Many jobs are entry level and do not require more than a high
Although cargo traffic is expected to grow faster than in
the past, employment of cargo and freight agents will not keep
pace because of technological advances.
Nature of the Work
Cargo and freight agents arrange for and track incoming and
outgoing cargo and freight shipments in airline, train, or
trucking terminals or on shipping docks. They expedite shipments
by determining the route that shipments are to take and by
preparing all necessary shipping documents. The agents take
orders from customers and arrange for the pickup of freight
or cargo for delivery to loading platforms. Cargo and freight
agents may keep records of the cargo, such as its amount,
type, weight, and dimensions. They keep a tally of missing
items, record the condition of damaged items, and document
any excess supplies.
Cargo and freight agents arrange cargo according to its destination.
They also determine the shipping rates and other charges that
can sometimes apply to the freight. 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’ inquiries on the status
of their shipments.
Cargo and freight agents work in a wide variety of businesses,
institutions, and industries. 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
Most jobs for cargo and freight agents involve frequent standing,
bending, walking, and stretching. Some lifting and carrying
of smaller items also may be involved. Although automated
devices have lessened the physical demands of this occupation,
their use remains somewhat limited. The work still can be
strenuous, even though mechanical material-handling equipment
is employed to move heavy items.
The typical workweek is Monday through Friday; however, evening
and weekend hours are common in some jobs and may be required
in other jobs when large shipments are involved.
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
Many jobs are entry level and do not require more than a
high school diploma. Employers, however, prefer to hire those
familiar with computers. Typing, filing, recordkeeping, and
other clerical skills also are important.
Cargo and freight agents start out by checking items to be
shipped and then attaching labels to them and making sure
that the addresses are correct. Training in the use of automated
equipment usually is done informally, on the job. As this
occupation becomes more automated, however, workers may need
longer periods of training in order to master the use of the
equipment. Advancement opportunities for cargo and freight
agents vary with the place of employment.
Cargo and freight agents held about 70,000 jobs in 2004.
Most jobs were in transportation. Approximately 20 percent
worked in the air transportation industry and 8 percent worked
in the truck transportation industry. Couriers employed another
11 percent. In addition, about 43 percent worked for firms
engaged in support activities for the transportation industry.
Employment of cargo and freight agents is expected to decline
through 2014. Although cargo traffic is expected to grow faster
than in the past, employment of cargo and freight agents will
not keep pace because of technological advances. For example,
the increasing use of bar codes on cargo and freight allows
agents and customers to track these shipments quickly over
the Internet, rather than manually tracking their location.
In addition, customs and insurance paperwork now can be completed
over the Internet by customers, reducing the need for cargo
and freight agents.
Despite these advances in technology that dampen job growth
among cargo and freight agents, job openings will continue
to arise due to increases in buying over the Internet, which
will result in more shipments. Jobs also will open up because
of the increasing importance of same-day delivery, which expands
the role of agents. In addition, many job openings will be
created to replace cargo and freight agents who leave the
Median annual earnings of cargo and freight agents in May
2004 were $34,250. The middle 50 percent earned between $25,720
and $43,250. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $20,700,
and the highest 10 percent earned more than $54,480.
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.
Cargo and freight agents plan and coordinate shipments of
cargo by airlines, trains, and trucks. They also arrange freight
pickup with customers. Others who do similar work are couriers
and messengers; shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks; weighers,
measurers, checkers, and samplers, recordkeeping; truck drivers
and driver/sales workers; and Postal Service workers
Sources of Additional Information
Information about job opportunities may be obtained from
local employers and local offices of the State employment
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-07