5 Tips on How To Choose a Freight Forwarder

 In export, Freight Forwarder, import, International Shipping

Last week we looked at the question, “Can anyone be a freight forwarder?

It was inspired by a blog sharing the same title on ShippingandFreightResource.com written by Hariesh Manaadiar.
how to choose a freight forwarderHariesh commented on our blog, as well as mentioning in his own, that “any Tom, Dick, or Harry can call themselves a Freight Forwarder.”

Of course, you don’t want any Tom, Dick, or Harry handling your imports and exports. It’s important your freight forwarder knows how to handle your international shipping.

With all the freight forwarders that are out there, and the surprising ease to call yourself a freight forwarder, how do you go about choosing a freight forwarder whom you can be confident in?

Well, today’s blog covers just that. Here are 5 tips on how to choose a freight forwarder.

1. Make sure the freight forwarder has experience.

This could almost be the whole list. Experience, experience, experience.

It might be fairly easy to start a freight forwarding company, but the international shipping industry is not the easiest business sector in the world and if you don’t know what you’re doing, you won’t last long.

During Universal Cargo Management’s 27+ years as a freight forwarder, we’ve seen many, many company’s come and go.

Years of experience means your freight forwarder has dealt with different situations like dockworker strikes and port shutdowns, needs for rerouting cargo, smoothing out customs or warehousing issues, and so on.

Experience usually means your freight forwarder will help you avoid customs, warehousing, and routing problems before they even start so your international shipping will go smoothly.

Experience also gives time for a company to form and cultivate business relations around the world from which you will benefit. Which brings us to…

2. Ask about the freight forwarder’s network of agents and business partners in the country you’re exporting to or importing from.

This is obviously important for the local handling of your international shipments.

Your freight forwarder should have a strong network around the world, but you need to know that they have the connections in the countries/cities of origin and destination for your imports and exports.

If you’re exporting and importing to and from Germany, it doesn’t matter how good the freight forwarder’s connections are in China.

Universal Cargo Management has a very large network and ships to and from almost anywhere in the world; however, you may have noticed a key word in there: almost. There are a few places in the world Universal Cargo Management does not ship to or from.

You may have found a freight forwarder who is great for shipping to the Philippines, but don’t have the connections or experience to do a great job handling your imports from China. So make sure you ask about your freight forwarder’s connections and experience in the specific locations you need.

Business partnerships around the world also allow your freight forwarder to offer additional services, which brings us to…

3. Make sure the freight forwarder offers the services you need for your shipment.

Look at the services the freight forwarder offers.

A freight forwarder should be able to handle more than just the air shipping or ocean shipping part of your import or export. They should also be able to handle the rail and/or trucking portion of your international shipping.

I guess if you only need port to port services instead of door to door shipping, you wouldn’t find it a big deal whether or not the freight forwarder offers this service; however, if they do not have a trucking option, that says something about the freight forwarder’s network.

However, there are more services you may want from your freight forwarder. For example, Universal Cargo Management partnered with TOLL to offer Supply Chain Value Added Services. This means we can help you with things like warehousing, distribution, etc.

Of course, cargo insurance better be among their services and shipment tracking is nice to have if only for your peace of mind.

4. Make sure the freight forwarder has good references.

This is good advice when you’re looking for any kind of service, not just freight forwarding.

If there’s no one willing to say a freight forwarder did a great job taking care of their imports and exports, that’s a big red flag.

UCM has a testimonials page so you can see a few references with just a click of a mouse. And a little unsolicited online praise is a great sign too, like Universal Cargo Management got from selling online with Amazon & eBay guru Skip McGrath who recommended UCM on his popular blog.

5. Make sure the freight forwarder has good customer service.

This is hugely important.

How fast does the freight forwarder get back to you on your freight rate request or on answering your questions?

If you’re new to international shipping, are they able and willing to walk you through what you need to know and do to make sure all goes well with your imports and exports?

Your sales person at a freight forwarding company may not have all the answers to your questions as they might be new to the company or even the industry, but they should be able to get the answers for you from the experienced team they’re working with.

How good your freight forwarder is at taking care of your individual needs speaks a great deal about their ability to give the needed attention to your shipments.

Notice, I didn’t even put freight rates in this list as much more important is your freight forwarder’s ability to take care of your shipping needs professionally and precisely.

One freight forwarder may offer shipping rates well below the rest of the competition, but you’ll usually find yourself paying for choosing them in additional costs, delays, and very poor customer service.

