Freight brokers match companies that have physical goods to be shipped with transportation companies. The broker does not actually take possession of any goods or assume legal responsibility for their safekeeping at any point in the transaction. To work as a freight broker, you must be licensed by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Individual states also may require their own licenses. Your main duties will be negotiating deals, handling paperwork and paying customs fees. You can operate your business from home or anywhere else that has a telephone, fax machine and Internet connection.
Communication and people skills are vital to your success as a freight broker unless you work for a company that provides you with leads. You must continually work on building your customer base. Reliability is the key to maintaining the relationships you have with your existing customers and vendors. Analytical and computer skills help you find the best deal and track your shipments while they are in transit.
You must request an approval form from the DOT before you can contract to ship or receive any goods. Complete the Application for Operational Authority OP-1 and pay the applicable filing fee. In 2013, the filing fee was $300. You must also file a BOC-3 form naming a process agent for each state in which you will be working. The process agent handles legal actions arising from your activities as a freight broker within the state. You will receive a motor carrier number at the beginning of the FMCSA application process. You will need this number to obtain your surety bond. The entire application review process typically takes between one and two months.
You must obtain a surety bond for a minimum of $10,000 before your application may be approved. File proof of the bond with the FMCSA while your application status is pending. The surety bond will pay out if you make an error that causes another party to suffer financial damages. You are still responsible for any damages up to the amount of your bond. You can also place $10,000 cash in a trust account to avoid posting a bond.
The FMCSA gives the public an opportunity to protest any prospective freight broker's application. After the FMCSA approves your application, it will publish your information in the FMCSA Register. Anyone with a reason to object to your license may enter a protest within 10 days of publication.
- Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images