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How to Become a Freight Carrier

What does a freight carrier do?

A freight carrier is an individual or company that transports goods for shippers in a manner that is safe, timely, and compliant with government regulations. 

There are many different types of freight carriers, and the type of carrier is determined by the products they ship, the field of operation, as well as the method of transportation. Freight travels by road, air, rail, and water. Some carriers specialize in one mode and some carriers provide multi-modal service. 

Freight carriers typically own their own assets. Small freight carriers usually have 1-5 vehicles, and large carriers usually have extensive fleets of many different types of transportation assets. 

All freight carriers maintain their own licensing and insurance, comply with regulations that pertain to their operations, and train and certify employees. Freight carriers usually work directly with third parties such as freight forwarders and brokers that liaise with shippers. 

What are the types of freight carriers in logistics?

Common Carriers vs Contract Carriers 

Common carriers provide shipping services for the general public. The shipping rates for common carriers fluctuate. Contract carriers work with select shippers. The shipping rates for contract carriers are established in the contracts. 

Private vs For-Hire Carriers

Private carriers use a shipper’s vehicle to transport their cargo and do not charge additional asset-related fees. For-hire carriers use their own vehicles to move freight for the public and therefore charge additional, asset-related  fees. 

Local, Regional, and National Carriers

Local carriers are usually small companies that serve limited areas established by the Surface Transportation Board. Regional carriers operate in a larger area and have more vehicles in their fleets. National carriers are the large carriers, and they typically serve businesses with a nationwide reach. 

Freight Carrier Positions and Salaries

The freight industry is massive and complex. A freight carrier can be a single, for-hire, truck owner/operator or an entire company that transports freight using many modes of transportation. As there are many different freight carrier positions, the salary can vary widely depending on the specific role and corresponding responsibilities. According to ZipRecruiter, the national average salary of all freight carrier jobs is $50,369, with the highest earners grossing around $97,500 per year. Several freight carrier positions, descriptions, and salaries are listed below:

CDL Truck Driver

Over-the-road (OTR) trucking is the transportation of freight over long distances. OTR drivers have important responsibilities and must hold a commercial drivers license (CDL). A truck driver in the United States who is licensed with a CDL can make an average of $63,888 with the highest earners making about $94,500 per year. To learn more about this position, read this article on OTR trucking. 

Intermodal Truck Driver 

Intermodal truck drivers haul freight short distances to and from other modes of transportation. The nationwide average salary for an intermodal truck driver is $55,763, with the highest salaries around $74,000. To learn more about intermodal trucking, read this article on the Last Mile Delivery Problem and this article on the Benefits of Intermodal Trucking. 

Cargo Pilot

A cargo pilot is responsible for transporting freight by air and must hold a commercial pilot’s license. The job typically includes reviewing cargo lists and storage systems, handling special materials, ensuring everything on the airplane meets safety standards, flying at night, and completing paperwork at the final destination. The average cargo pilot salary is $56,150 per year, with the highest earners making $130,000 per year. 

Freight Train Conductor 

A freight train conductor is the lead operator of the train. The conductor is responsible for reviewing schedules, overseeing the unloading and loading of cargo, and communicating with the train crew members. According to the Association of American Railroads, railroad employees make an average of $135,700 per year. 

Freight Carrier Sales Representative 

The nationwide average salary for a freight carrier sales representative is $57,638, with the highest earners making $96,500 per year. It is worth noting that a freight carrier sales job can be a stepping stone to related and higher earning positions in freight brokerage, freight services, and freight systems which average around $71,000 annually. 

Become a Freight Carrier

Ultimately, the easiest and most straightforward way to become a freight carrier and quickly acquire jobs is to work with a trusted logistics company. A great way to advance your career as a freight carrier is to partner with First Star Logistics.  

First Star Logistics is a unique, asset-based global logistics provider with more than 60 years of experience transporting freight. We understand that for our customers to operate efficiently, it means their shipments need to be in one piece and on time. We work fast, with cutting-edge technology to ensure an effective and easy-to-use experience. We pride ourselves in a customer-centric attitude, strong on-time delivery performance, excellent safety ratings, and lane patterns that match our needs. To join the leading freight carrier team, connect with First Star Logistics today!