Thomasholmes is by legal definition a freight broker. Although our claim to fame is our web based TMS freight rating technology, the Thomasholmes Rater, which includes a technology suite of products and integrated managed transportation services, it is in our interest to understand the future of freight and how we as freight brokers fit in. Even if you yourself only manage freight and are responsible for all that goes into transportation, logistics, or supply chain at your company, it is also vital for you to understand how companies like Thomasholmes and other freight brokers will fit in as we see into the future of freight. As a shipper, you must understand how changes to the freight broker world might affect your rates and understand the transparency of the freight broker you use to see how it impacts them. If you are not asking, you definitely should. 

The future of freight and how brokers fit in looks quite bright. 

How Will those who Manage Freight and Freight Brokers Fit into the Future of Freight?

As a freight broker or if you manage freight for a business and are in charge of shipping, you’ve got a lot to juggle. In addition to monitoring everything from global fuel prices to new technologies, you have to stay on top of the latest legal changes. But while resources like an can get you through those legal challenges, the rest can be a bit more complicated.

Fortunately, there are still plenty of resources out there to give you the insights you’ll need to flourish in 2016 and beyond. The world of freight brokers and the future of freight is changing quickly, so it’s time to watch those trends to understand how you need to adapt. Here are some of the biggest changes on their way.

Self-Driving Trucks: Closer and Closer to Reality

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This is certainly one of the biggest and flashiest changes coming to the world of freight. While the arrival of this technology seems inevitable, the big questions brokers have to ask themselves are how quickly it will come and how precisely it will affect their side of the business.

The but how quickly it will change the industry? The first licenses for autonomous vehicles , but the first round of vehicles requires a human driver to be present. Fortunately for drivers, this will likely be the case for years to come.

These changes will be accelerated by the fact that for truck driving positions are already pushing wages up. The financial incentives to invest heavily in this technology are present. But how will they influence the future of freight and freight brokers like Thomasholmes?

Autonomous Technology and Freight Brokers

The good news in the future of freight is that autonomous vehicle technology offers more of what freight brokers love and can then pass onto their shipper customers: reliability, lower costs, and data. By offering potentially dramatic cuts in costs and road accidents, brokers will be able to increase the reliability of shipments, leading to a more predictable industry.

Data collected from the new technology also promises to result in big changes. The kinds of computers that will be integrated into autonomous and self-driving vehicles will likely be capable of providing more data than ever to brokers and freight companies. This information will help in predicting shipping times and cutting costs.

Overall, autonomous technology and self-driving trucks are shaping up as a very positive development for freight brokers. However, the unpredictability of the legal situation regarding authorization and regulation of autonomous vehicles continues to leave the future uncertain.

The Dangers of Legal Leaps

In the short term, legal changes can have a huge effect on the freight world and freight brokers. For evidence, you can look to the that occurred in 2013. The biggest legal change on the horizon at this moment is a massive rise in insurance premiums for freight brokers. Currently, the insurance minimums haven’t changed since 1985 and the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) seems likely to make significant changes in the coming years.

Much like with bond amounts, this is another example where federal mandates can stay the same for decades before making all the required changes in a single leap, causing a minor shock in the industry.

The good news is that these changes are generally obvious months or even years before they happen, giving freight brokers ample time to prepare. However, legal changes and updated regulations (particularly in light of the arrival of autonomous vehicles) can create a huge grey area for the future of freight brokers.

But factors changing the industry extend far beyond the US.

Fuel Prices: The Perpetual X-Factor in the Future of Freight

The world of fuel prices for those shipping freight and for freight brokers has always been a strange combination of long-term thinking and short-term crisis management. In the long term, market trends are fairly foreseeable. At the moment, it’s expected that as domestic fracking and OPEC production keep things stable in the US.

This only tells a part of the story, though. Just one sudden crisis always has the capability to send the price of oil skyrocketing, leading brokers to throw out their predictions entirely. These are the less predictable risks: wars, blockades, market shifts, etc.

