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Freight Broker vs. Carrier: Which is the Best Choice?

Choosing the best shipping company for their freight is essential for businesses shipping finished goods or raw materials to succeed. Options include working with a carrier directly or using a freight broker. Choosing whether to work with a freight broker or a carrier depends on a number of variables.

What Is a Freight Carrier?

A business that works closely with a shipper to transport their goods is known as a freight carrier. They take ownership of the goods and are in charge of ensuring their safe delivery to the intended location.

Advantages of Working with a Freight Carrier

Identifying a great LTL or FTL carrier you can trust reduces the headache of having to search for a carrier for every one of your shipments. Carriers that have experience moving your type of freight, have a fleet of trucks that serve your region, and offer nationwide service or even next day delivery, are worth establishing a relationship with.

Working with a carrier provides a single point of contact for your shipments and the reliability that comes through building a strong relationship over time.

LTL Carriers vs. Freight Brokers

When shipping freight that does not require an entire truck, your carrier will seek to combine cargo from another shipper on that same truck, going to the same destination. LTL shipping relies on a hub-and-spoke network with many access points, loading and unloading zones, and connecting trucks.

LTL can increase the amount of handling your shipment will experience as well as transit time. For shippers that are not as time sensitive, LTL freight potentially offers a cost saving over hiring an entire truck to deliver less than a truckload.

By opting for a freight broker to handle your partial shipment, you avoid the hassle of locating a carrier and negotiating a route and transit time. For carriers that also act as brokers, shippers take advantage of a single point of contact that has access to an extended network of carriers they trust offering speed of delivery and cost cutting.

FTL Carriers vs. Freight Brokers

FTL Freight reserves an entire truck for a shipment from a single business. This implies that the only goods or products that will travel on that truck from the point of origin to the destination are those that belong to a single company. One of the major advantages of FTL shipping is that it minimizes transit time by going straight from the origin to the destination.

On behalf of both shippers and carriers, brokers work with FTL carriers. Working with a broker offers shippers the same benefits as those mentioned above, including making it simple to match a shipment with a truck and having a broker handle all negotiations and freight tracking. Brokers give FTL carriers access to freight that keeps trucks on the road when they have empty trucks that are either idle at their depot or looking for a return shipment after an outbound delivery.

Who Ships Faster – Carrier or Freight Broker? 

Working directly with a carrier or broker could be the answer for shippers who need speed. Carriers offer speed and dependability, especially for FTL shipments, presuming a truck is available when you need it. Utilizing the assistance of a broker with access to a nationwide network of carriers can help get your freight picked up and delivered sooner if a carrier does not have a truck available when you need it. 

Specialized Services 

Certain shipments need specialized help, like lift gates or cross docking. A freight broker can locate the appropriate carrier in their network if your preferred carrier does not provide those services. 

Why Choose a Carrier vs a Freight Broker? 

Consistency – Carriers offer the assurance of one company handling all your freight from start to finish.

Speed – By working with a single carrier, you can expedite your shipments and, in some cases, get next-day deliveries.

Cost predictability – Rates will not fluctuate as much as they might with a broker, and if your business has a steady flow of freight to be shipped on regular schedules using popular routes, a single carrier enables direct negotiations and communication.

Safety – Because there are no truck changes when working with one carrier, especially for FTL shipping, the risk of your shipment being damaged during transportation is reduced.

When to Choose a Freight Broker vs. a Carrier?

Seasonality – A business that uses a single carrier but encounters a sudden, large influx of freight may require additional freight resources to complete deliveries.

Scalability – Employing a single point of contact who can negotiate and manage each shipment for them can be useful for a business that does not yet have a steady volume of freight to ship. This will save them administrative time.

Cost savings – A partial shipment might not require immediate delivery, and the shipper might find the potential cost savings of brokering appealing.

Specialized services – Freight brokers can use their network to meet ad hoc requests for specialized freight or shipping services. 

What Is a Freight Broker?

