About Freight Forwarding

What is a Freight Forwarder?

A freight forwarder, otherwise known as a forwarder, forwarding agent or a NVOCC (non-vessel operating common carrier) is a person or persons often acting on behalf of a company that organises shipments for individuals or companies. Often companies will need to get their goods, from a manufacturer or producer, to market or to an individual customer. A forwarder will then align themselves with one or several carriers to move the goods. A freight forwarder does not physically move goods, but has the expertise and industry knowledge to help other people or organisations do this.

What services do freight forwarders generally use?

The more common freight forwarders utilize a range freight transportation services via road, rail, sea or air. However you will often find that certain forwarders specialising in one type of freight transportation such as air freight specialists.

What is an International Freight Forwarder?

Freight Forwarders of this nature will help you transport international shipments. This often involves preparing and processing international documentation for custom and duties. There are many different types of documentation when shipping internationally. These are often quite complicated and time consuming therefore it is often easier to let a freight expert deal with your shipment for a small fee.

Why would I use a Forwarding Agent?

Using a forwarder can be beneficial in many ways. Let’s look at some of the advantages of using a qualified freight forwarder:

Save Time – Freight transportation takes time and a lot attention. Many business owners find that they simply do not have time to organise their transport especially internationally. Passing this over to a freight forwarder means you can save time and leave somebody else to be responsible for your cargo.

Save Money – Although a forwarding agent will charge you a fee to process your shipment you will often find that they will be able to get better freight rates than you. Even if you were to go to the same supplier as the forwarder you would probably be charged a more expensive rate. The forwarder is able to negotiate the best rates for shipments, due to the volume of cargo placed with the supplier. International freight can go wrong and quite often mistakes cost money. Having an expert in charge, who knows the pitfalls, can often save your precious time and money.

Help and Guidance – Using a freight forwarder passes the responsibility onto someone else. If in the event something does go wrong then you are able to ask for help and guidance to solve the issue. This is often crucial because mistakes cost money.

Access to the best services – A freight forwarder has great industry knowledge and a host of international contacts. These contacts are often foreign partner agents that can offer the best services suited to your business needs. Having an agent in place that can find you the best solution is essential if you want hassle free transport.

Why can’t I go straight to the supplier that the forwarder uses?

You can although it is not always the best idea. Most forwarders will have spent their time building relationships and understanding with international carriers, therefore this relationship can be priceless when organising transport. Unless you have large volumes and a dedicated freight or operations team then you should think twice about going it alone. There are many parts of international freight transportation that throw up all sorts of problems. Therefore, it is wise to leave it to an industry expert.

What to look for in a Freight Forwarder?

When looking for a freight forwarder there are certain aspects which we believe are essential if you are to transport your cargo without hassle and keep your costs down.

A forwarder should have industry accreditations – Looking for a forwarding agent that has been checked and verified by an industry regulator is always advisable. Often in order to get an accreditation, a forwarder will have to go through various checks to ensure they meet a certain standard. We for example are members of BIFA (British International Freight Association) and the FIATA. We recommend you only align your business with forwarders that have a long standing history of success and a first class reputation within the sector.

A forwarder should have experience within the industry – Looking for how long a company has been in operation within an industry can often be a good sign of a better quality service. Not only do many years in the industry suggest a wide range of experience and knowledge of their market, but also that they are partnered with a great range of carriers. Being a forwarder is all about making and maintaining contacts within the freight network. Bad companies or companies that do not treat their clients well will have a tough time doing this.

A forwarder should have experience of dealing with bespoke requirements – You will need to know whether the forwarder has tangible experience of the problem you need to overcome. If you require the transportation of some over-sized cargo from France back to the UK, you will need to have confidence that they have had experience of doing this before. Asking what experience a forwarder has can often be a great way of deciding if they can handle your specific requirement.

A forwarder should be contactable – Transport never stops so nor should your forwarder. Being able to get hold of someone if something goes wrong is essential. Unfortunately, you often only find this out the hard way. Ask any prospective forwarders how you can contact them and what hours they work. Whether on email or mobile, being able to get the answers you need when you need them is crucial to the smooth running of your business.

A forwarder should have a transparent pricing policy – You must ensure that you know every cost you will be asked to pay. We would recommend that you request a full breakdown of cost prior to engaging a forwarding agent. Additional costs can arise and you are better to be aware of what these might be before you make any arrangements.

How much does a Freight Forwarder cost?

It is vital that you are fully aware what you are actually paying for when you use a forwarder. Forwarder costs are mainly based on the demands on their time, knowledge and responsibility. A freight forwarder will often get a freight rate from their carriers then add on what they believe the job is worth doing for. For example, if your cargo needs a lot of attention, especially if it involves custom documents, then you can expect to pay more. If you simply need to move one pallet and are in no hurry for it then you can expect to pay less. We often advise getting a few quotes and go into exactly what the forwarder can offer you. You will need to know of any additional costs if your goods are delayed or damaged. Remember that the cheapest freight option is not necessarily the best option for you. If a quote seems too good to be true, then it probably is.