While global economic integration continues, freight brokers, logistics managers, transportation coordinators and anyone in the freight industry would do well to pay even closer attention to factors that could bring about changes in fuel prices, sudden or otherwise.

What Does the Future of Freight and Brokering Look Like?

Taking a wider view, things still look as rosy for freight brokers as they did . While legislation and technology seem set to change the trucking industry, freight brokers stand to benefit tremendously from these changes.

While there are still lingering and global instability, for now, the industry seems sufficiently insulated from these concerns. Freight brokers still have many reasons to be optimistic. So stay smart, keep track of technology and industry trends, and enjoy the rest of 2015.

It’s the classic paradox of the internet: there’s an enormous number of resources out there, but finding them can be a huge hassle. Even the freight transportation industry can’t avoid this problem.

That’s why we’ve put together 5 free resources for freight brokers like you can’t afford to miss out on. These resources have everything you need to get your own business started, or to take your existing brokerage to the next level.

Are you ready to change the way your freight brokerage operates? Let’s get started.

1. JW Surety Bond’s

If you’re looking to become a freight broker, this is your best guide to getting started. Equally useful for industry beginners and experienced freight carriers, this e-book provides insight and a detailed step-by-step layout of what you need to do before you can open your doors for business. Getting your BMC-84 bond and developing a rock-solid marketing strategy are just some of the steps you’ll learn about.

The advice contained in these 40 pages will help you understand where to base yourself for the best chances of success and how to navigate the complex legal requirements to obtain your license. While the process is far from easy, fortunately the guidance is easy to follow, so you can enter the industry with confidence.

2. Study.com’s List

Okay, fair warning: these programs aren’t free, but there’s plenty of important (and free resources for freight brokers) information on Study.com about them. The page covers everything from the more exotic side of the industry (like air transportation systems architecture or marine transportation) to detailed explanations of the industry from the US Department of Transportation.

It’s important to note that the programs in this list are designed to provide high level training in logistics. There are other programs which are designed to train you in the basics of how to operate a more basic trucking-focused freight brokerage.

If you’re most interested in brokering freight strictly on land, be sure to . While the training these schools provide aren’t an absolute necessity, they can be extremely useful for anyone without previous experience in the industry. So if you’re making a career switch and need to learn the ins and outs of freight brokering quickly, definitely consider taking a course.

3. for Freight Brokers & Agents

One of the best things about being a freight broker is the flexibility the job offers. But, that flexibility doesn’t mean very much if you can’t keep your projects organized and at your fingertips, wherever you are. These 10 top mobile apps are valuable tools to help you stay connected and on top of everything in a fast changing business environment.

For example, being able to access your loads from anywhere means you can take care of business outside of the office as long as you’ve got your smartphone. Less obviously, weather and note applications allow you to keep track of weather events which may affect your freight and jot down business ideas whenever inspiration strikes.

4. It’s Never Too Late (or Too Early) to

While JW’s freight broker e-book contains tons of information about the brokering industry, making a business plan for your brokerage is a bit different. A business plan is essential to having a clear vision of how your business will operate and for being prepared for whatever comes your way.

This is especially true if you’re going to need some investment capital or partners to get off the ground. A well put together business plan containing detailed predictions and strategies is going to bring the kind of attention and support you’ll need to make your brokerage a success. The same site even has another excellent article with more  for freight brokers.

5. Follow the Thomasholmes Blog to Keep Up with Freight Industry News

The blog of the freight and logistics solutions company Thomasholmes offers regular content analyzing every aspect of logistics and freight. So much of being a great freight broker is knowing exactly what’s going on in the business. Monitoring relevant blogs is a critical part of doing that job well.

Keep Your Eyes Open

Freight and logistics are always changing, so it’s important to never stop being on the lookout for other great resources for freight brokers to give you an edge over your competition. Take advantage of these and other freely available resources and you’ll be on track for success.

With fast growth and low competition, the freight brokering industry these days is a great place to be. If you’ve been working as a carrier, or even if you haven’t worked at all in this area before, now’s a great time to get started. Being a freight broker offers flexibility, independence, and higher-than-average life satisfaction.

