Do you need a freight forwarder for your business, but don’t know where to start? The first thing to remember is that freight forwarders can vary widely in experience and scope, so be sure to discuss your specific needs before making a final choice. Here are five important things to look for when choosing a freight forwarder:
Strong technological capabilities
Does the freight forwarder have a track record of investing in the latest transportation technologies to streamline its logistics processes?
There are numerous freight forwarding services that benefit from digitization. The major capabilities to inquire about are real-time shipment tracking, including milestone updates for freight in transit from the carriers, EDI connectivity for invoicing and payment processing options.
If the freight forwarder you choose uses the latest technology for shipment tracking, you’ll get constant visibility into the progress of your shipments. This is always valuable, and can be particularly critical when shipping between countries.
Extensive, reliable network
Many freight forwarders you’ll come across will meet the first requirement. But, don’t stop there — next, you should assess their shipping network. More specifically, you want to find out if they ship only domestically, cross-border or internationally.
If you need cross-border shipping to Canada and Mexico, you’ll want to choose a freight forwarder with a shipping network that extends well into those countries. With ever-increasing customer demands for faster delivery and shorter supply chains, having a freight forwarder with a great carrier network is important. In fact, it can be the key to gaining an advantage over your competition. It will also help you avoid shipping delays and other logistical issues that could limit your profitability.
Diverse, flexible service offering
The third key to a successful choice of freight forwarder is essential services. You’ll need to ensure that the forwarder can provide all the services necessary to meet your current and future freight needs. To do this, start by assessing the strength of the overall service offering.
A strong service offering should include multiple shipping options ranging from international air and ocean, domestic air and ground transportation to warehousing services. Ground services should include full-truckload (FTL), less-than-truckload (LTL) and expedited solutions.
Additionally, ask how flexible the freight forwarder can be with services to meet your more challenging shipping needs, especially during seasons of high demand for your goods. Generally speaking, the more options your freight forwarder offers, the more flexible they can be in tailoring solutions to issues that arise.
Customs brokerage services
If you’ll be doing a lot of international cargo shipping, consider using a freight forwarder that offers customs brokerage or clearance services. A freight forwarder with customs brokerage capabilities will mean more seamless cross-border shipping and less costly delays.
In the regulatory environment at national borders, there are dozens of shipment clearance rules to adhere to, and they can change frequently. The freight forwarder will keep up to date on customs regulations, ensure they are followed at every border crossing, and work through any compliance issues with customs agents — as long as these capabilities are in their service offering. Not every freight forwarder offers these services.
In addition, ask whether the freight forwarder offers customs brokerage as an in-house or an outsourced service, and find out how long they have held their licenses. You can also find out if they’ll assist you with classifications for the goods you ship, if needed, or set you up with access to classification databases.
Good relationship with carriers
Finally, ensure that the freight forwarder you use has good relationships with the carriers and agents in its network. Ask who they use for their top three or top five carriers, what volume the forwarder can handle, and whether they currently have customers shipping in trade lanes similar to yours.
Also, try finding out if they’ve reached preferred status with any of their top carriers, based on the volume or the revenue they generate for each one. Knowing this will help you understand their procurement capabilities and how competitive they can be in terms of pricing.
A freight forwarder should also have professional relationships with its agents, both locally and internationally, to guarantee they’ll be able to help you overcome any trading challenges. A good forwarder is constantly investing not only in expanding its carrier and agent networks, but also in strengthening its relationships with them.
RXO can help with freight forwarding
RXO is a global freight forwarder with over 30 years of experience with goods of all weights, sizes and volumes, shipping domestically and between countries and continents. We’ll make sure your shipments are fully compliant with clearance regulations, with oversight across customs points through an intercontinental network of dedicated offices. You’ll get access to our digital freight management platform, designed to give you superior visibility of order entry and accurate, real-time tracking, as well as access to your customs filings with government agencies.
We can get things done for you thousands of miles away from your desk. Our network of global experts know the culture and speak the language in each country where they operate. And, our experts are well-trained, experienced and well-equipped to provide you with rapid access to our services, based on your criteria for speed, economy or customized solutions. Learn more here.