How to Get a Freight Broker License in Illinois

If you have great communication skills, are a superb problem solver, and enjoy logistics, then a career as a freight broker in Illinois is worth considering. Freight brokers are responsible for planning and overseeing the shipment of goods on their client’s behalf. A freight broker’s job also entails:

  • Finding suitable transportation services (carriers) for their clients (shippers).
  • Vetting and sourcing trucking companies and other carriers using load boards and directories.
  • Negotiating prices with both shippers and carriers.
  • Tracking shipments and addressing any issues that arise.
  • Acting as an intermediary between the carrier and shipper.
  • Filling out paperwork for shipments and invoices. 

To get started in this in-demand job, you need to get an Illinois freight broker license. An Illinois freight broker license is a Broker Authority License from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA). In addition to this, you will need to register with the State of Illinois.

Read on as we break down the application process. We dive into getting the required surety bonds, the need for processing agents, and the required experience and education. Hint: you can become a freight broker with no experience or post-secondary.


Requirements to Become a Freight Broker in Illinois 


To successfully complete your freight broker licensing in Illinois, you must have:

  • A high school diploma or GED
  • An EIN if running your own business
  • A USDOT Number & USDOT PIN
  • An MC Number
  • Insurance
  • Freight Broker Bond for each application
  • Process Agent

See our step-by-step guide below for details on each licensing requirement. 


Steps to Get a Freight Broker License in Illinois


Step 1: Register for an EIN & the State 

Those starting their own freight broker business will need an Employer Identification Number (EIN). However, this is not required if going to work for an established brokerage.


Step 2: Get a USDOT Number & USDOT PIN

A United States Department of Transportation Number (USDOT Number) and a USDOT Personal Identification Number (PIN) are required to complete your application.

  • Apply for a USDOT Number using the Unified Registration system on the FMCSA website. 
  • Request a USDOT PIN. The cost is $0; however, online registration requires a valid credit card for your electronic signature. You will receive your PIN by mail in 4 - 7 business days.


Step 3: Decide Your Broker Designation

Before you apply for your licensing, decide your type of operating authority. You can designate yourself as one of the following or both. 

Broker of Household Goods: arranges the transportation of household goods belonging to others using an authorized Motor Carrier. Household goods are personal items and property that will be used in a home.

Broker of Property: arranges the transportation of property (excluding household goods) belonging to others using an authorized Motor Carrier.


Step 4: Apply for Your Broker Authority

Use your USDOT PIN to apply for a Motor Carrier Number (MC Number) through the FMCSA’s Unified Registration System. This is done using an OP-1 application and, if successful, will give you your broker authority. Online applications provide an MC number immediately, with a grant letter later arriving by mail. Mail applications take 4 - 6 weeks. 

Important: The broker authority application fee is $300 and non-refundable, so ensure your forms are error-free before submitting.


Step 5: Get Insured

Your insurance company needs to file certain documents within 90 days from the filing date of your application—otherwise, your application will be dismissed. 

Forms they may have to file include:

  • Form BMC-91 or BMC-91X for proof of bodily injury and property damage (BI & PD) insurance.
  • Form BMC-34 for proof of cargo liability insurance. 

Visit the FMCSA website to determine which insurance filings are required for your operations. 

Freight Broker Bonds vs. Insurance

Freight broker bonds protect shippers/motor carriers, not freight brokers.However, freight broker insurance does protect freight brokers. 

Many new freight brokers that invest the bare minimum on insurance coverage quickly realize they are disqualified from working with larger shippers. Each year, more freight brokers are pulled into litigation, and ultimately go out of business due to huge judgments and legal fees they can’t afford.

Although insurance is not required to operate, the most important reasons to have it in place are to:

  • Protect your bottom line
  • Create increased security around your bond, and avoid leaving yourself open to paying legal fees by not purchasing insurance.
  • Increase top line: by having insurance, you become more attractive in today's marketplace to shippers and wholesalers.

