SmartBroker - The Necessary Evolution for Freight Brokerages

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noun: SmartBroker; plural noun:SmartBrokers/SmartBrokerage

Modern freight broker that makes use of advanced technologies and business practices

  1. Freight expert with a growth mindset who implements the most advanced technology, develops the deepest relationships and pursues operational excellence.

“Those SmartBrokers are always outperforming the market."

  1. A change agent who defines and embraces the wave of transformation in the logistics industry.

"The brokerages that will survive in 2023 are the SmartBrokers"

The Supply Chain continues to evolve and new technologies are emerging every day challenging long-held standard operating procedures. Freight brokers need to stay up-to-date with industry trends and consider whether they are operating as efficiently and effectively as possible. Brokerages with a growth mindset are transitioning to a SmartBroker model in the face of unprecedented challenges within the freight and logistics industry. 

What is a SmartBroker?

A SmartBroker is a modern freight broker that makes use of advanced logistics technology and business practices.  They are experts with a growth mindset who leverage that tech for operational excellence - creating deep relationships. And they are comfortable with change, not only embracing the industry transformation, but actively pursuing it.

SmartBrokers utilize advanced technologies and prioritize efficiency, transparency, and customer satisfaction within their operations. They leverage their tech stack to empower employees to be efficient through their daily tasks and operationalize these user-friendly platforms to allow shippers to easily work with their brokerage.  SmartBrokers use data analytics tools to optimize routes and negotiate the best rates with carriers, and may even find ways to use artificial intelligence to automate certain aspects of the booking and dispatch process. Oftentimes, SmartBrokers have a strong online presence, engaging, sharing and learning with the community on social channels and dedicated freight & logistics groups.  This is part of the growth-mindset that every SmartBroker has. 

But SmartBrokers are more than just tech-savvy intermediaries. They also place a strong emphasis on effective communication with both their customers and carriers, ensuring that all parties have timely and accurate information throughout the shipping process. Rather than focusing on one-off transactions, SmartBrokers prioritize building long-term partnerships with both shippers and carriers.

Shippers, now more than ever, are looking for reliable brokers to build long-term relationships with, and freight brokers who are quick to adopt this new methodology will be the ones who ultimately win out against those that fail to adopt and evolve.  And it's the SmartBroker, the modern, forward-thinking freight broker that utilizes advanced technologies and prioritizes efficiency, transparency, and customer satisfaction in their operations – that will win these shippers’ hearts. 

SmartBrokers help increase efficiency and cost savings for their shipping customers by leveraging an intelligent logistics technology stack, with data analytics tools that help to optimize routes and negotiate the best rates with carriers. They also prioritize transparency, providing real-time updates and information to their clients and carriers, which helps to build trust and long-term partnerships. The goal of a SmartBroker is to deliver a seamless and efficient freight brokerage experience that exceeds the expectations of both their clients and carriers. (Easier said than done.)

The Difference Between Traditional Brokers, Digital Brokers, and SmartBrokers

All freight brokers, sometimes known as a third-party logistics provider or 3Pl, act as intermediaries between shippers and carriers, negotiating rates and arranging shipments on behalf of their clients. Freight brokers have a deep understanding of the transportation industry and are skilled at finding the best carriers for a particular shipment based on factors such as price, availability, and delivery time.

SmartBrokers differentiate themselves from traditional brokers and digital marketplace brokerages as responsive and modern partners for shippers – offering an unparalleled customer service from blending new business technology with human professionalism. 

Traditional freight brokers may not have the same level of technological capabilities or emphasis on carrier satisfaction. They may also be more rigid in their business practices and less adaptable to changing market conditions.  Traditional freight brokers have been around for many years and typically operate through a network of established relationships with carriers and shippers. They might rely on manual processes, such as phone calls and faxes, to communicate with their clients and carriers and negotiate rates.

While digital marketplace brokerages like UberFreight have revolutionized the way that freight is booked and coordinated, they operate on a different model than traditional brokers. Digital marketplace brokerages act as facilitators, connecting shippers with carriers who have available capacity, but lack the traditional levels of human interaction and relationship building that is critical for long-term growth within the industry.   