If all that’s stopping you from getting licensed as a freight broker are the complex legal requirements, don’t fret. JW Surety has created a to walk you through every step, so you can get your freight broker license without a sweat.

After all, owning your own business is a core part of the American dream for a reason. Why not experience it for yourself?

JW Is Here to Help You Become a Freight Broker

Getting started in a new field is always tough. Understanding the ins and outs of your new industry and the complex legal requirements can be daunting.

That’s why here at JW Surety Bonds, we’re working to help you avoid unfocused guides and unreadable government website instructions. Our e-book gives you all the information you need in a clear and simple manner, so you don’t get caught up in the small print.

Our e-book is a comprehensive, well-designed freight broker guide, and it only takes 40 minutes to read! It’s full of useful instructions and tips like how to…

If you’d like to start brokering freight, earning money, and enjoying a great work-life balance, you can get started today.

Why Do You Need a Guide?

From registering with the FMCSA to understanding your training options, getting a detailed and all-encompassing look at the whole licensing process makes a big difference. You’ll get the perspective and knowledge you need to make the best choices, save time, and best of all, save money.

Trust us, you don’t want to get stuck trying to understand whether or not you need to get Unified Carrier Registration or how long it takes to get your PIN from the FMCSA all on your own.

So, if you’re interested in not wasting another day thinking about becoming a freight broker, our step-by-step guide will get you started.

The guide is totally free, so what are you waiting for?

 

 

Freight brokers, manufacturers, and those in the supply chain know as well as anyone that problems with accounts receivable can lead to anything from simple annoyance to a serious business-killing disaster. It’s common in all of these types of businesses that you are working with several vendors and customers. If you are a large enterprise, thousands of different invoices are involved! So you’re probably wondering: what you can do to prevent this?

It starts with making sure you follow the law every step of the way. Any legal claims against you resulting from a conflict with a customer can put your ability to get your  or any other type of bond in jeopardy, risking your entire business.

Luckily, from getting things in writing to avoiding emotional decision-making, getting accounts receivable right is easier than you think.

Step 1: Get It in Writing

It really can’t be emphasized enough — get your agreement in writing. A huge number of accounts receivable problems would never have existed if the parties had simply followed this simple rule.

You may be thinking, “But this customer and I have done business for years, so how can I suddenly ask for things in writing?” That, however, is precisely the wrong attitude. Getting things in writing is not about putting a business relationship at risk; it’s about clarity. It’s about making every subsequent step clearer for both you and your customer.

When done right, both parties benefit from having a clearly defined legal relationship with specific prescriptions for any problems which may arise, such as a lien. This single step can protect you from messy legal entanglements and from destroying relationships, so get on it! It’s a no-brainer.

Step 2: Set a Regular Billing Schedule

Think about your personal life: what’s harder to pay, an unexpected car repair or your regular monthly rent or mortgage? Obviously, it’s the latter simply due to its regularity and predictability. The same principle applies to accounts receivable.

So when possible, always ensure that invoices are sent at regular intervals. Beyond making them easier to pay, it’s a nice courtesy.

Step 3: Evaluate Credit, Yours and Theirs

The business credit score of your customer matters. It should always factor into how much credit you’re willing to extend to them in terms of payments. Remember, banks perform credit checks for a reason and so should you. Only offering credit to those customers who have proven their ability to pay it back will raise your chances of being paid on time.

And you also have to take your own credit score into account. Extending too much credit puts you and your credit score at risk, a problem which can affect all aspects of your business.

Step 4: Try to Collect on Delinquent Accounts

This connects back to getting things in writing. Instead of sitting around and wondering when you should start nagging your customers about late payments, you need to have a prescribed response to any delinquent payments in the initial contract.

In addition, you should also try to contact them regularly to politely but firmly request they make their payments. It’s all about taking the right tone to maintain your relationship with the client while also making it clear that they need to pay ASAP. For more ideas check out these .

