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4 Things the Best Freight Forwarders Have in Common

On: May 24, 2023    |    By: David Noah David Noah    |    4 min. read

4 Things the Best Freight Forwarders Have in Common | Shipping SolutionsFreight forwarders are a cornerstone in the export shipping process. And with more than 40,000 forwarding and logistics firms employing around 8 to 10 million people in 150 countries around the globe, finding the best freight forwarders may seem like finding a needle in a haystack.

Where do you begin?

Well, you should start by researching and investigating your options. This article will help by explaining what to look for when choosing a freight forwarder. You should also network with other exporters and learn who they trust with their goods.

Based on conversations with forwarders, representatives from the Minnesota District Export Council (DEC), and the U.S. Commercial Service, I’ve put together this list of four qualifications the best freight forwarders share. I’ve also included several questions to ask freight forwarders when you interview them. Their answers will help you understand if they are a qualified partner for you.

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1. Experience and Credentials

Check with prospective forwarders to see if they are licensed with the FMC (for ocean freight forwarders) and IATA and TSA (for air freight forwarders). The best freight forwarders will be able to tell you about their company history, their freight forwarder network and partnerships, and their licensing. They should also be able to share testimonials from exporters who trust them.

Questions to Ask

  • How many years has your company been in business?
  • How many people are on your staff? How many years have they been working with your company?
  • What is your freight forwarder network like? What global partnerships do you have?
  • How much experience do you have with types of payment, including letters of credit?
  • Are you a non-vessel operating common carrier (NVOCC)? Do you have the appropriate licenses to be an NVOCC?

2. Services That Match Your Needs

The best freight forwarders know your industry and have a willingness to help you export goods. They should be your partners in every sense of the word, handling your export business efficiently and accurately.

Questions to Ask

  • Is your company a full-service freight forwarder?
  • Do you specialize in certain commodities and shipping methods?
  • Do you understand my industry?
  • Do you have warehouse facilities in the U.S. and in other countries as well?

3. An Understandable and Reliable Fee and Pricing Structure

The best freight forwarders will not only help you understand their pricing structure, they will also strategize with you on how to decrease your international shipping costs.

Questions to Ask

  • What types of insurance do you offer, and what are the prices?
  • How do you determine price—flat rate, volume discount?
  • Do I have to make a certain commitment to get a certain price?
  • Do your rates fluctuate seasonally?
  • Do your rates include incidental charges like faxing?
  • How much do you charge for document preparation/AES filing?

4. A Track Record of Compliance

This is the key component when looking for a freight forwarder. But while a compliance-focused partner is good, you need to understand your own role first.

Consider this: You are the manager, the boss and the person who is liable.

Your freight forwarder is your representative, but they are not you. You know your business best. The documents you provide them must be accurate. Their role is to arrange and manage the transportation of goods—not to serve as your company's compliance officers.

Ultimately, compliance is your responsibility.

Take control of export compliance by choosing your freight forwarder wisely and maintaining control of and responsibility for your exports. Remember, you can’t outsource liability.

There are strict regulations regarding export compliance. Download this free  whitepaper to make sure you know what's required of you.

Questions to Ask

  • How do I need to provide export information to you?
  • How will we work together to be in compliance with export regulations?
  • Do you have experience in my product, shipment method and destination country?
  • How is your staff trained?
  • What do you, as the forwarder, expect of me?
  • What are the expectations around communication, and how will you meet that expectation?

Learn more about freight forwarder compliance in our article If You’re Relying on Your Freight Forwarder for Export Compliance, You’ve Probably Already Violated the Law.

Freight Forwarder and Exporter: A Partnership

The best freight forwarders are partners in your exporting transactions. They don’t—and shouldn’t—do it all. By working closely with your freight forwarder you can minimize entry errors, enhance compliance and ultimately deliver your goods faster and get paid on time.

We have a couple more blog articles you can check out on the topic:

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David Noah

About the Author: David Noah

David Noah is the founder and president of Shipping Solutions, a software company that develops and sells export documentation and compliance software targeted at U.S. companies that export. David is a frequent speaker on export documentation and compliance issues and has published several articles on the topic.

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