Long gone are the days when men were the only ones hitting the open road and making the trek across the country to deliver goods. While they still only make up a small portion of the trucking industry, women have made strides in the world of trucking. Numerous female-owned-and-operated trucking companies now exist, and women count for over 5 percent of all transportation drivers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many women wanting a job in the trucking world are choosing to be freight agents, people who direct the receipt and delivery of items.
The first step to a freight agent position is learning the ropes of freight brokering. Typically, freight agents work for a larger freight broker, and sometimes brokers will provide on-the-job training for agents. Agents with no experience or knowledge in trucking should consider a freight agent training program to gain the know-how needed for entry-level employment. Freight agent training courses come from trucking companies, specialty trucking schools and online programs.
Even when working under a broker, a freight agent must still be able to work independently and have the drive and passion to run her own business. Freight agents must be able to stick to deadlines, make quick decisions, and have excellent written and oral communication skills in order to speak with clients. Other skills needed to work as a freight agent include flexibility, good work ethics, honesty and integrity. Customer service skills, basic trucking knowledge and experience working with transportation management software is also a plus for agents.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association requires all freight brokers to hold a license and obtain a Motor Carrier Number. An agent who will be working under a broker can utilize that broker’s license, but agents wanting to work independently must earn a license by undergoing an application process and paying application fees. Independent agents must get a surety bond, a form of liability insurance in case of any accidents. The freight broker must obtain a process agent, also called a legal agent, in each of the 48 continental states where she will maintain an office or establish contracts. Going it alone means a large amount of upfront costs to cover licensing, insurance and legal issues.
Because most freight agents work from home, each must have her own office space at home. The space should be a quiet place so the agent can answer phones, concentrate on her work and help clients without distractions. Along with a reliable computer, the agent should have high-speed Internet, dedicated phone and fax lines, and a fax machine. Depending on the broker she works for, the agent may have to sign a non-compete clause that states she will not take on any clients outside of the brokerage. Some freight broker companies only hire agents with an established client base that the agent can bring along to that company. Brokers may also ask for a minimum number of years’ experience in freight sales.
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