So, you’re ready to roll, but you’re not familiar with the process of booking a load with a customer. There are several steps involved in this process with multiple forms of documentation needed. This blog will discuss the step-by-step process of communicating, negotiating, onboarding, booking, delivering, and invoicing a load with a freight broker as a new partnerExamp. Let’s get started!
1. Carrier and Freight Broker Start Communications
The first step is the start of communications with the freight broker about the available load. This began either through the carrier posting a truck to the load board and the freight broker contacting them, the broker posting a load to the board and the carrier contacting them, or some other method Google Search, recommendation, etc.
2. Gathering Load Details
The broker will describe the load details to you. Be sure to ask as many questions as necessary to ensure you can provide the required services for the load and price your services accurately. These include shipment weight, pickup city/state, delivery city/state, commodity, cargo specs (if needed), required accessorials, shipping hours, delivery hours, desired pickup date/time, and desired delivery date/time. Check out our Load Details Sheet to capture essential load information. You will also need to gauge the broker’s budget for the load. In some instances, you may already have a rate in mind, but it’s worth asking the broker first what they are paying on the load.
This is where negotiations begin. If the broker is unable to provide a rate, then you will need to provide your rate for your services. It’s important to know the total mileage of the load, your deadhead, desired margin, the delivery region’s market, and your cost per mile to arrive at the best rate to share with the broker. However, you won’t share all these specifics with them - just your final rate. You should have a general idea of the average rate for the lane by using tools like DAT load board.
You will communicate your rate to the broker via phone or email (depending on how you were contacted). The broker may immediately accept your rate or they may begin negotiating with you by asking you for a lower rate. It is very common for the exchange to go back and forth 1-3 times before finally landing at an agreeable rate. Don’t be surprised if a broker asks you to lower your rate after sharing your price. Therefore, don’t be afraid to fairly pad your initial rate with the expectation to lower it. If you would rather avoid negotiations, let them know the rate you provide is your best.
4. Contact Information Exchange
After reaching an agreed-upon rate for your services, you will need to exchange additional contact information such as email addresses, phone numbers, names, and MC numbers.
It is common practice for a broker to send an onboarding packet or URL link to the carrier to onboard with their business. This typically includes the Broker-Carrier Agreement (BCA), invoicing procedures, and contact information.
5. Broker Vetting/Carrier Vetting
While most vetting will occur before the phone call or email begins with a freight broker, it is not always possible. After receiving the brokers’ information, be sure to investigate their credentials, check things like their credit score and days to pay, and any reviews.
Make sure they are a licensed broker by searching their MC number on the FMCSA’s Company Snapshot portal. The broker will be doing the same with your information.
6. Onboarding Packet & BCA Agreement
After exchanging contact information, the broker will send their onboarding packet (as mentioned earlier). You will also need to send the requested information that was mentioned earlier. This is why it’s important to have your own Onboarding Packet with all of your information nicely packaged and ready to share. You can see an example and template for an Onboarding Packet Example and Template here.
Thoroughly read the Broker-Carrier Agreement and look out for any red flags. Most BCAs will be boilerplate contracts, but it’s important to familiarize yourself with the common sections and clauses. You can purchase and review an example of a Broker-Carrier Agreement here (it’s also a template!).
7. Sign & Return the BCA
Once you have reviewed and signed the BCA you will need to return it to the broker via email or through the broker’s online signing service. As good practice, most brokers will not send the rate confirmation until they have received the signed BCA, certificate of insurance, operating authority certificate, and W-9 from the carrier.
8. Receive the Rate Confirmation
Once the broker has received all the necessary information from you, the broker will then tender the load to you through the rate confirmation. The rate confirmation is a document that outlines the agreed-upon freight rate for a specific shipment between a freight broker (or shipper) and a carrier. It confirms the financial terms of the transportation service, including the agreed-upon payment for transporting the goods from the origin to the destination. The rate confirmation typically includes details such as the pickup and delivery locations, shipment dates, commodity information, and the negotiated freight rate. It serves as a contractual agreement between the parties and helps ensure transparency and clarity regarding the financial aspects of the transportation arrangement.
