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Freight Rate Specialists

Significant Points
  • Cargo and freight agents need no more than a high school diploma and learn their duties informally on the job.
  • Much faster than average employment growth is expected.
  • Job prospects are expected to be good.
Nature of the Work

Cargo and freight agents help transportation companies manage incoming and outgoing shipments in airline, train, or trucking terminals or on shipping docks. Agents expedite shipments by determining a route, preparing all necessary documents, and arranging for the pickup of freight or cargo and its delivery to loading platforms. They may also keep records of the cargo, including its amount, type, weight, dimensions, destination, and time of shipment. They also keep a tally of missing items and record the condition of damaged items.

Cargo and freight agents arrange cargo according to destination. They also determine any shipping rates and other applicable charges. For imported or exported freight, they verify that the proper customs paperwork is in order. Cargo and freight agents often track shipments electronically, using bar codes, and answer customers' questions about the status of their shipments.

Work environment. Cargo and freight agents work in a wide variety of environments. Some work in warehouses, stockrooms, or shipping and receiving rooms that may not be temperature controlled. Others may spend time in cold storage rooms or outside on loading platforms, where they are exposed to the weather.

Most jobs for cargo and freight agents involve frequent standing, bending, walking, and stretching. Some lifting and carrying of small items may be involved. Although automated devices have lessened the physical demands of this occupation, not every employer has these devices. The work still can be strenuous, even though mechanical material-handling equipment is used to move heavy items.

The typical workweek is Monday through Friday. However, evening and weekend hours are common in jobs involving large shipments.

Freight Rate Assistant, GS-2131-04

Duties

The Freight Rate Assistant GS-4 receives assignments which are selected to provide knowledge of how to use basic materials, familiarity with freight terminology and sources of information, documents used in freight movements, and methods of accomplishment. The relationship between the preliminary processes and the classification, rating, and routing processes are outlined during the progress of assignments. However, many of the day-to-day activities of an employee in a position in this class are not susceptible of close review. Written materials, such as reports, bills of lading, etc., are reviewed for compliance with established policies and procedures.

Occasionally the records and files maintained by the GS-4 freight rate assistant are spot-checked for general efficiency of operations.

An employee occupying a position of this kind performs a variety of duties such as the following:

(a) Maintains tariff files, special quotations, publications, billing guides, or similar freight classification, rating, and routing guides; codes, classifies, cross-references, files and locates, and refiles this material.

(b) Compiles data concerning carload, truckload, LCL's (less than carload) and LTL's (less than truckload), classification ratings, size and use of carriers' equipment ordered, etc.

(c) Assembles and organizes material for billing and shipping guides to be issued by his office.

(d) Prepares bills of lading, reviews the rates and routes, using easily accessible information.

(e) Performs elementary rating, routing and classification duties.

Freight Classification Assistant, GS-2131-04

The Freight Classification Assistant GS-4 receives assignments which are selected to provide knowledge of how to use basic materials, familiarity with freight terminology and sources of information, documents used in freight movements, and methods of accomplishment. The relationship between the preliminary processes and the classification, rating, and routing processes are outlined during the progress of assignments. However, the day-to-day activities of an employee in a position in this class are not subject to close review.

Written materials, such as reports, bills of lading, etc., are reviewed for compliance with established policies and procedures. Occasionally the records and files maintained by the GS-4 freight classification assistant are spot-checked for general efficiency of operations.

An employee occupying a position of this kind performs a variety of duties such as the following:

(a) Reviews stock catalogs to insure that classification lists for freight which moves regularly in commercial channels are appropriate; reviews amendments to lists of stock items to select and include additional items described in classification publications issued by the carriers; removes from the stock catalogs those items which are no longer shipped by the agency, and otherwise keeps this information current; secures required or additional information necessary for the identification or classification of freight through reference to material such as contracts, specifications, and similar sources within the office.

(b) Assembles and organizes material for billing and shipping guides to be issued by his office.

(c) Prepares bills of lading and determines the freight classification descriptions for a variety of commodities within a supply class (standard and nonstandard medical supplies) by comparing with similar easily accessible information.

(d) Maintains file with transportation data on all items for which the activity has designated supply responsibility, including the stock number, nomenclature, Uniform Freight Code item number, less than carload and truckload rating, and description as described in applicable tariff.

Freight Classification Assistant, GS-2131-05

Positions in this class are characterized by responsibility for:

(A) Determining classifications of freight which have been specifically described in publications of the carriers, special quotations, stock catalogs, billing guides, and other published freight classification guides;

(B) Reviewing freight classifications for correctness when the same degree of difficulty described in (A) is involved. At this level the classifications being reviewed have been proposed by operating (nontransportation) units.

