get the broker’s phone number and email when you’re done with the job, so that you can provide the next broker with their reference information. After about 90 days, brokers typically don’t need a reference from you.

3. Show that you’re willing to ask, learn, and adapt

Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions up front. Remember, you have to be a professional, because they want to work with professionals. Part of being a professional is clarifying information, understanding how your broker communicates, and showing that you’re a fast learner.

As Haulin Assets Episode 32 explains, even if you’ve been driving for years, brokers won’t know since your paperwork only shows that you’re a new authority. So, the responsibility to prove that you know what you’re doing is on you.

Once you get answers to your questions, be proactive about using the new information – and let them see you doing that. Think about it: if you were a broker, you’d be looking for someone who can do a good job and who will do it the way you want. If they can see you ask questions and then adapt your game plan based on their answers, they’ll be happy. There are certainly some characters in the industry that are a little rough around the edges. Being humble can go a long way in developing relationships with brokers. At the same time, you need to be confident in your abilities and clear with your communication. It can be a fine line to walk, but when it doubt over-communicating and choosing to be kind can go a long way in making long lasting business relationships.

Another part of this is submitting clean, easy-to-read paperwork and following up with the broker to ask if anything was missing or if they had other feedback.

4. Be punctual

A surefire way to create a good reputation is to not just show up on time, but to show up early. A good window is about 30 minutes early. The trucking industry thrives on punctuality and brokers are more likely to choose a carrier that consistently shows up on time because it makes their job easier. Plus, this trait shows your own discipline and willingness to be organized.

The day before you’re supposed to be there, give the broker a call to ask when is the earliest you can arrive. Then, there’s more time to load or unload your truck in case you need it. Once you’re checked in and get assigned to a loading door, call or text the broker to give them an update.

If you have to be late for any reason, make sure they know immediately and give them a solid ETA so you still communicate and keep them up to speed. Bad news never gets better with time. It is always best to be upfront. Letting brokers know you are going to be late as soon as you know gives them more time to adjust. The last thing a broker wants is to find out you are late from their customer. That’s a sure fire way to lose a relationship. This is a new job, so avoid tardiness; being late might also mean you lose that reference.

5. Embrace the tools they request

If a broker wants you to download and use their trucking app for them to track you, do it. Trucking apps are convenient for the broker. Not only do they keep things organized, but using one means your broker doesn’t have to adapt to you; you’re adapting to them and that makes things easy for the broker. Don’t think of it as a privacy thing. It’s a carrier tool more than anything.

Trackers give brokers peace of mind. As you do this, you might find an app that most of your brokers use. If you incorporate that technology into your work up front, you’ll be a preferred carrier from the start.

6. Show you’re proactive through ‘check calls’

Like you read above, staying in touch through technology is part of keeping brokers reassured that things are on track. Brokers love doing a ‘check call’, where they call you or you call them to communicate about the load. This is especially helpful to do when you arrive at the shipper location.

Being proactive with updates, whether it’s through a check call or the tracking app, means you’re keeping them in the loop and offering them a timeline snapshot.

Finally, part of these check calls are about how you set things up for success from the start. When you arrive, have your trailer pre-cooled, make sure the trailer is clean and dry, and prep any other special needs for the items you know you’ll be loading. As the cargo loads, make sure it matches the purchase order number on the rate confirmation paperwork. This includes the number of pallets or how much weight you’re hauling. If something seems off, call the broker and let them know. Or, if it takes more than two hours to load your truck, call and let them know. These minor check-ins show that you’re a pro. Even if something wasn’t your fault, you noticed it and tried to solve the problem.

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