But if you follow the five tips above, you should find a freight forwarder who has the contracts and network which allow them to offer competitive rates.

Click Here for Free Freight Rate Pricing

Source: Export

Showing 17 comments
  • Simon Brooks

    I really like what you’ve said in tip number three of the article, especially about how important it is to make sure that the freight transporter you choose has more than just air and sea options. After all, once your freight arrives at the port, you want to make sure it can actually be taken inland to the businesses it needs to get to. Choosing a freight company that offers land, sea, and air transport is great because it means your shipment is being kept with a company you trust for the whole trip.

  • jaskir

    Great, I like your explanation. “This could almost be the whole list. Experience, experience, experience.” Most Important.

  • Derek Telfer

    I am an avid reader of Hariesh’s blog and am subscribed to his newsletter also. There is a ton of valuable information to be had in both.
    I would like to add one point to this great post and it was prompted by your emphasis on the key word “almost”. I think it may be beneficial for someone who’s looking for a good forwarder to choose one that “specializes” in shipping to and from the particular part of the world they are interested in conducting business.
    The specialist would have a deeper knowledge of the shipping culture in that area of the globe and should therefore be of greater service to the customer.

  • Virgil Ratliff

    A forwarder who had been in a business too long may not have a good reputation. These 5 tips mention in the article are to be applied to get the best solutions provider. Thanks for posting this article. A good help to those who will hire a forwarder.

  • John

    I agree with Simon number three is an excellent tip, choosing a freight company that offers the services you need for your shipping is essential.

  • clark

    A very well explained post I must say. I would like to add one more point here that is Policy. Professional companies have some policies. So before considering the right freight forwarder for yourself;one must check the company policy.

  • Bobby Saint

    I like that you provided some tips on how to choose the best freight forwarder such as making sure that they are experienced. It is recommended that you look for a company that has been around for many years already. This means that they have already serviced a lot of clients and have been considered as one of the most trusted in the industry. You can never go wrong by picking a freight forwarder that employs highly skilled workers. If I were to look for domestic freight services, I would make sure to take this into account. Thanks.

  • Najma Qureshi

    A freight forwarder should be a one who has a definite knowledge and experience about the industry. Also depending upon on the company he’s been working for. Some really good tips have been explained above for choosing the best freight forwarding services.

  • Wade Joel

    I appreciate that you talked about the importance of making sure that the freight forwarder offers the services you need for the shipment. You never know if there may be a special request or something random needed to get the shipment done. I will keep this in mind if I ever need a forwarder. Thank you for your tips on choosing the right freight forwarder.

  • Ellen Hughes

    I do like that you pointed out the importance of choosing a freight forwarder that offers the services that you need such as door to door shipping. What you said is actually what I need because I’m planning to send a box of goods to my grandparents in Japan. I wanted the package to come to them as a surprise, so I’d like to find a freight forwarding company that can deliver my package straight to their house.

  • Sharon Wilson-Smith

    I like that you talked about the importance of choosing a freight forwarding company that has a lot of good testimonials to make sure that they can do a great job of providing the services that you need. This is something that I will make sure to share with my sister who’s looking for a shipping company that offers barge unloading services. She said that she only wants to deal with a shipping company that’s confident enough to show her how happy their past clients were they. Maybe, I can help her find reviews about a barge unloading company. Thanks!

  • Logitude World

    Very useful. I like the whole blog. I explains everything about freight forwarding services.

  • CargoShipping

    Great post!
    Thanks for the tips on selecting a freight forwarder.

  • ARC

    Informative 5 tips for those Importers and Exporters, which are new in this market /business.

  • Glenn Walke

    My brother and I have been talking about starting a business, and we would need to find a service to export our products if we did start it. I appreciate the tip that you gave to make sure that a freight fowarder will offer the services that you need before you hire them. When we look for a service to export our stuff, I will be sure to check their available services beforehand to make sure they have what we will need.

  • jack stiles

    We need to use freight cars to transfer all of our belongings to our new office building, and it will be important for us to know that we are choosing the right service to do it for us. It is helpful that you mentioned that you should ask about the available services before you choose a freight company. Before we do decide on which one to hire, I will be sure to ask about their available services.

  • Lyla Peterson

    That’s a good idea to ask for references or testimonials. I am somewhat new to the shipping industry, so I have been researching what to look for in a freight forwarder. It sounds like asking clients who have worked with them in the past would be a great way to find out if they will work well for you.

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