There are many good truck brokers operating in the produce industry. Unfortunately, there are also some of them that aren't too good. What should you expect from your broker? Here are a few rules of thumb:
A broker is providing a service, which is securing a truck to get product from point A to point B. The broker has to work on behalf of the truck, while maintaining a relationship with the shipper and/or receiver. This isn't always an easy thing to do, especially if there is a problem with the load. We hope you will never be involved with a problem load, but if you are, the way that your broker handles the situation will speak volumes about the type of operator that your broker is.
Produce is a volatile commodity and takes extreme care in transporting. Is your broker detail oriented? Does he/she communicate the proper instructions verbally and in writing? Are they accurate with pickup and delivery times, or do you feel like you are flying by the seat of your pants? Does he/she relay the proper transport temperatures and instruct you as to how to handle and when to pulp the product? If there is a claim, and particularly if it appears to be the fault of the truck, does your broker help you make the best of a bad situation or tell you to go fly a kite? A broker no more wants a claim than you do. A good broker will go to great lengths to make sure the driver understands the particulars of a produce load. Good brokers also makes themselves or members of their staff accessible 24 hours a day to keep the lines of communication open.
How can you find out if your broker is credible? Don't be afraid to ask for some references. A good broker will be happy to provide you with a list. Check with us or whatever other credit services you use and find out the history of the broker. How long have they been in business? What is their track record? What is the ownership of the company? How do they pay? Do they have a record of getting involved with too many claims? These are questions you need answers to before you agree to take a load. It is very important to find out that not only is your broker credible, but the accounts that he/she deals with are also credible. If a broker is dealing with marginal accounts or tough receivers, this could cause problems for you.
How does your broker pay? Obviously, this is probably the most important detail you need to find out before loading your truck. Again, check with us or whatever credit services you are using and find out the broker's payment history. It is important to find out how this broker intends to pay. Some brokers operate on a collect and remit basis. In other words, they don't pay you until they get paid. This is fine, but it certainly puts even greater importance on the credibility of the party that is paying the freight. If that company has a history of slow pay, you will probably be waiting for your freight longer than you want. Other brokers will agree to pay you in a set amount of days, whether they have been paid or not.
No matter which type of broker you choose to deal with, make sure you get the terms of the contract in writing. Make sure you ask the appropriate questions when you are setting up the contract with the brokers. A good broker will give you proper instructions for the haul, but if you feel there is something else you need to know, ask before you load the truck. Life is too short to deal with produce claims and marginal truck brokers. If you follow these guidelines, hopefully you will avoid both.