Josh Christie is the VP of Marketing & Recruiting at D&L Transport
The life of a freight agent is chock full of challenges. From the problem of the day or even of the hour to keeping on top of the paperwork, it’s a never-ending flow of work. That type of working environment makes it almost impossible to step back and consider a significant change. Or to take the time to review your current agent program and consider changes that might improve your operation and even increase your income.
In this article, we encourage you to take the time now to review your current freight agent program and consider if a change is needed. We also outline how to compare your current needs to your current freight agent program. You can view this as a career or at least a business audit.
What Are Your Current Needs?
When you signed on to your current program, we’re confident it was the best solution possible for you, your business, and your family at that time. Times change, sometimes for the better, sometimes not so much. Those changes happen within your business and any freight agent program. Nothing stands still, particularly in today’s massively changing business environment, from working at the heart of supply chain challenges to dealing with increased regulation, and the list goes on.
The challenges in reviewing your current needs and comparing those to your current agent program are almost too numerous to count. Therein lies the problem. Our advice is to take the time, even if it’s one hour a day, to start writing things down that are working and those that could be better.
It’s also wise to consider the issues you encounter every day yet, over time, have grown to accept. All too often, we come to accept problems as just one of the elements of doing business. That’s a tough rut to fall into, and it becomes even more challenging to recognize that whatever it is could be fixed. Make sure you take time to jot those items down as well.
Another challenge is determining a methodical process to evaluate all the aspects of your needs and how they match up to your current agent program. In our article What to Look for in a Freight Agency Program, we’ve outlined the six significant aspects to consider for any freight agent program. This is also an ideal way to categorize your current needs and compare them to your current agency program. Not only that, but you can then use that same list to evaluate other programs that might be worth considering.
Here’s that list and some advice on evaluating your current needs.
Support is what makes everything work. The big question is if your agent program provides all the help you need for your current level of business. It might have worked great when you started, but now that you’ve experienced growth, has it kept up with what you need?
Do you have 24/7 phone support with people that can actually help? Can they solve the problems you’re currently facing? If not, do they say “sorry” or bring in someone who can help, including their top management? Several agent programs offer complete back-office support, including operations support, carrier support, human resources, accounts payable and receivable, and legal assistance. Do you have those services available?
Hopefully, you have access to great technology, which is essential in today’s transportation industry. However, have the systems you’re using been kept up to date? They also need to include TMS and load board access. That’s the minimum standard today for an agent program.
Then there’s support for all that technology. Is it up and running all the time? Is it fast, or does it bog down at the busiest times of the day? Do you have the training you need to keep up with changes? This is such an essential part of your work that it’s wise to assess what you have currently and what you could have with a different agent program.
The good news is that it automatically adjusts for inflation. As the underlying freight costs increase, the commission amount rises, even though the percentage remains the same. But how does your commission percentage compare to other agent programs? It might have been at the top when you signed up. But what has happened in the marketplace since that time?
It’s also wise to look at the minimums, tiers, and fees that you’re paying. You could be making a great commission but leaving money behind due to fees or charges for other services. Not all freight agent programs charge the same fees. Some don’t charge any fees.
Another area to review is payment timing. The standard options are monthly, twice monthly, or even weekly. Does your payment timing still work for your business? Or could it be better?
This area covers a great deal of ground, from financial strength to reputation and brand recognition. Does your current program have a top credit rating? Are they known for their prompt payment to carriers? Or do you need to hound them to pay both the carriers and you?
It’s also nice to be directly associated with a well-respected brand. You definitely want to be associated with winners. It rubs off on everything you do. Is that something you have in your current agent program? Be honest with yourself and add your thoughts to your list.
Hopefully, your current agent program is honest and transparent with a work hard, play hard approach. Do they have a fun attitude that makes you feel good every time you talk to them? Or is it a grind to just get on the phone with them? The relationship no doubt started great. But what has happened since? Add your current impressions to your list of current needs and wants.
The ability to participate in group health benefits can be a big advantage in an agent program. If you have benefits in your current arrangement, how are the premiums, the coverage, and the deductibles? Those can be big comparison points.
There are also a few programs that offer vacation coverage. If you don’t currently have that, it’s well worth looking into it. You and your family could really benefit from a few days off.
That’s a quick framework for evaluating your current needs and how your freight agent program measures up. Every single one is critical to making the right choice for you, your business, and your family.
It would be great if important decisions could live up to the “one and done” ideal. But the world moves on, and so do freight agent programs. Find the program that’s right for your business in today’s environment.
If you feel your program isn’t meeting your needs, look at our Agent Opportunities 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.