Freight Broker Insurance Types

There are several types of insurance coverages that are recommended for freight brokers; please see the list below:

  • Business owner’s policy (BOP)
  • General liability
  • Workers' compensation
  • Commercial auto
  • Professional liability/errors and omissions (E&O)
  • Contingent cargo
  • Contingent auto liability

If you’d like to learn more about all of the insurance coverages available to you, please read our freight broker insurance guide.

Step 6: Get a Freight Broker Bond

All US freight brokers need a trust fund agreement or a freight broker bond (BMC-84 bond) in an amount of no less than $75,000. The cost for these surety bonds is a small percentage of the total bond amount, primarily based on an individual’s credit score and past bonding history. 

Those with good credit pay a yearly premium of approximately 1% - 5% of the total bond amount. Therefore, a $75,000 freight broker surety bond generally costs $750 -$3,750. 


Get a free quote for your freight broker bond to see what rate you qualify for. 


Have a low credit score? See our guide to Getting a Surety Bond with Bad Credit


Step 7: Appoint an Illinois Process Agent

Obtain an Illinois process agent—and agent licensed to work in the State of Illinois. This individual will provide legal representation if a claim is ever filed against you or your brokerage. 

  • Complete form BOC-3 (Designation of Processing Agents) and submit it to the FMCSA and each state you’ll be operating in. 


Step 8: State Registration

To legally operate as an Illinois freight broker, you must ensure your FMCSA filings have cleared and apply for a broker’s license through the State of Illinois. 

  • Pricing for this application is $50.
  • It requires a $10,000 surety bond.


Illinois Freight Broker Training Programs


While there are no formal education or experience requirements to become a freight broker in Louisiana—or get a license—many hold a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as Business Management or Logistics. Others without post-secondary education often opt to take a freight broker training course. 

Freight broker training programs teach brokering basics, business strategies, and transportation laws. In short, they offer all the building blocks needed to become a successful freight broker. Some freight broker courses also help with job placement after completion. 

Freight broker schools in Illinois offer both agent training and freight broker training. These online freight broker courses are widely available through educational institutions such as:

  • Morton College 
  • Waubonsee Community College
  • Richland Community College
  • Heartland Community College. 

These self-paced classes take an average of 6 months to complete and are available thanks to a partnership with Brooke Training Solutions and ed2go

Starting your own brokerage? The Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA) offers a course specifically for this goal. 


Career Growth and Salary Expectations of a Freight Broker 


The average salary of an Illinois Freight Broker is $37,893 a year [ Source: Ziprecruiter ]. 

Independent freight brokers that opt to start their own firm take on higher risk, but also have the opportunity for more profitability. Beyond this, location also significantly impacts freight broker salary—with some Illinois cities offering close to double the state’s average wage. 

Location Avg. annual salary
Naperville $68,333
Chicago $67,588
Elgin $66,963
Champaign $60,522
Springfield $60,219


As the shipping industry grows, the need for certified transportation brokers, freight brokers, freight broker agents, and other shipping industry experts will also increase. According to Zippia, an estimated 32,400 new freight broker jobs will be available in the US between 2018 and 2028. In particular, Illinois is expected to grow as 25% of all US freight traffic moves through Chicago. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports Illinois has the 4th highest employment level in Cargo and Freight Agents in the US, employing 7,470 people. 




How Much Does It Cost to Become a Freight Broker in Illinois? 


The base cost to become a licensed freight broker in Illinois is $1,200 - $4,600.

This number takes into consideration:

$300 - FMCSA application cost 

$50 - Illinois broker license cost

$750 - $3,750 - FMCSA freight broker bond 

$100 - $500 – Illinois broker license bond

Note that this is a minimum cost and does not include other expenses such as insurance, business registration, equipment, marketing, rent, utilities, and anything else you need to operate. 


How Long Does It Take to Become a Broker in Illinois? 


On average, becoming an Illinois freight broker takes 2 - 3 months. 

This length of time is mainly due to filing wait time and does not account for those who wish to do a freight broker training course (these take about 6 months). To streamline the process, prepare the required documents before starting your applications. Additionally, remember that online applications are generally processed quicker than mail-in.

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