Josh Christie is the VP of Marketing & Recruiting at D&L Transport
Our businesses and our lives are by and large determined by the decisions we make. Of course, there are a few life events where we have no choice in the matter. But when it comes to finding the best freight agent program for you, your business, and your family, it’s critical that you make the best decision possible. You do have a choice.
We founded D & L Transport in 2005 to provide the best freight agent support in the industry, based on our early experience working as freight agents just like you. During that time, we’ve found six key factors to examine in any agent program: support, technology, commission, strength, culture, and benefits. Here are our thoughts on what’s critical in each area.
We believe that the most critical factor in a freight agent program is the support provided to the agent. If you don’t have the necessary support to maintain and grow your business, any increase in commission, as just one example, is practically worthless. Here are a few key indicators of the support you should expect from a freight agency program.
- Phone Support Availability. When you need someone on the phone, it doesn’t matter what time it is. Make sure the agent program has 24/7 availability. Many brokers have 9 to 5 hours with limited to no after-hours support. This can pose a challenge for different time zones.
- Response Times. Of course, it’s not helpful if you call but don’t receive a timely response. Check into what they promise as a typical response time.
- Problem Solving Ability. Press them for examples of solving complex problems that helped the agent, the carrier, and the shipper. In essence, find out if they have the skills and experience to quickly address any issues that may arise in our overloaded world.
- Organization Structure. A crucial part of problem-solving is how quickly management can get involved, bring their experience and expertise, and make timely decisions. The ideal agent program should be close to top leadership with few layers of management in between.
- Back Office. It’s worth your time to dig into their full array of back-office services. It should include operations support, carrier support, human resources, accounts payable and receivable, and legal assistance.
Support is a significant factor in choosing the right freight agent program. But you also need the right technology on your desktop to get the job done. So, look for these critical aspects on the technology side of the equation.
- Transportation Management System (TMS). The TMS is critical to how effectively you can operate every single day. What system do they have? Is it updated as needed to address improvements and market changes? Is it maintained at a high level? Do they have access to the platform developers to provide feedback on improvements that evolve the technology with industry demands?
- Load Boards Access. Ask about load board access as well as DAT and Truckstop accounts. This is also an excellent time to question the fees charged for these services.
- Lead Generation. Ask about the investment in lead generation platforms and subscriptions.
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Is there a CRM available for agents? This can be extremely helpful in keeping on top of customer relationships and helping grow your business. If one exists, does it pool contacts and leads, or does it maintain user-specific confidentiality? This avoids sharing your hard-won contacts with all the other agents.
- Technology Support. Even if the technology has many bells and whistles, it’s not helpful if you don’t know how to use it or if it’s down half the time. Check into the training support provided as well as the system uptime percentages. Ask if they provide direct contact with an operations person who can quickly offer solutions.
Getting fair market-level compensation for your work is essential in reviewing any freight agent program. Here’s what you need to evaluate closely.
- Commission Level and Structure. Find out the commission percentage and pay close attention to any minimums, tiers, and fees. You could be making a great commission but leaving money behind due to fees or charges for other services, such as load boards and TMS subscriptions.
- Commission Payment Timing. Look closely at how often the program issues a payment. The standard options are monthly, twice monthly, or even weekly. Note that commissions can be held up based on shipper payment terms. Ask about this essential item in your discussions of commission payments.
- Written Contract. Examine the written contract closely. Have an attorney review it to advise on critical aspects that you may miss. Look for non-compete clauses. Some programs let you bring your book of business, but you can’t leave with it if things don’t work out.
This factor is primarily about financial strength. Here are the key factors to examine during your review.
- Top Credit Rating. Determine their credit rating. This will help to ensure that you and your carriers will be paid.
- Payment History with Carriers. A significant portion of their credit rating is their payment history with carriers. Dig into this with the freight agent program. Also, find out how they handle bad debt.
- Established. Ask when they were established. Older MC#s represent brokers who’ve been in the industry and have long-standing performance. A new(er) MC# can be a non-starter with many shippers.
- Capital to Help Scale Your Business. Ask about how well-financed they are. Do they have the financial resources to help grow your business? This can become very important with customer setups.
- Brand Recognition and Market Share. Are they a significant player in the shipping business, and do they have the brand recognition that comes with that position? Do you want to have their brand on your business?
- Solid Reputation with Shippers and Carriers. That brand recognition is built on their reputation with shippers and with carriers. You want to be associated with winners. This is one area to check to ensure they have a reputation that matches you and your business.
We touched on this a bit under support in problem-solving ability and organization structure. Those are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to culture. Look for signs of how they work with their agents. Do they have an open and honest approach to working with people? Do they exhibit a work hard, play hard mentality? Do they celebrate achievements?
Ideally, you’ll be able to find some testimonials or videos of agents talking about their relationship with the freight agency program. But don’t stop there. It’s always good to reach out to agents like yourself and get their direct advice on what works and what doesn’t in their current freight agent relationship. Find out if the broker lives up to what it promotes on its website.
With many freight agent programs, there are no benefits. As the owner, you’re on your own to find health insurance, dental care, and other benefits for yourself and any support staff. That makes benefit programs one of the ways that a savvy freight agent program can distinguish itself from its competitors.
Look for the usual things in this area. What benefits are provided? What are the premiums? Look at the range of deductibles and the coverages. They may fit your needs perfectly, or better options may be available directly from insurers or HealthCare Marketplace.
There are also agent programs that provide vacation support. Wouldn’t that be great? Look into this to see if it could work for you.
That’s our advice on what to look for in a freight agency program. In a nutshell, here are the six key factors:
- Support — Eliminate the drudgery of paperwork by moving it to experts.
- Technology — Use the best software tools possible to streamline your work.
- Commission — Maximize your earnings without jeopardizing a steady, reliable income.
- Strength — Strong financial ratings, stable organization, focus on growth while managing risk.
- Culture — Are they honest and transparent? Are they fun to work with? Do they do what they say?
- Benefits — Healthcare, dental care, and more to save you money and protect your family.
Every single one is critical to making the right choice for you, your business, and your family.
Of course, a good starting point in your search for the right freight agency program is our Agent Opportunity page. You can also hear directly from our successful agents. BTW. You can even take a test drive. Try using us for a few loads a week, no strings attached.
D & L Transport. Your Family in Freight.