A freight agent is someone who coordinates shipments of freight. Freight agents can work under the supervision of a freight broker or freight firm, or they can be employed as freelancers, applying their skills as needed to various shipping situations. No special training or education is required to become a freight agent, with most people learning on the job, although short courses covering basic topics are available, and people who are interested in ultimately becoming freight brokers may want to consider pursuing business degrees so that they can run freight businesses successfully.
When a freight agent is approached and asked to handle a load, the agent gets information about the load, and makes a determination about which shipping method would be most effective. Some agents specialize in specific types of transport, such as train, truck, or boat shipments. The freight agent makes arrangements for transport, including special arrangements such as refrigeration or storage in a totally dry environment if these are required.
Freight agents collect the fees for shipping, and they also handle issues such as customs documentation and appropriate licensing. They can provide real time information about the progress of a shipment for their customers, and some have provided their customers with online interfaces which can be used to monitor progress without talking directly to the agent or broker. Freight agents also handle issues such as delays in shipping, the transfer of goods to different shipping companies, the arrangement of container loads, and expediting of freight items to ensure that they arrive on time.
This job requires a lot of people skills, as freight agents need to be able to talk to customers successfully and to negotiate the best terms from freight carriers. A freight agent may also do a great deal of traveling to inspect warehouses and processing facilities, to meet critical figures in a shipping company, and to personally supervise tricky loads of materials. This job also requires an encyclopedic knowledge of shipping routes, shipping options, standard rates and charges, and specialty shipping services.
Freight agent jobs in major shipping and freight brokering companies open up on a regular basis for people who are interested in careers as freight agents. Some training programs also offer guaranteed job placement to their graduates, and graduates of such programs may also be able to negotiate a higher salary when they start work. When considering a career as a freight agent, people may want to think about specialty jobs such as air freight agents, agents who specialize in the transport of fine art, or agents who negotiate the movement of very large shipments.