Cargo and freight agents work for transportation companies. They expedite shipments by preparing all necessary documents, determining a route and arranging for the pickup of cargo and freight and its delivery to loading platforms. Cargo and freight agents must keep records of the cargo, including time of shipment, destination, type, amount, weight and dimensions. They also keep track of missing items and the condition of damaged items.
Cargo and freight agents frequently track shipments electronically by using bar codes, and they answer customers’ inquiries about the status of their shipments. Agents determine any shipping rates and other charges, and for imported or exported goods, they verify that the correct customs paperwork has been completed.
Cargo and Freight Agents Job Profile
- Cargo and freight agents learn their duties informally on the job.
- They generally need no more than a high school diploma.
- Cargo and freight agents can expect much faster than average employment growth.
- Employment prospects for this job are expected to be good.
Work Environment for Cargo and Freight Agents
Cargo and freight agents work in many different settings. They may work in a stockroom, warehouse or shipping and receiving room that is not temperature controlled, or they might spend time outside on loading platforms where they are exposed to inclement weather. Others may work in a cold storage room. Most jobs involve frequent bending, walking, standing and stretching, and some lifting and carrying of small items may be required. Although automated devices have lessened the physical demands of the cargo and freight agents’ jobs, not all employers have these devices. Even though mechanical material-handling equipment is used to move heavy items, the work can still be strenuous.
Most cargo and freight agents work Monday through Friday, but weekends and evenings are common in jobs involving large shipments.
Education, Training and Licensing
Many cargo and freight agents jobs are entry level and most require only a high school diploma. Agents learn on the job, beginning with simple tasks like checking items to be shipped and making sure that addresses are correct.
Computers are used to check cargo status and for other recordkeeping purposes, so most employers prefer candidates who have basic computer skills. Other skills that may help a candidate find a job are filing, recordkeeping, typing and other clerical skills.
Job Opportunities, Outlook and Annual Earnings
Cargo and freight agents held around 82,440 jobs in May 2009, according to research published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Most cargo and freight agents worked for freight transportation arrangement companies, scheduled air transportation businesses, couriers and express delivery services, support activities for air transportation or general freight trucking firms.
The BLS expects employment in this field to increase by 24% from 2008 to 2018, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. The growing economy will result in increases in cargo traffic that will require more cargo and freight agents to handle shipments. A greater number of agents will also be needed to handle the shipments requiring multiple modes of transportation, such as freight trucking and air. In addition, as online shopping and same day delivery continue to grow in popularity, more cargo and freight agents will be needed to handle these shipments.
In May 2009, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for cargo and freight agents was $36,960. The middle 50% of cargo and freight agents earned between $28,280 and $47,740, while the lowest 10% made $22,190 or less each year. The highest 10% earned in excess of $58,110 annually.