Step 5: Don’t Let Disputes Get Out of Hand

Any disputes which arise can not only harm your relationship with your customers but can lead to claims against you and difficulties with your freight broker bond down the road. These must be avoided at all costs.

It’s best to address problems promptly and professionally by, for example, offering additional credit as compensation. These resolutions should also be in writing to avoid legal actions later on.

Step 6: Use a Lawyer When Necessary

freight brokerage lawyerA good lawyer, like a good contract, is a must.

Fear of getting a lawyer involved is, to be frank, an amateur mistake. Lawyers are there to help by making sure everyone is following both the law and the contract. If there’s a problem, good legal advice can make all the difference in the world in terms of resolving the conflict in the best possible way for your business. So don’t be afraid to call a lawyer when difficulties arise.

Step 7: Leave Your Emotions Out of It

Personal relationships with clients are often the reason for avoiding things like written contracts. But this can lead to confusion, awkwardness, and frustration when it comes to determining how to handle problems.

So it’s best to avoid letting emotions take over your thinking throughout the process, from making the contract to contacting them about payments. Just remember, it’s ultimately a business relationship above all else.

The Takeaway? Be Firm and Clear

If there’s one summary of these steps, it’s to be firm and clear. This will make all your business dealings easier from start to finish. When done right, good communication benefits both you and your clients.

So start taking these tips to heart and start avoiding delinquent payments today.

What kind of accounts receivable problems have you experienced? How do you think you could have avoided them? Let us know about your experiences in the comments!

Work-life balance has become one of the central issues of the 21st century. It’s an idea praised and discussed in countless , meetings, and studies. But in most jobs, the basics are fixed and there’s only so much you can do to change them. The problem is that the right balance between work and the rest of life is different for everyone. So what can you do to find your right formula and then live it? Start by choosing the right industry. Frankly, one of the best fields currently out there is freight brokering. Brokers somehow seem to have found the right formula for striking their own perfect balance. With new technology firmly on their side, and ensuring high industry standards, today’s freight brokers are showing the rest of us how it’s done. But why are freight brokers particularly good at this?

1. Freight Brokers Can Define Success for Themselves

Henry David Thoreau and some of the most successful people in our society today : defining your own success is critical to job satisfaction. Whether you’re struggling to meet someone else’s definition or feeling bored by low expectations, working under someone else’s ideas of success can negatively impact your work and your life. How do freight brokers avoid this? Whether you’re an independent broker or working as an agent for a company, you’re not working under quotas. Because you’re paid on commission, you can choose your own schedule; you’re in control of your salary and hours. So, if you need to work more one month, do it. If you need some time off to get some rest, no problem. You can even combine work and relaxation by working anywhere with an internet connection!

2. Work in an Office or At Home? How About Both?

It’s a cliche to point out that everyone’s work habits and preferences are different, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Most jobs force workers into a set work pattern and style, which works for some, but not for most. At the same time, while some people dream of working from home, for others it proves difficult. What’s great about being a freight broker is that the choice is totally yours. If you have a family, you can spend time with them by working from home. If you’re single and like working in a shared office space so that you can be around co-workers you enjoy, you can do that as well. You can even find some combination of the two, which works best for you. Knowing you have the option to change your work setting makes a huge difference. Thus, get yourself a 4G phone and go camping — you can work while fishing in the middle of a beautiful lake or under a sky full of stars — or make a habit of getting into the office every morning at 9. What matters most is that you figure out what works best for you.

3. Brokers Make Technology Work for Them, Not Vice-Versa

Many of us remember the era when technology promised to open up vast new swaths of leisure time. It hasn’t exactly worked out that way. In today’s world, technology too often ends up allowing work to invade our personal time. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. When you’re a freight broker, being available to your shippers and carriers is an essential part of the job. So, while for some industries this technological intrusion is a problem, for freight brokers, it makes accomplishing the basics simpler. At the same time, with the cost of brokering essentials (like a laptop, an internet connection, and a smartphone) decreasing all the time, technology is making brokering easier every year. When you combine this with the out there, it’s easy to see why brokers have technology on their side like a fairy godmother.

