There’s so many terms in the shipping world that it can seem like you’re staring at a bowl of alphabet soup. Carrier, NVOCC, freight forwarder, broker – what’s the difference? Commerce Express, Inc. is a licensed freight forwarder. If you are looking to further understand what the term means, here is our definition and how you should go about selecting one.
What Is a Freight Forwarder?
Simply put, a freight forwarder is a company that organizes for merchandising storage and transportation needs on behalf of the shipper. Although some companies rely on an internal team to deal with their shipping needs, it is common (and smart) practice to outsource your logistics operations to a freight forwarder.
How Do I Select a Freight Forwarder?
Forwarders can help to make your shipments move effectively and efficiently, and selecting the right or wrong freight forwarder will directly affect your company’s bottom line. When researching and selecting a freight forwarder, there are a few things you want to be mindful of in order to make the best decision for your company.
Freight forwarders excel in efficiency due to their large amount of connections. When a forwarder is connected with tons of truckers, rail companies, steamship lines, and other airlines, you can be sure that your merchandise is in good hands. However, selecting a vendor with very few connections can prove to become a real pain in the neck. Take the time to do your research in order to find out who your prospective freight forwarders partner with.
Secondly, make sure that the forwarder you are looking to work with has experience shipping commodities similar to yours. Knowing your volumes, weights, and frequency of shipments and evaluating your potential freight forwarders on whether or not they are qualified to handle your business is crucial in selecting the right forwarder. All you have to do is call a freight forwarder and ask them what types of commodities they have shipped; everyone should be transparent about their expertise and experience (and if they’re not, you probably shouldn’t select them.)
We’ve used the word a couple times already, but this is honestly one of the most important factors in selecting a vendor. If a vendor has been in the business for a long time, chances are they have seen and corrected just about every commonly occurring issue in the industry. Figure out how long your potential vendors have been in the business, how active they currently are, and whether or not their experience gives you comfort to trust them with your merchandise.
This one may be difficult to find on the surface, but the most trustworthy evaluation of a vendor’s performance is often word-of-mouth from the vendor’s current or past customers. While not everyone writes reviews and publishes articles about their experience with particular forwarders, a good way to get an accurate measure of a vendor’s reputation is to find out what types of customers they currently serve.
Selecting a forwarder is never an easy decision. It can be scary to trust someone with your cargo and logistics decisions, which is why it is so incredibly important to select a good freight forwarder. We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to do your own research and figure out who can best accommodate your needs. Some forwarders may have niche business practices for specialized services along a few lanes. Perhaps that’s exactly what you need. Alternatively, locking into a contract with a business like this could mean a disaster.
If you need help selecting a freight forwarder, our team would be happy to speak with you. Of course, we would love to help you with your logistics practices, but we also understand that not every freight forwarder is a good match for every business.