Freight Rate Assistant, GS-2131-05

Positions in this class are characterized by responsibility for:

(A) 1. Determining most efficient and economical rates and routes for the movement of freight when:

(a) Movements are made principally within a geographic area comprised of a relatively small number of States, for example, the New England or the southern States;
(b) Movements are primarily recurrent between a limited number of points;
(c) Movements are primarily limited to one or two modes;
(d) A limited variety of commodities are shipped, most of which do not require special handling or accessorial services;
(e) Few shipments involve transit privileges, special handling, or accessorial services.

(B) Pre-auditing freight bills for correctness when the same conditions and limitations in (A) are involved.

Freight Classification Assistant, GS-2131-06

Positions in this class are characterized by responsibility for:

(A) Determining classifications of freight:

1. By the rule of analogy, which involves comparison of the freight to be classified with officially established classifications assigned to freight similar in identity and in transportation characteristics; or

2. When the identity and/or transportation characteristics have changed, or do not agree in all respects, with published classifications which renders the original freight classification and descriptions no longer specifically applicable.

(B) Reviewing freight classifications for correctness when the same degree of difficulty described in (A) above is involved.

Freight Rate Assistant, GS-2131-06

Positions in this class are characterized by responsibility for:

(A) 1. Determining most efficient and economical rates and routes for the movement of freight when:

(a) Movements are made principally within a geographic area comprised of approximately one-half of the United States;
(b) Movements are primarily recurrent between a limited number of points;
(c) Movements are primarily limited to one or two modes;
(d) A limited variety of commodities are shipped;
(e) Few shipments involve transit privileges, special handling, or accessorial services.

2. Determining most efficient and economical rates and routes for the movement of freight when:

(a) Movements are made principally within a geographic area comprised of a relatively small number of States, for example, the New England or the southern States;
(b) Many movements are not recurrent and do not follow an established pattern between shipping points;
(c) A substantial number of shipments require consideration of several modes, and several modes are utilized regularly;
(d) A normal variety of commodities are shipped;
(e) A substantial portion of the shipments involves transit privileges, special handling, or accessorial services.

(B) Pre-auditing freight bills for correctness when the same conditions and limitations in (A) are involved.

(C) Performing post-audit of combined classification, rating, and routing decisions of the level described at GS-5.

Freight Classification Assistant, GS-2131-07

Positions in this class are characterized by responsibility for:

(A) Advising shipping, purchasing, and other offices within the agency as to appropriate freight classifications involving questionable, borderline, and alternative classifications such as those:

1. For which there are no recorded or published classifications;
2. Which have been improperly classified;
3. For which the classification has been contested;
4. For which alternative classifications are possible;
5. Which are peculiar to the agency, not usually shipped commercially, and require the translation of technical descriptive terms into freight and transportation nomenclature.

(B) Recommending and upon the approval of the supervisor preparing requests for rulings on freight improperly classified, not previously classified, or when new or amended classifications are sought by own agency, which involves the development and assembly of pertinent information and preparation of exhibits in accordance with general instructions concerning sources and manner of presentation, for use by others in negotiations.

(C) Reviewing freight classifications for correctness when the same types described in (A) above are involved.

Freight Rate Specialist, GS-2131-07

Positions in this class are characterized by responsibility for:

(A) 1. Determining most efficient and economical rates and routes for the movement of freight when:

(a) Movements are made principally within a geographic area of the country comprised of a relatively small number of States, for example, the New England or the southern States;
(b) Many movements are not recurrent and do not follow an established pattern between points;
(c) A substantial number of shipments require consideration of several modes, and several modes are utilized regularly;
(d) A great variety of commodities are shipped;
(e) A substantial portion of the shipments involves transit privileges, special handling, or accessorial services.

2. Determining most efficient and economical rates and routes for the movement of freight when:

(a) Movements are made principally within a geographic area comprised of approximately one-half of the United States;
(b) Many movements are not recurrent and do not follow an established pattern between points;
(c) A substantial number of shipments require consideration of several modes, and several modes are utilized regularly;
(d) A normal variety of commodities are shipped;
(e) A substantial portion of the shipments involves transit privileges, special handling, or accessorial services.

3. Determining most efficient and economical rates and routes for the movement of freight when:

(a) Movements are made nationwide (and sometimes to contiguous foreign countries) including shipments to seaports when there is no responsibility for rates beyond the seaports;
(b) Many movements are not recurrent and do not follow an established pattern between a limited number of points;
(c) Movements are primarily limited to one or two modes;
(d) Either a limited or normal variety of commodities are shipped;
(e) Few shipments involve transit privileges, special handling, or accessorial services.

