ATS Transportation Blog

Top 5 Problems With Freight Brokerages (+ Solutions)

If you’re considering partnering with a freight brokerage to help you move your next shipment, you may have stumbled across discussions outlining some common issues that people experience when working with them.

The purpose of this article is to shed some light on these problems as clearly and transparently as possible. This way, you’ll have a better understanding of some of the things to watch out for when partnering with a freight brokerage. Additionally, this blog will outline some strategies that good brokerages employ to avoid these problems. 

Here at ATS Logistics, we’ve been operating as a freight brokerage since 1989. During this time we’ve seen bad brokerages come and go with the wind. Our longevity in this industry is thanks to our ability to proactively mitigate the issues outlined below. 

The top 5 most common problems with freight brokerages — in no particular order — are:

  1. Lack of communication
  2. Insufficient quality of service
  3. Ability to stick to quoted rates
  4. Accountability issues 
  5. No “guaranteed” capacity

Freight Problem Stopper Graphic

   1. Lack of Communication

When you decide to cover your shipping needs by working with a freight brokerage, they become your right hand, a seamless extension of your transportation network. 

Doing this correctly, though, requires the maintenance of a clear and consistent line of communication. Communication regarding the status of your freight, expectations for its pickup/drop off and the steps that must be taken to promote its successful transit should all be prioritized. 

Unfortunately, with so many freight brokerages operating across the nation — a nation that has seen a rise in the demand for these services — not all of them are cut from the same cloth. As such, there are plenty of brokerages who fail to properly communicate with their customers. 

In these situations, customers are left at a severe disadvantage as they are not developing the kind of relationships fostered by clear and thoughtful communication. 

Communicating with customers through every step of the freight transportation process is important to promote its successful transit. Good freight brokerages know and actively practice this. 

The solution: Pick a freight brokerage who communicates with you from the start. Ask them about their preferred method of communication and for some references of past and current customers that you can contact.

Reach out to these companies and ask questions like:

  • How easy was it to communicate with this brokerage?
  • Did they make your needs feel validated and addressed?
  • How did they respond when something went wrong? 
  • What kind of shipment tracking do they have and does it grant you 24/7 access to your shipment’s location?
Three trucks with oversized freight

    2. Insufficient Quality of Service

It’s a freight brokerage’s main duty to make the lives of its customers easier and their supply chains more efficient. This is done by offering consistent quality service in every facet of its customer relationships.

Often though, freight brokerages aren’t able to maintain top-of-the-line service. They struggle to meet deadlines, provide unreliable carriers and go back on their word. In these instances, the customers working with these brokerages rarely stick around. 

And why would they?

Working with these freight brokerages isn’t saving them time, money or making their lives easier. Luckily for you, brokerages who consistently offer insufficient service qualities don’t last too long. They are scrubbed from the transportation market and replaced by a brokerage who will meet their customer’s needs.

The solution: Find a brokerage that consistently puts the needs of their customers first. Often, brokers with a long history in the industry do this best. Ask your potential partner for references of current and past customers. 

Reach out to these companies and ask questions like:

  • What has been/was your experience partnering with this broker?
  • What was their service like?
  • Did they ever fail on a load? What did they do in that situation?  

   3. Ability to Stick By the Quoted Rate

Oh, that dreaded bottom-line. The constant loitering presence peeking over your shoulder, checking your work and driving your decisions. Your bottom line will always be one of the largest factors dictating your purchasing decisions and often, brokerages won’t help you meet it. 

The ability for a freight brokerage to stick to the rate they originally quote you is perhaps the most important aspect of your relationship. In a market as dynamic as the trucking industry, this can be — especially for smaller brokerages — difficult. 

Due to a lack of resources, some brokerages will yank the proverbial carpet out from under their customers after they agree to assign them freight. This is an incredibly frowned-upon practice in this industry with a time-honored methodology for outcasting brokerages who consistently do this. 

It is important that the brokerage you choose gives you a rate for your shipment and sticks to it. You should feel confident that your rate will not change after you have signed off on your freight’s transport. An unexpected price hike isn’t normal and you should never feel like it is. Your brokerage’s word should be solid and reliable. 

The solution: Ask your brokerage what they will do when prices fluctuate. Will they adjust their original rate and try to avoid taking a loss at your expense? Or will they price your original quote to execute and stand by their rate even if it gets uncomfortable for them? Pick a brokerage who will do the latter. 

   4. Accountability Issues

Will my truck show up? When will my freight arrive? Will I be left searching for a new carrier if something goes wrong? 

These are all questions that commonly crop up when using an unreliable freight brokerage. Some brokerages won’t show up on time, communicate delivery time expectations or take accountability if something happens to your freight in transit. 

These brokerages don’t put their customers above the bottom line and give all freight brokerages a bad name. 

Good brokerages will work with their customers to meet their deadlines and for their customers as they reach their goals. This includes showing up on time and always communicating if on-time delivery is at risk. Additionally, good brokerages work with their customers to find them a solution in situations where mechanical failure, weather or other unpredictable circumstances prove an issue. 

The solution: Choose a brokerage that will rise to the occasion when deadlines are tight and something goes wrong. Find a brokerage that will take accountability when things go wrong and whose sales reps are always at your fingertips. When you talk to potential brokers, ask them to share an example of a load gone wrong and explain how they handled it operationally and with their customers. 

Often, good brokerages will remove unreliable carriers from their network if they have a history of routine delays and/or no-shows. Ask your potential brokerage partner if they have a system for ensuring network quality and what it entails. Find a brokerage who will work for you, not against you. 

Oversized tank shipment on open deck trailer

   5. No “Guaranteed” Capacity

Unlike an asset carrier, a  brokerage doesn’t own any trucks, equipment or physical transportation assets of any kind. Because of this, freight brokerages are unable to guarantee that any customer's freight will have a truck available to haul it. 

This can lead to an issue in finding capacity for customers who request a truck on a tight schedule. Without proper lead time, freight brokers may struggle to find a truck properly equipped to handle your shipment in a pinch. 

This question of “guaranteed” capacity also comes down to the variable of a brokerage’s size. As the size of a brokerage’s carrier network edges upward, the likelihood that they will have a truck available to haul your shipment steadily increases. It is safe to assume that the more lead time you give your brokerage, the higher likelihood that you will be granted a shipping solution for your freight.  

The solution: Pick a brokerage with a track record of excellence and a carrier network with the size to meet your shipping needs.

How to Choose the Right Freight Brokerage The First Time

Now that you understand some of the common problems that working with the wrong freight brokerage can present and the best way to avoid these issues from the start, you’re ready to continue your shipment journey.  

Quite honestly, finding a good transportation partner can be difficult, especially when you don’t know what to look for. As a general rule of thumb, keep this in mind when making shipping-related decisions: someone can always do it for less money,  but cheaper doesn’t mean they’ll do it better. 

Find a brokerage that prides itself on quality of service above all else, with a long history of helping its customers succeed. Above all else, find a brokerage who will put your needs first. 

Feel free to reach out to us with any further questions you may have. Also, check out the rest of our blogs. They are brimming with information to help you make the right choice in your shipping partner and make the most of your shipping budget.

Eric Metso

Written by Eric Metso

Eric has been a sales manager with ATS Logistics since 2018 — when he helped create a new sales team from scratch. In his role, he supports his team in developing their book of business and create new business. Eric joined ATS in 2013 as a sales representative for ATS Logistics. He was also a sales member with ATS’ Vans division before coming back to ATS Logistics in his current role.

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