9. Sign & Return
Be sure to thoroughly review the rate confirmation. This will have further details about the load, the shipper location, the consignee location, appointment times, as well as additional legal language. You can typically find the broker’s detention policy somewhere on the rate confirmation. Be sure to review this. To fully accept the load, you will need to sign and return the rate confirmation to the broker. In many cases, approval over the phone or via email will achieve this if you are unable to sign and return the rate confirmation quickly.
10. Dispatch Truck
Now that you have a signed rate confirmation, you can dispatch your truck for pickup. This is important to note because some drivers may believe they should immediately start heading toward the pickup location after ending the phone call with the broker and not receiving the rate confirmation.
In that period of time, the broker may have found another option at a better rate, the customer may have declined their price, or maybe the appointments were not available.
If this happens, the broker no longer has a load for you and there is no rate confirmation for you to request a Truck Ordered Not Used charge (this only applies if the broker cancels without reasonable notice – a few days is reasonable notice and sometimes a few hours is reasonable notice if you have not dispatched the truck for pickup). It is crucial for you to stay put until you receive the rate confirmation to not waste time or fuel. While it may not seem like it, there are many things happening in the background for that broker to win, plan, and schedule a load. Receiving a rate confirmation from them is their final “green light”.
11. Load Communications
You should be communicating with your broker at the most crucial points of transporting the load. These include arrival at the pickup location, getting loaded, departure of the pickup location, arrival at the delivery location, getting unloaded, and final delivery. Depending on the length of the trip, you will want to communicate your estimated time of arrival (ETA) and current location a reasonable number of times. Some brokers and customers are more relaxed about tracking your location while others may have more requirements such as live tracking through apps like Macropoint. Do your best to accommodate and remember that communication is key to great service, avoiding issues, and resolving issues!
12. Receive BOL/Shipper & Carrier Sign BOL
When you arrive at the pickup location, the shipper will have a Bill of Lading for you that contains the cargo details. Occasionally a broker may be responsible for creating the BOL.
You will need to verify that all the information is correct before you sign the bill of lading. You will need to ensure that the shipper has signed the bill of lading before you depart the facility. This is CRUCIAL. I repeat, be sure that the shipper has signed the bill of lading before you leave.
13. Receiver/Consignee Signs BOL
The same rules apply to the receiver or consignee. You will need the receiver to sign the bill of lading to not only use as the proof of delivery, but to also confirm that the load arrived without damage, on time, and in full. If there are issues with the load, the receiver will need to make note of this on the bill of lading when they sign it. If there is not a designated spot on the BOL for the receiver to sign then they should sign and date wherever space is available. Be sure to have your own copy of the bill of lading with all parties’ signatures before departing the receiver location.
14. POD & Invoice
The signed bill of lading will act as your proof of delivery (also known as POD). You will send this with your invoice to either your broker or factoring company depending on accounts receivable structure. Most brokers or shippers will not pay carriers without proof of delivery. You will want to send your invoice and proof of delivery as soon as possible to begin the payment process. The net terms do not start until the invoice is sent with the POD (NOT the day of delivery). Some carriers will send their invoice and POD the same day of delivery when possible. This will ultimately help you get paid quicker.
While this entire process may seem like a lot, it’s important to note that the first 9 steps typically happen in a matter of 15-60 minutes. Speed is crucial when booking loads in the spot market and being prepared to negotiate and then exchange information is half of the battle. That’s why it’s a great idea to already have an onboarding packet prepared for your trucking business. Luckily, we have created an Onboarding Packet Example and Template for you to utilize.
Here are some of the major key takeaways from our lesson on booking a load with a new freight broker…
Come into negotiations with a rate in mind
Be sure to thoroughly vet a broker’s information
Thoroughly review the BCA
Do not consider a load booked until you have received a rate confirmation
Communicate, communicate, and communicate!
Be sure to have the BOL signed by the shipper before leaving the shipper location
Be sure to have the BOL signed by the consignee before leaving the consignee location
Be sure to have your own copy of the signed BOL
Send the invoice and POD as soon as possible!
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Soshaul Logistics LLC and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. It is meant to serve as a guide and information only and Soshaul Logistics, LLC does not assume responsibility for any omissions, errors, or ambiguity contained herein. Contents may not be relied upon as a substitute for the FMCSA's published regulations. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction or operation.