(B) Preauditing freight bills when the same conditions and limitations described in (A) above are present.
(C) Performing post-audit of combined classification rating and routing decisions of the level described in GS-6.
(D) Performing the General Accounting Office post-audit and examination, determining the most economical legal and lawful rates and routes for the movement of freight when the work assignment includes the analysis and post-audit of paid transportation bills involving:

(1) Domestic, import, and export shipments, including inbound transit shipments, originating at any point in the United States or in foreign countries and terminating in a specific section of the U.S. (i.e., Eastern or Western half of the country).
(2) Shipments terminating in delivery by one of the following modes of transportation:

(a) Rail
(b) Motor
(c) Water
(d) Freight Forwarder
(e) Air.

(3) Shipments of a great variety of commodities, including commodities difficult to classify and which present minor problems of definition and development. All findings and reports of overcharges are subject to a thorough technical review. Correspondence with carriers to recover overpayments is reviewed closely.

Freight Classification Assistant, GS-2131-08

Positions in this class are characterized by responsibility for:

(A) Preparing requests to regulatory bodies for ruling on the classification of commodities when this involves:

1. Determining, without referral to the supervisor, the classifications to be recommended, the kind of information suitable for use in justifying the proposed classification, and the method of presentation.

(B) Developing narrative material and exhibit material designed to:

1. Defeat carriers' proposed supplements to classifications and other proposed changes in classification descriptions and ratings, packing requirements, minimum weights, and similar matters (when such proposals would result in increases in the cost of transportation within own agency), for use by others in negotiations with the carriers or in presentation to the regulatory bodies.
(C) Advising offices of other departments and agencies as to the appropriate freight classifications involving a wide variety of questionable, borderline, and alternative classifications when the same kind of analysis, evaluation, and decisions are required that are required in (A) and (B) above. Examples of commodities or shipments presenting problems of this nature are those:

1. For which there are no recorded or published classifications;
2. Which have been improperly classified;
3. For which the classification has been contested;
4. For which alternative classifications are possible which would provide more economical rates;
5. Which are not usually shipped commercially, and require the translation of technical descriptive terms into freight and transportation nomenclature.

(D) Reviewing freight classifications and actions for correctness when the same types and considerations as listed above are involved.

Freight Rate Specialist, GS-2131-08

Positions in this class are characterized by responsibility for:

(A) 1. Determining most efficient and economical rates and routes for the movement of freight when:

(a) Movements are made principally either (1) within a geographic area comprised of approximately one-half of the United States; or (2) nationwide (and sometimes to contiguous foreign countries) including shipments to seaports when there is no responsibility for rates and routes beyond the seaports;
(b) Many movements are not recurrent and do not follow an established pattern between points or ports;
(c) A substantial number of shipments require consideration of several modes, and several modes are utilized regularly;
(d) A great variety of commodities are shipped;
(e) A substantial portion of the shipments involves transit privileges, special handling, or accessorial services.

2. Determining most efficient and economical rates and routes for the movement of freight when:

(a) Movements are worldwide with responsibility for rates and routes to final destination;
(b) Many movements are not recurrent and do not follow an established pattern between points or ports;
(c) A substantial number of shipments require consideration of several modes, and several modes are utilized regularly;
(d) A limited variety of commodities are shipped;
(e) Few shipments involve transit privileges, special handling, or accessorial services.

(B) Pre-auditing freight bills when the same conditions and limitations in (A) above are present.

(C) Performing post-audit of combined classification, rating, and routing decisions of the level described at GS-7.

Freight Rate Specialist, GS-2131-09

Positions in this class are characterized by responsibility for:

(A) 1. Determining most efficient and economical rates and routes for the movement of freight when:

(a) Movements are worldwide with responsibility for rates and routes to final destination;
(b) Many movements are not recurrent and do not follow an established pattern between points, ports, or foreign destinations;
(c) All modes are utilized regularly with substantial use of combination of modes for individual shipments;
(d) Either a normal or a great variety of commodities are shipped;
(e) A substantial portion of the shipments involves transit privileges, special handling, or accessorial services.

(B) Pre-auditing freight bills when the same conditions and limitations in (A) above are present.

(C) Performing post-audit of combined classification, rating, and routing decisions of the level described at GS-8.

(D) Performing the General Accounting Office post-audit and examination, determining the most economical legal and lawful rates and routes for the movement of freight when:

1. The work assignment includes:
The audit of paid transportation bills; examination, analysis, and settlement of unpaid bills submitted for direct settlement, administratively reported debts, carriers' supplemental bills, and requests for reconsideration of disallowances or overcharge notices; the preparation of bases for complaints before the Interstate Commerce Commission; the preparation of bases for court actions when the United States is either the plaintiff or defendant; the determination and reporting of traffic management errors in individual shipments; and the furnishing of information concerning rates, routes, and other technical data to departments and agencies.