4. Freight Brokers Know When They Need a Team

For many people, what’s most appealing about being a freight broker is the independence it offers. But working on your own is often intimidating. Fortunately, it’s entirely possible to be a fully independent broker, but still get the help and advice you need when you encounter difficulties like delinquent payments, complex software, or legal claims filed against you. This is where it becomes essential to build a solid network of support with people like your lawyers, long-term carrier partners, and your surety bond agency. For the latter, in particular, make sure you find a reliable agency with a positive attitude and the expertise to help you avoid claims and/or deal with them, if they should occur.

It All Comes Down to Flexibility

If you combine all these elements, it’s clear how freight brokers are able to maintain and great work-life balance. Because when it comes down to it, the key is having the flexibility to find what works for you and stick with it. There’s no one-size-fits-all work-life balance, so it’s always going to be tough for a company to create it from the top down. With brokering freight, you can craft the perfect job-style for your lifestyle. Whether you’re a freight broker or not, how do these elements factor into your work-life balance? Let us know what you think in the comments section.

The frustrating feeling, that government regulators aren’t listening to you, is a common one within the freight industry. But there are cases when new proposed regulations have specially allotted periods for public comment, and we’re in the midst of one right now. The FMCSA is aiming to increase minimum carrier liability insurance levels in 2016, and is asking for input from both carriers and brokers. Changes here could have a major impact on the market. The higher the minimums go, the more difficult it may be for small and medium sized carriers to survive, especially since the industry was already hit hard by last year’s increase. And because carriers and brokers rely on each other to function, anything that affects one affects the other. So, whether you’re a broker or a carrier, read on to find out why you need to take advantage of the comment period and how you can make your voice heard.

What Is Carrier Liability Insurance and Why Is It Increasing?

To begin, because so many carriers are also in the freight broker business, it’s important to understand the relationship between freight broker bonds and carrier liability insurance. Raising the minimum levels for each one affects the industry differently. For brokers, there’s a universal bond requirement designed to protect customers from unethical practices. The amount doesn’t change with company size. This requirement saw a more-than-sevenfold increase in 2013, something that pushed many brokers out of the industry. Carrier liability insurance, on the other hand, is not one-size-fits-all. It’s a minimum level of insurance required per vehicle. While the bond is designed to protect others, this insurance is designed to protect the carriers and owner-operators from liabilities arising from lawsuits and claims resulting from incidents, such as road accidents. But why are minimums set to increase at all?

Industry Laws Are Modernizing

The current minimum level of carrier liability insurance per truck is $750,000. But this was set all the way back in 1986 and would be around $1.62 million if adjusted for inflation. But, of course, inflation isn’t the only thing that’s changed since 1986. As the , “If the number had kept up with the medical consumer price index, which measures the increase annually in medical costs, carriers would be required to have $3.18 million in liability insurance.” So while the precise number is being deliberated, it seems clear that almost 30 years of changes necessitate a definite increase in the minimum insurance level. This is a familiar story for those who have been keeping close track of the aforementioned . There we saw the same issue — a legal minimum was set decades ago, leading to inadequate coverage and a shock to the industry when the amount was finally modernized.

How Can Carriers and Brokers Submit Their Feedback to the FMCSA?

The FMCSA is accepting comments about the proposed carrier insurance increase until February 26th, 2015 through the website. The required form contains a list of 26 questions about every aspect of the current set of carrier regulations. While the time commitment to adequately fill out this survey is serious and will likely make it more difficult for small and medium sized brokers and forwarders to commit to filling it out, the level of detail is an encouraging sign that the FMCSA is serious about making sure the changes reflect the realities of the industry. What’s important is that the Trucker Alliance (TA), a lobbying group comprised of larger companies in the industry, is already making its opinions known on the subject by releasing an extensive study. This is sparking some , with some accusing the TA of using their study to press for changes that will negatively affect its smaller competitors.

