What Carriers Want: Lessons from a 5-Star Broker

If you’re a freight broker or 3PL without trucks, you know that your biggest asset is the carriers you use. They are your face to the shipper and the receiver and their performance—good or bad—determines how your customers view you.


Company Reviews, launched last year, allows carriers and shippers to rate brokers, and brokers and shippers to rate carriers. Having favorable reviews in the DAT Directory can help you attract the best carriers and best shippers. Learn more:

But how can you attract and retain the best carriers—the ones that deliver on time, with freight intact, and exuding the same kind of professionalism that you require of your staff?

For the answer to that question, we turned to AFN, a large freight brokerage and 3PL in suburban Chicago. AFN is one of only a handful of brokers to achieve a 5-star rating in the Company Reviews section of the DAT Directory. DAT customers have found that favorable ratings in the DAT Directory have helped grow their business by attracting the best carriers and the best shipper customers.

Carriers give AFN 5 stars

AFN (formerly known as Advantage Freight Network) was founded in 2003, and now has more than 200 employees in the Chicago area. AFN offers 3PL services for full-truckload (van and reefer) and LTL, and specializes in arranging transportation of high-value, high-risk freight.

To find out why carriers rate AFN so highly, we talked to AFN’s Director of Carrier Sales and Operations, Brian Nessel. Here’s what he had to say.

DAT: In DAT’s Company Reviews, carriers rate brokers in 4 categories. Carriers have given you the maximum 5 stars in each category. Let’s look at some of these categories. What do you do to rate so highly in the “Speed of Payment” category?

Nessel: We focus on understanding what our carriers need and how they want to receive their funds. If they’re a small carrier, they may want a speedy electronic-funds-transfer or certain payment terms. We’ll pretty much negotiate any type of term to maintain a strong working relationship with the carrier.

Ensuring smooth delivery

DAT: You’ve also earned 5 stars in the “Load as Described” category. Do you do anything special?

Brian Nessel“The relationships we build with our carriers are crucial to the future of our business and our ability to serve our shippers.”

— Brian Nessel, AFN

Nessel: Communication is key. We go out of our way to make sure we give carriers as much pertinent information as possible from the beginning, so that things go smoothly with the delivery.

DAT: One of the comments in Company Reviews says, “They never cancel any loads.” That seems important to carriers.

Nessel: We do our best to honor the commitments we make to carriers. That’s just part of our values and our integrity.

Carriers as customers

DAT: Along those same lines, a number of carriers mention “great communication” in their comments. What do you do to communicate with your carriers?

Nessel: We have staff available 24 hours a day. They’re well-trained and they’re proactive, doing everything on the front end to avoid any complications on the back end. Our customer base has very high expectations, so we work very closely and communicate very clearly with our carriers in order to meet those expectations.

DAT: Another comment says “Their rates are good.” Do you pay better than other brokers?

Nessel: We believe that we always need to pay as close the market as possible, but we also believe in being fair. We’re heavily focused on service, so if we need a truck and the carrier needs a certain rate, we understand that and are willing to pay to service our customer. Our integrity and name in the industry is something we take great pride in.

DAT: Another common theme in the reviews of your company is “professionalism.” How do you attain that?

Nessel: When we bring people into the organization, they learn our values from day one, and being professional is part of that. In addition to their on-boarding training, employees receive continuous training to ensure they’re performing at the highest levels. We instill in them that our carriers are our customers and that carriers need to be respected—they’re not expendable. The relationships we build with our carriers are crucial to the future of our business and our ability to serve our shippers.

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