In contrast, SmartBrokers are agile and flexible, with the ability to quickly adapt to new technologies and changing customer needs. SmartBrokers take a more proactive approach towards building their business, actively seeking out the best options for their clients and negotiating rates with carriers on their behalf.

What Makes a SmartBroker Smart?

All SmartBrokers possess 4 key traits that set them apart from the pack. 

  1. Growth Mindset
  2. Advanced Technology
  3. Deepest Relationships
  4. Operational Excellence

The 4 Pillars of a SmartBroker

These pillars are the foundation for any freight brokerage evaluating themselves and their journey to fully embracing modern SmartBroker best practices. 

Growth Mindset

SmartBrokers know that every contract is not guaranteed, so they are obsessed with constant improvement and growth. They are in the constant pursuit of differentiating tools and strategies to win new contracts or build upon existing contracts. Market shifts like digital, real-time, flexible, just-in-time business models are not roadblocks but instead springboards for new opportunities. 

Advanced Technology

Implementing a best-in-breed, fully-integrated freight technology stack enables SmartBrokers to harness the power of complementary tools. Jobs effortlessly move through their technology ecosystem from preload tools like CRM and TMS to post-load tools like Freight Payment Systems.

Deepest Relationships

The freight and logistics industry is built on relationships. SmartBrokers understand this deeply and are laser focused on creating meaningful interactions with all parties. By eliminating transactional communication and leading with empathy, SmartBrokers provide stellar service to carriers and shippers alike. 

Operational Excellence

Operational excellence is the back-bone of SmartBrokerages, enabling them to move quicker and smarter. Intelligent automation is deployed across a SmartBroker’s operating model to create a highly efficient and low-error set of services.  

Why Become a SmartBroker Now?

According to IBIS the whole freight broker market has grown ~6% per year over the past 4 years and is expected to grow ~2% this year.  Individual freight brokerages are seeing larger swings in their growth rates as they compete for market share. 

According to IBIS the whole freight broker market has grown ~6% per year over the past 4 years and is expected to grow ~2% this year

The transportation industry continues to evolve, so it is important for freight brokers to consider whether they are operating as efficiently and effectively as possible, and whether transitioning to a SmartBroker model could benefit their business. Embracing advanced technologies and prioritizing efficiency, transparency, and customer satisfaction means that freight brokers can position themselves for success in the 21st century. The evolution for all freight brokers to SmartBrokers is an important step towards a more efficient and effective industry.

Benefits of Being a SmartBroker

Increased efficiency:

Utilizing advanced technologies and data analytics tools, SmartBrokers optimize routes and negotiate premium rates with carriers, resulting in increased efficiency and cost savings for their clients. A SmartBroker might use real-time traffic data to select the most efficient route for a shipment, a Freight Payment System to streamline and manage the payment & invoicing of carriers & shippers, or an integrated TMS to automate certain aspects of the booking and dispatch process.

Improved transparency:

SmartBrokers prioritize transparency in their operations, providing timely (and automated) status updates and information to their customers and carriers. When all parties have a clear understanding of the shipping process, it helps to build trust and establish long-term partnerships that are profitable for everyone.

Enhanced customer satisfaction:

A user-friendly platform and effective communication is table stakes today.  SmartBrokers are able to deliver a seamless and efficient shipping experience that exceeds the expectations of their clients. The increase in customer satisfaction creates loyalty, as well as helps to establish a stronger reputation in the industry.

Greater adaptability:

SmartBrokers are agile and flexible, with the ability to quickly adapt to new technologies and changing customer needs. The natural desire to stay ahead of the curve and respond to shifts in the market helps ensure that they are operating as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Increased competitiveness:

By embracing the principles of a SmartBroker, freight brokers can differentiate themselves from traditional brokers and digital marketplace brokerages, positioning themselves as leaders in the industry.This helps to attract new customers and build long-term partnerships with like-minded shippers and carriers, leading to increased competitiveness and success. 

