A freight handler can work in a variety of settings, including warehouses, factories, and even at airports, loading and unloading cargo from an airplane. The general job responsibilities of the freight handler include moving freight such as boxes, bulky items, or even large pallets of goods to and from storage areas and onto transport vehicles. This worker is often required to use equipment such as dollies, pallet jacks, and even forklifts; using a forklift usually requires training, so the handler will need to take part in training courses usually offered by his or her employer.
No specific level of education is necessary in order to become a freight handler, though these employees must usually have basic math and communications skills. Many companies use computerized tracking devices and scanners, which means the freight handler may be required to have basic computer skills. Otherwise, most of the job will be focused on manual labor and operation of various pieces of machinery. Sometimes the handler will be required to drive delivery vehicles; if this is the case, the employee will be required to have a valid driver's license, and in some cases he or she will be required to have a commercial driver's license (CDL).
Most, if not all, of the skills the freight handler will need can be learned on the job, and he or she is likely to go through a training period after being hired. This training period can last anywhere from several months to a year, and during this time, the handler will be assigned to a more experienced employee who can teach the skills and techniques necessary to operate successfully and safely in the position. In some settings, the handler may need to submit to a criminal history check; this is common if the handler is to work at an airport or other setting with high security measures.
Some more experienced freight handlers may be responsible for tracking shipments, managing paperwork, managing a team of employees, or even taking care of payroll. This usually means the freight handler has been assigned a managerial position, though he or she may still perform many of the duties of a lower level freight handler, especially if an employee calls in sick and a shift must be covered. The manager will also very likely be responsible for training new employees; training for existing employees may also fall on the shoulders of the manager.