A freight broker serves as a go-between for the actual carrier and the freight shipper. Instead of taking ownership of the cargo, freight brokers match shippers and their cargo with available carriers. 

In order to pick up and deliver freight safely and on time, brokers work with a network of reputable local and national carriers. Shippers have complete flexibility when moving freight from point A to point B thanks to this access to a network of carriers.

Advantages to Working with a Freight Broker

Employing a broker helps the shipper avoid a lot of hassle. Brokers take care of finding a carrier, negotiating prices, planning pickup and delivery windows, and keeping track of the freight in transit for the shipper.

Brokers also serve as a single point of contact for shipper and carrier, managing all correspondence from the time of pickup through the time the freight reaches its destination. 

Reduced Costs Using Freight Brokerage

Brokers have purchasing power and are experts in freight. By pooling freight volume with other shippers and the carriers they work with, they provide the possibility of lowering shipping costs. One of the most popular reasons shippers choose freight brokers over carriers is that these volume discounts are passed on to their customers. 

By removing the need for their clients to hire their own internal shipping experts, freight brokers also help their clients save money. Brokers can be leveraged as necessary to control costs. 

Freight Brokers Increase Shipper Capacity

The size and accessibility of a carrier’s fleet determines its capacity. Using a freight broker is a great way for shippers who are expanding quickly or are affected by seasonality to guarantee that their cargo is moved without delay regardless of individual carrier capacity. 

Freight Brokers Save Time for Shippers

Freight, capacity, and time are the three main pillars of logistics. For your entire supply chain, late delivery of freight can have serious repercussions. By partnering with carriers who have capacity, freight brokers are able to avoid these expensive delays. 

Freight Brokers Support Carriers

The ecosystem of freight includes brokers as a critical element. Freight brokers assist carriers who are looking for cargo to fill empty or partially empty trailers in addition to helping shippers who have cargo to move. 

Carriers’ ability to earn more money increases when they work with freight brokerages because they have more dependable access to freight for their trucks.

Freight Brokers Improve Carrier Logistics

Logistics experts include freight brokers. By enhancing delivery times, lowering the risk of freight damage, and even lowering shipping costs, they improve the overall supply chain’s efficiency thanks to their access to a network of reliable carriers. 

Brokers assist in filling trucks, allowing carriers to optimize their routes and reduce deadhead miles. 

What Makes for a Great Freight Brokerage?

The first step in finding a fantastic freight brokerage you can trust is experience. You may have found the ideal broker for your company if they have a long history in the industry, a positive online reputation, and a wide network of carriers that they work with.

Having a specialty is essential. Search for brokers who have handled your particular type of freight, whether it be for raw materials, dry goods, non-perishable foods, or glass products.

Specialization indicates that they are knowledgeable about your industry and have access to reputable carriers that can help you save time and money. 

How is a Carrier Different than a Freight Broker?

Transporting your product from the point of origin to the final destination are freight carriers, which are logistics firms. Shippers who bypass freight brokers deal with carriers directly.

Full truck loads (FTL) and less than truckloads (LTL) are two common classifications for freight carriers. This distinction is significant because FTL offers cheaper freight shipping and faster delivery without additional stops to pick up more freight, which benefits both shipper and carrier.

Building a Relationship with Your Carrier or Freight Broker

Shippers are urged to develop ties with their preferred carrier or brokerage. Carriers will become familiar with the specific requirements of the shipper, and freight brokers give access to a wider network of carriers that can provide speed and cost savings. Freight brokers also pinch hit for shippers when their main carrier is unavailable or has limited capacity.

For companies relying on a freight broker, having that single point of communication replaces the need for an in-house hire. The broker can act as a “personal carrier shopper” for their goods.

The best situation is to work with a carrier that also provides freight broker services. Shippers are given additional peace of mind by the combined value of a provider who is familiar with their industry thanks to a direct carrier relationship and who can serve as a broker when necessary.

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