Steps to Becoming a SmartBroker

1. Assess your business model and technology stack.

Identify gaps against industry SmartBroker best recommendations (below) and success stories. 

Take stock of your existing business and operations today. Where are your strengths and weaknesses?  Are there bottlenecks in your processes? What could be made more efficient with technology?

Assess your tech stack and each component to ensure interoperability.  Try to reduce existing manual processes and avoid adding new ones.  Remember to keep in mind efficient work distribution for every system and individual using the systems.

Reach out to peers and advisors to ask questions and understand best practices.

2. Create goals and source vendors

Identify your long term vision and set achievable steps along the path towards it. Source vendors and design target state model along with a change management plan to achieve your goals of tech stack and operational improvements

Launch vendor evaluations for tech stack improvements

Build a change management plan for operations improvements

3. Launch new technology  and “go-live” with processes

With your technology and tools in place, it's time for the work to begin.   Design your change plan. Build a timeline. Phase in your changes and execute on the plan!  Easier said than done, but if you’ve gotten this far it is clear you are a lunch pail carrying, walk-the-walk, nose to the grindstone, rubber meets the road SmartBroker.  You’re our kind of SmartBroker

4. Continue to evaluate

Continue to evaluate opportunities for improvement and plan steps for your ongoing evolution.   The industry is changing in such amazing ways, and SmartBrokers know that there are always new ways to grow and improve their business to be a leader in the space.

Steps to Becoming a SmartBroker

What Does a SmartBroker Tech Stack Look Like?

Every freight broker is different, but in general a SmartBroker will have a freight tech stack that consists of a mix of the following platforms & services.


A Transportation Management System (TMS) is a software application that empowers brokers to plan, create, manage, and analyze freight load jobs. A TMS offers visibility into day-to-day transportation operations, trade compliance information and documentation, and helps ensure the timely delivery of freight. Some advanced Transportation Management Systems include track and trace services – enabling real-time information exchange from the SmartBroker with carriers and shippers.

Examples of freight broker TMS systems that a SmartBroker might use: Aljex, EKA, MercuryGate, Tai TMS, Turvo, Quote Factory

Accounting Software

SmartBrokers use accounting software for accepting business payments, managing and paying bills, and other assorted payroll functions. Benefits include:

  • Streamlined financial reporting.  SmartBrokers can generate financial reports, such as income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements, based on the data entered into the system. This makes it easy to understand financial performance and make informed business decisions.
  • Track and manage expenses, such as fuel costs, driver pay, and other operational expenses. This can help brokers to better understand and control their costs, and make adjustments as needed to improve profitability.
  • Manage taxes and tax compliance, which  is an important aspect of any business, especially for freight brokers. Accounting software can help in calculating, tracking, and paying taxes.

Examples of freight broker account software that a SmartBroker might use: Quickbooks, Xero, Sage, Oracle

Carrier On-Boarding & Safety Compliance

Carrier on-boarding is the process of bringing new carriers (or transportation providers) into a company's network. This process typically includes a review of the carrier's safety compliance records, insurance coverage and other qualifications,  to ensure that the carrier meets the company's standards for safety and compliance. Safety compliance refers to the adherence to regulations and industry standards related to transportation safety, such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations in the United States. 

  • Compliance management software: These systems are specifically designed to help SmartBrokers manage compliance with transportation regulations from the FMCSA, or the DOT.  The software typically includes features such as automated compliance checks – which compares a carrier's compliance records against the relevant regulations, and compliance dashboards – which provides an overview of a carrier's compliance status.
  • Safety management software: SmartBrokers use these systems to manage safety-related aspects of their transportation operations, such as driver training and safety audits. The software typically includes features such as online training modules, – which allow drivers to complete required training remotely, and automated safety audits – which can be used to evaluate a carrier's compliance with safety standards.