One of the biggest problems facing veterans leaving the military is the difficulty of finding jobs in the civilian sector. From not being familiar with the civilian job application process to not knowing how to translate experience into something the civilian sector will understand and appreciate, the variety of hurdles veterans face are enormous. These problems have contributed to veteran homelessness for decades. But fortunately, the to help “train and place veterans in careers as commercial truck and bus drivers,” as part of a larger series of programs to help veterans transition into civilian life.

Difficulties Facing Veterans Entering the Civilian Job Market

That veterans often have a tough time finding a new job after leaving the military is ironic considering the high-quality training men and women in uniform receive while serving. Too often, the problem is not that these veterans are under-qualified, but rather that their high-quality skills are not recognized by civilian employers. Add to this the fact that many veterans have been in the military since entering adulthood and don’t have experience searching for jobs, and you can see why finding a regular job is an enormous challenge. When we look specifically at trucking, service members may have spent years driving trucks in a combat environment, through incredibly difficult conditions, only to find that the civilian sector doesn’t formally recognize that experience. The federal government began tackling this problem with the , and since then laws like the 2009 amendment to the GI bill have helped returning veterans obtain education for future careers. Add to this the 2011 “Joining Forces” campaign which has educated over 380,000 veterans with plans to educate 435,000 more by 2018, and it’s clear the government is putting resources behind these goals. But is it enough? Unfortunately, the unique set of challenges involved with integrating the 2.4 million veterans exiting the military since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan means that . Even with more than two decades of laws and the participation of many nonprofits, problems persist.

Veteran Drivers: Finding a Way to Use Your Experience

The contrasts in the trucking industry are staggering. Despite demand for experienced high-skilled workers, the unemployment rate for post 9/11 veterans stands at 10%, almost double the 5.9% national average. One of the biggest examples is the trucking industry, where the need for heavy-vehicle drivers is expected to grow by more than 17% in the coming years, but veterans are still having a hard time transitioning into this field. This situation has prompted people like to see that “we can think of none more appropriate to safeguard our highways as commercial vehicle drivers than the thousands of veterans who have already proven they can safely handle large vehicles under extremely stressful circumstances.” To help in this goal, the FMCSA has already instituted to allow veterans with relevant experience to waive the skills test portion of the commercial driver’s license application. When combined with the availability of funds to attend training programs, this means it’s becoming easier than ever to take military driving experience and turn it into a civilian career. Even if a veteran has a physical impairment resulting from their time in the military, the .

What Will These Grants Do?

These specific grants, distributed through the FMCSA’s Commercial Motor Vehicle Operator Safety Training (CMV-OST) program, will be given to 9 technical and community colleges around the country from Florida to Minnesota, Nebraska to Virginia. They’re expected to fully cover training in truck driving rules and regulations, safety, logs, defensive driving, cargo handling, personal finances, business, preventative maintenance, emergency equipment and safe operations — all in all, complete truck driver training — for around 400 veterans. So far,, with veterans like Rob Hampton stating that, “There are a lot of veterans asking about truck-driving programs. There are more than enough [veterans] to keep this going.” The FMCSA, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Transportation all agree, seeing this as a win-win. By putting truck drivers with high levels of experience on the road, the program will both help to ease problems of joblessness among veterans and help make US highways safer. But don’t think that this is a one-time fix attempt by the FMCSA. The program has been around since 2005, and grant awards have been given to different training schools and institutions throughout the country each year. Next year we’ll surely see another award, which will provide more opportunities to those veterans who still haven’t benefited directly from the program. If you’re interested in applying, the FMCSA encourages you to contact one of their field offices for more information.

Veteran Hopes for the Future

Looking at the overall situation, it’s great to see the FMCSA taking this opportunity to turn a negative into a positive by offering these grants to veterans exiting the military. The federal government is trying to introduce a variety of programs which will help pair veterans with relevant experience with high-demand civilian sector jobs like nursing and trucking. What do you think about this grant and the wider problems facing veterans entering civilian life? Let us know in the comments section.  

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