Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow?

Originally posted March 9, 2018

The true history of freight brokering is actually not known. No individual, company, or country can be credited with the creation of freight brokering.

Personally I’ve heard stories ranging from Pedro and his trusty mule (I don’t get it either) too someone writing on their blog about the history of freight brokering that wrote about everything but the history of freight brokering.

So, it only leaves one to guess. My theory is that a young buck was sitting on the waters edge watching the ships coming in to port. Unload their massive holds, then watch that ship sit in the port for weeks or months at a time waiting to be loaded with something.

I imagine this young buck was an entrepreneur and thought to himself that he could make money if he were able to have loads waiting for ships. I can see the benefit for the ship owner as well, they would be able to quickly reload and sail back to their home port. Thus, the first freight broker.

Fast forward hundreds if not thousands of years and take notice of the original freight brokerage offices for trucking. They weren’t like they are now. At that time, it was normal for a freight broker to setup office in or at a truck stop. Minimal technology, at most a telephone, a typewriter, and stamps, lots of stamps.

A trucking company would contact the freight broker to let them know they would have a truck available, the broker would go to work finding a load. The driver would deliver their load and make a beeline for the truck stop and find the brokers office. The driver would sign in, sit down, and wait for his name to be called when the broker had that driver a load.

I ran across one of the last of these broker offices in the early 90’s at a truck stop in Cincinnati, Oh. I had heard about it and wanted to see it for myself. It was exactly how you would imagine. The broker sitting at his big desk in the front of the room, several rows of chairs lined up where drivers could sit and wait.

When I started brokering computers were still somewhat a new idea, the internet was just getting popular, and a fax machine and telephone were the mandatory tools for brokering freight. The first load board I used was set up like the old AOL. You dialed in via your noisy screeching modem and were charged a 10 cent per minute connection fee.

Today, fax has almost gone the way of the dinosaur with the computer (or any internet device), internet, and phone (landline, cell, or VoIP) being the mandatory equipment. With the technology today, a broker could have a face to face conversation with a shipper, dispatcher, or driver even though they’re a thousand miles apart.

Many times, I’ve been asked what I thought the future holds for a freight broker? Personally, I think the freight broker is in a better situation than a driver. Although I’d never want to be on the road with a fully loaded self-driving big truck, it appears that the geniuses (sarcasm) of the world are trying to make that a reality.

Bottom line? A freight broker is a sales person. Take the sales people out of the world and the economy comes to a screeching halt. The day may come when business owners trust a computer to negotiate their sales, but who would negotiate the sale of the computer with the business owner?

Thanks and talk soon.