Shippers of liquid and dry bulk products have more options than ever in moving their loads. From going it alone to using online marketplaces, there is no shortage of methods for moving bulk freight. One of the most steady and reliable of these methods is the use of a freight broker that specializes in bulk. In this article, we’ll take a look at these brokers and the role they can play in sourcing bulk freight carriers for your operation.
What is a freight broker?
Shippers ship, carriers carry and freight broker companies (aka “truck brokers”) are the experts in the middle that bring the two together. To do this, brokers rely on knowledge of products, lanes, equipment, and services to obtain the necessary information from each party and get loads on the move.
10 advantages of bulk freight broker services
From reducing your costs to saving the day during a rail interruption, there are many characteristics that make freight brokers an invaluable ally in your bulk supply chain.
1. Freight brokers can handle both dry and liquid bulk
With dry van freight, a shipping mistake can result in the damage of a product or two. In the world of bulk shipping, however, a single mistake can result in the loss of innumerable products (e.g., due to a tainted load) or even serious health and safety hazards (e.g., a chemical spill). The shipping of bulk products, then, requires specialized knowledge and careful execution.
This specialized knowledge is related to the products being shipped and the drivers and equipment needed to ship them safely. Both dry and liquid bulk are both worlds unto themselves in this regard.
The careful execution involves the vetting of carriers, the intake of shipper information, and the planning of project details.
2. Freight broker networks provide capacity
With the truck driver shortage and fluctuating industry factors, bulk capacity can be hard to come by. When capacity tightens, shippers can spend time and resources looking for capacity among individual carriers, one at a time. However, you can save that time and those resources – and increase your odds of finding capacity – by contacting a freight broker that specializes in bulk freight. A broker can play matchmaker between your freight and carriers specially qualified to handle it.
3. Freight brokers know your products
If you’re shipping chemicals or other types of bulk products, specialty brokers will understand the unique characteristics and requirements that must be considered. These include safety data sheet (SDS) information, temperature requirements, and the list of incompatible prior product (products that must not have shipped in a tank or trailer prior to your product).
If the person at your company tasked with shipping your products doesn’t understand all of these key details, your product’s integrity could be at risk. Fortunately, freight brokers like Bulk Connection have decades of experience working with products just like yours. Such brokers know your products and can work with you to obtain all the necessary information to ship your load safely and economically. Check out this recent blog post for a case study that illustrates the importance of having a knowledgeable partner on your side.
4. Freight brokers can save you money
Just as a lack of product and shipping knowledge can put your product integrity at risk, it can also wreak havoc on your wallet. Why? Because the fewer details you have about your product, the greater the concern carriers will have about handling your freight. Uncertainty equals risk in the eyes of carriers, which results in higher rate quotes for you.
Experienced bulk freight brokers help you fill in the information gaps. This ensures that the carrier understands the full picture before quoting, which results in lower bulk freight rates for you.
Aside from the value of knowledge, however, your broker’s carrier network comes with its own inherent cost savings. After all, your broker’s network will consist of a large number (typically hundreds) of trusted carriers. One call to your freight broker will effectively allow its network to compete for your business. The more competition, the lower the rate.
5. Freight brokers will vet their carriers
While such an expansive network is a definite plus on the side of freight brokers, it means nothing unless every one of those carriers is reliable and worthy of transporting your product. To ensure this is the case, freight brokers (the best ones, at least) will thoroughly vet their carriers to make sure they are capable and qualified.
At a minimum, the vetting process involves the following carrier information:
- Operating authority
- Motor carrier number
- Federal I.D. number
- Insurance information
- Hazmat information and TSA certification (if applicable)
- Driver endorsements (hazmat tank truck drivers, for instance, will need both the tanker and hazmat endorsements)
- Research regarding citations or judgments against the carrier and/or its drivers
It is, of course, possible to vet carriers yourself. But it is a time-consuming and labor-intensive process. And the more carriers you need to vet, the more time-consuming and labor-intensive it becomes to acquire this information and keep it current. Further complicating matters, there are always new carriers entering the market, carriers leaving the market, and carriers merging.
Fortunately, freight brokers such as Bulk Connection have an entire team solely dedicated to the vetting of carriers so that you don’t have to.
6. Freight brokers work with hazmat and food-grade carriers
Such vetting is vital when it comes to any product, but it’s even more important when those products are volatile chemical or delicate food-grade items. In addition to the standard vetting procedures involved with more innocuous products, freight brokers will ensure that all industry-specific requirements are met by the carriers (and their drivers) that handle these products. So, when you turn to a broker to ship a load of hazardous chemical materials or to ship your food product in Kosher-certified tanks, you can rest assured that no stone has been left unturned in ensuring the carrier can get the job done.
7. Freight brokers can handle blind shipments
Speaking of chemical and food-grade companies, many of them will choose to ship products ‘blind.’ In such instances, the Bill of Lading may show the name of the distributor or be left blank – instead of showing the name of the actual shipper. In other cases, ‘double blind’ shipments may be requested. With these shipments, both the shipper and receiver are confidential. No matter what your specific needs are, freight brokers that specialize in chemical or food-grade shipping can handle blind shipments for you just as expertly as your day-to-day carriers would.
8. Freight brokers can transport temperature-sensitive liquid products
Brokers like Bulk Connection that understand your products also understand what needs to be done to maintain product integrity throughout the shipping process. For temperature-sensitive liquid products that can’t fall below a certain temperature, these brokers work with carriers to protect product integrity through in-transit heat or steaming.
- In-transit heat: Bulk liquid tankers with in-transit heating capabilities have a series of steam coil lines along the sides of the tank. This system assists in maintaining the product’s existing heat by acting like a thermal blanket.
- Steaming: Tank steaming occurs at most tank wash stations. The tank wash facility has a steam line that connects its boiler to an external hook up of the tank’s coil heating system. The boiler system will apply and build pressure through the steam lines before releasing it. This process repeats over the course of hours in order to heat the tank.
9. Freight brokers can come to the rescue in rail disruptions
When railroad service becomes disrupted, the supply chains of companies whose goods stop moving can be negatively impacted. Fortunately, freight brokers – and their networks of carriers – can often come to the rescue. Brokers can source trucks from far and wide to unload product from the stuck railcars and continue the products’ journeys over the road. While not a routine occurrence, such emergency shipping solutions help many companies out of bind when accidents or weather events stop the flow of materials.
10. Freight brokers will pick up the phone
While shippers have more options than ever in booking loads, something important has gotten lost along the way: interpersonal communication. Bulk shipping, whether liquid or dry, is a complicated business. There is a pretty lengthy list of checkboxes that must be ticked in order for the job to be done right. The quickest – and most effective – way to check these boxes is also often the oldest way: two people communicating with each other.
This is the heart of what brokers do. It’s also not something you’ll find when working with mega-carriers or online load boards. And, if you don’t think that availability to communicate makes brokers important at the outset of a load, you may change your mind if there’s a hiccup that needs to be addressed quickly along the way.
Turn to bulk freight brokers to source bulk freight carriers
It’s easy to become overwhelmed with so many options for moving your bulk loads. With one call to a freight broker, however, you can simplify the process while ensuring that every detail is planned to your satisfaction. Many bulk brokers have been in the industry a long time and have teams of true experts at the ready to help you move your products safely and efficiently. So, the next time you’re looking to source a liquid or dry bulk load, remember to lean on the expertise of a bulk freight broker.