5+ Tips On Choosing a Reliable Freight Forwarder
When you need to ship goods and products overseas you have one of two options. You can try to go it alone, or use the preferred method of using a freight forwarder.
A freight forwarder takes care of all the details for you and makes all the necessary arrangements that need to be made. Using a reliable freight forwarder is one of the best ways to get goods and products from one point to another.
Of course your expected outcome relies heavily on being able to choose a reliable freight forwarder. Just because an agent calls themselves a freight forwarder it does not necessarily mean that they can provide you with the services that you expect or need.
These 5 tips can help you to choose a trusted freight forwarder.
Experience really does count when it comes to this service. An experienced forwarder will have dealt with many obstacles successfully but that is not the only thing that experience brings to the table.
Someone that has been providing these services for a while will have formed professional relationships that can be very valuable in this industry. Sometimes it is not so much what you know but more who you know.
Anyone that has been in the industry for a while should be able to call in some favors to help move your freight through the red tape more efficiently.
A firm that is experienced will easily be able to navigate any issues that crop up because they have their experience to draw on for a solution. Someone that is new to the industry may not be able to deal with obstacles as well and your shipment may pay the price by being stuck in transit while the freight forwarder figures out a solution.
It is also important to ensure that a trusted carrier is being used as well. A trusted carrier will:
- Have the insurance coverage in case there is an incident that damages the freight.
- They will have the experience to overcome obstacles and know how to deal with problems that arise.
- A competent company is far more likely to make the right decisions, have the right planning tools.
Keep in mind that lowest cost does not necessarily mean best value. The goal when you are contracting a freight forwarder is to get your freight from one location to another without delay.
When you are considering the price quotes consider the following:
- How much time can I afford to lose?
- How much am I willing to gamble my freight?
- What type of guarantee am I being offered?
You will pay a little more for an experienced freight forwarder because they know the job, they know how to get results and they can be depended on. You may save some costs by choosing the least expensive option but you should consider how many delays you may be facing as well and then consider how much those delays are going to cost you.
The overall cost of this service is not just what you pay out of pocket. The cost of long delays or damaged freight has to also be considered as part of the cost. In other words, cost is really risk plus what you pay out of pocket.
Costs can come from:
- Fines for being late, canceled orders that have to be unloaded incurring the cost of additional unexpected equipment like cranes.
- Downtime costs, a delivery is made but the recipient cannot accept the delivery on the time/date agreed, this can run into DOP costs (downtime expenses).
- Of course there is also potential damage costs if the carrier does not carry the right liability insurance.
- Lack of the proper supervision of drivers.
The right carrier puts your costs to work and to benefit your shipping by:
- Having an automatic cargo tracking system which is the additional cost of writing/buying ERP system + maintenance costs, which contributes to the cost of shipping but in a positive way.
- Selection of highly competent staff-the right carrier will ensure that their staff can manage the work load.
- A greater number of drivers and dispatchers to increase supervision of the driver which may affect cost but if you are paying for better services it is a much better way to do business.
- Development and organization of the implementation of quality standards is also a cost.
You will have to pay shipping costs no matter how you look at the situation, it is far better to pay the costs to a carrier that ensures they are taking every step to mitigate risks and provide you with the services that you need.
Be sure that you ask plenty of questions about where the forwarder is comfortable doing business. Many times a forwarding company will be an expert in a particular region.
An honest firm will answer you frankly and offer complete transparency as to their level of experience working in the region that you need the services provided. A trusted firm will let you know up front if they have ever shipped to the region that you need to ship to.
Be sure that you ask directly if the agent has ever shipped to the region that you are shipping to.
Look for how the freight forwarder offers information about your cargo. Transparency is a must. You should always be able to find out where your freight is, 100% transparency is a must.
The forwarder should have a system in place where you can track your cargo. They should focus on providing their clients with real time information. Missing cargo is never an option. Ask about tracking and how that information is relayed to you.
It can be intimidating to have to be forward and ask the tough questions but to make an informed decision you have to know the answers. You can ask for references.
An upfront forwarding company should have no qualms about connecting you to their customers to ask about their customer care.
You should easily be able to get information about your shipment like:
- Where the goods are currently located (city, country)
- Which shipments are coming right now
- Which shipments will be delivered
- The estimated date of delivery
Make sure that the company can handle your cargo. This may seem like a simple, common sense tip but you would be surprised to find that every company has their own set of limitations.
Finding out ahead of time that the company can handle your type of freight is important and commonly something that is missed during negotiations or when collecting quotes for comparison. Full disclosure is a must on both your part and the freight forwarders part.
Consider addressing these questions:
- If you are shipping dangerous goods - does the carrier have the necessary license? Can the company provide the equipment necessary? Do all the drivers have a certificate to transport dangerous goods?
- If you are shipping expensive goods - Is there a custom carrier license? How much liability insurance does the carrier have?
- Oversized loads - does the carrier have the necessary equipment? Can they manage the compliance regulations?
One More Tip
There is one other thing that you want to make sure you do when you are dealing with any freight forwarder, get everything in writing. Be sure that you get your agreement spelled out in writing.
Unfortunately, going on someone’s word is just not an option in today’s marketplace.
A verbal promise to perform very rarely will hold up in court if you need to get some sort of relief if the promised services are not delivered.
This is a business transaction and no matter how promising a service sounds if the company is not willing to put it in writing, find a different company!
Make sure that in your contract everything is spelled out like:
- Any special features of the shipping that has been agreed on.
- Be sure fines, cost of transportation and other features are included in the price should anything arise.
- Be sure that the number of days for loading and unloading is also noted in the contract.
Getting your cargo from one place to another can be a huge task that is time consuming and stressful. You need help but for you to get the best outcome you have to choose a reliable company.
Taking the time to make your choice and ensure that it is a well-informed choice can help you to get the outcome that you need.
Ask questions, compare services and if you can get references and check them out even better. Be sure that you are doing business with a well-established firm that has historically “delivered the goods” and has a reputation for being a trusted company and your cargo will arrive as promised.
Do not choose a carrier solely on the price, the lowest price is never an indicator of the best services. Ask about other clients and see if you can get some references.
Using other businesses as a point of reference can prove to be very informative and help you to make the right decision for your shipping needs.