Examples of freight broker carrier on-boarding & safety compliance systems that a SmartBroker might use: Highway, MyCarrierPortal

Capacity Management 

Capacity management is a data-driven software that helps SmartBrokers find and book the best carriers with the most efficient loads at the right moment. With capacity management software, Smarbrokers are able to expand capacity, scale bandwidth, and grow their business.  Capacity management helps to encourage carrier re-use and better carrier relationships, empowers your broker team to be more efficient and effective in their daily work, and higher and more profitable customer win rates. 

Examples of freight broker capacity management systems that a SmartBroker might use: Parade, Descartes Macropoint, FreightFriend, Logistyx

Customer Acquisition (Sales & Marketing)

Freight brokers use a variety of customer acquisition software and information sources to help them identify and connect with potential clients.

Lead generation software, which helps brokers identify and track potential clients and leads.

Marketing automation software, which helps SmartBrokers automate repetitive tasks such as sending out email campaigns and managing social media accounts.

Sales software, which helps SmartBrokers manage their sales pipeline and track progress towards sales goals.

Additionally, staying connected with key industry resources is crucial to staying informed and relevant when discussing new business opportunities. 

Rate Pricing & Quoting System 

SmartBrokers can manage and automate the process of obtaining rate quotes from carriers, and then using that information to create and send quotes to their own customers. This type of software typically includes tools for managing carrier relationships, tracking market trends and pricing data, and generating quotes based on a variety of factors such as shipment size, distance, and delivery time. Some systems may also include features for tracking and managing customer relationships, including tracking customer-specific pricing and terms. SmartBrokers use Rate Pricing & Quoting Systems to streamline and increase the overall efficiency and accuracy of the pricing and quoting process, which can help to increase profitability and improve customer satisfaction.

Examples of freight broker rate pricing & quoting systems that a SmartBroker might use:, CollaboRATE, CargoChief

Load Boards/DFM Marketplaces

Whether we like it or not, all brokers must be masters of these systems.  They allow freight brokers to post available loads and search for available carrier capacity. Load board software typically includes features such as load matching, carrier rating, and messaging, which allows SmartBrokers to communicate with carriers and negotiate rates. Digital Freight Matching marketplaces lets brokers to filter loads by specific criteria, see pre-posted rates, and book these loads right away.

Examples of freight broker Load Boards/DFM Marketplaces that a SmartBroker might use: DAT, Truckstop, 123 Load board

Tracking Visibility

This software provides SmartBrokers with  real-time visibility into the location of shipments, as well as other important information such as delivery status, estimated time of arrival, and any delays or issues that may arise. This information can be used to improve communication with customers and ensure that shipments are delivered on time and in good condition. Additionally, freight broker tracking visibility software can help to improve the efficiency and productivity of SmartBrokers by automating many of the tasks associated with tracking and monitoring shipments.

Examples of freight broker tracking visibility systems that a SmartBroker might use: Samsara, Fleetio, Trucker Path

Freight Payment System 

A Freight Payments System (FPS) is a specialized tool for SmartBrokers that streamlines the process of paying carriers, credit checking customers, invoicing freight charges, and reconciling payments between shippers, carriers, and other parties involved in the transportation of goods. Freight payment systems are one of many key components to a robust SmartBroker freight tech stack.

A freight payments system streamlines and automates manual tasks throughout the full life cycle of a load, including: 

  • Customer credit checking
  • Flexible financing options including factoring, cash, lines of credit 
  • Invoice receipt and verification 
  • Invoice audits 
  • Carrier payments, scheduled based on term agreements and with a QuickPay option
  • Detailed reporting on financial aspects of business

Example of freight broker Freight Payment System that a SmartBroker might use: Denim

Are you a SmartBroker?

2023 is the year of the SmartBroker.  As our industry continues to evolve, Denim is here to support the brokers, carriers, and shippers who are moving it forward.   Get in touch with us today to discuss how a Freight payment System would benefit your specific operation. Or speak with a SmartBroker expert to get a better understanding of what the future holds for freight, logistics, and the greater supply chain. Freight brokers have been around for decades, but in recent years, the industry has seen the rise of a new type of brokerage - the SmartBroker.

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