2. The work assignment involves:
(a) Domestic import and export shipments, including inbound, intermediate, and outbound transit shipments, originating' at any point in the United States or foreign countries.
(b) Shipments terminating in delivery by one or more of the following modes (but necessarily involving some individual shipments which move by a combination of modes or otherwise require a determination of applicable charges via more than one mode):

1. Rail Carriers
2. Motor Carriers
3. Water Carriers
4. Freight Forwarders
5. Air Carriers.

(c) Shipments of an unlimited variety of commodities, including those commodities more difficult to classify and which present problems of definition and development, require study and verification of numerous transportation characteristics and conditions, or involve complex and controversial classification of commodities that were previously improperly classified.

Findings and reports of overcharges are subject to a technical review. Correspondence and negotiation with the carriers to recover overpayment are also subject to a technical review.

Freight Rate Specialist, GS-2131-11

Positions in this class are characterized by responsibility for:

1. Performing the final technical review for the General Accounting Office of paid and unpaid transportation bills which have been audited and examined by GS-9 freight rate specialists in the General Accounting Office. This review is accepted as final and is not subject to intensive review by the supervisor nor is it reviewed in higher echelon offices; and

2. Performing the review, examination, and settlement of carriers bills, protests, or requests for reconsideration and other correspondence, prior to the accumulation of associated records or other development, for the purpose of (a) determining whether a legitimate and procedurally correct supplemental billing or protest has been presented; (b) advising the carrier of the termination of unsupported supplemental billings and protests or of the existence of litigation which requires action to be held in abeyance pending final judicial decisions; or (c) directing the accumulation of associated records or such other action considered necessary to permit settlement of the supplemental billings or protests; and

3. Considering and disposing of carriers' protests to the General Accounting Office audit action and appeals for reconsideration of disallowances. Disposing of protests and appeals may be accomplished by (a) preparing a letter to the carrier, furnishing new or additional technical or other information to deny and dispose of the carrier's protest or appeal; (b) preparing a statement of facts for submission to the Comptroller General where such action is requested specifically or otherwise desired; (c) issuing instruction to the appropriate examining section to revise the settlement action on the supplemental billing, protest, or reconsideration.

Individual Occupational Requirements

Cargo and freight agents need no more than a high school diploma and learn their duties informally on the job.

Education and training. Many jobs are entry level and most require a high school diploma. Cargo and freight agents undergo informal on-the-job training. For example, they may start out by checking items to be shipped and making sure that addresses are correct.

Other qualifications. Employers prefer to hire people who are comfortable using computers. Typing, filing, recordkeeping, and other clerical skills also are important.

Advancement. Advancement opportunities for cargo and freight agents are usually limited, but some agents may become team leaders or use their experience to switch to other clerical occupations in the businesses where they work. Some may move to higher paying transportation industry jobs, such as freight brokering.

Job Outlook

Employment is expected to grow much faster than average; job prospects are expected to be good.

Employment change. Employment of cargo and freight agents is expected to increase by 24 percent during the 2008-18 decade, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. As the overall economy continues to grow, more agents will be needed to handle the growing number of shipments resulting from increases in cargo traffic. Additionally, as shipments require multiple modes of transportation to reach their final destinations, such as freight trucking and air, a greater number of agents will be needed to manage the process. The growing popularity of online shopping and same day delivery may also spur employment growth.

Job prospects. A combination of job growth and turnover are expected to result in good job prospects for cargo and freight agents. However, employment of cargo and freight agents is sensitive to the fluctuations of the economy, and workers may experience high levels of unemployment when the overall level of economic activity falls.

Earnings

Median hourly wages of cargo and freight agents in May 2008 were $17.92. The middle 50 percent earned between $13.67 and $22.92. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $10.65, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $27.70. Median hourly wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of cargo and freight agents in May 2008 were:

Scheduled air transportation $18.39
Freight transportation arrangement 18.34
Couriers and express delivery services 18.08
General freight trucking 17.99
Support activities for air transportation 11.48

These workers usually receive the same benefits as most other workers. If uniforms are required, employers generally provide them or offer an allowance to purchase them.

Sources of Additional Information

Information about the freight and cargo industry, including training opportunities, is available from:

  • Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA). 1625 Prince Street, Suite 200, Alexandria, VA 22314. Internet: http://www.tianet.org

Information on obtaining Freight Rate Specialist positions with the Federal Government is available from the Office of Personnel Management through USAJOBS, the Federal Government's official employment information system. This resource for locating and applying for job opportunities can be accessed through the Internet at http://www.usajobs.gov or through an interactive voice response telephone system at (703) 724–1850 or  (703) 724–1850  or TDD (978) 461–8404 and   (978) 461–8404. These numbers are not toll free, and charges may result. For advice on how to find and apply for Federal jobs, download the Insider's Guide to the Federal Hiring Process” online here.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition; and
OPM's Position Classification Standards for White Collar Work


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