There’s a reason you aren’t managing transportation in-house. There are endless phone calls, rate shopping, developing relationships, macroeconomic trends to keep tabs on, fires to put out. Eventually, all the nuances and details can start to add up.
If you aren’t handling all of that yourself, it’s probably because you chose to focus on your business, not get pulled into a logistics quagmire (smart move!). But picking a freight forwarder to manage your shipping can seem like an equally tricky venture.
Freight forwarders are important business partners. They’re responsible for the lifeblood of your business - your cargo - on its journey from port to port or maybe even country to country. So how do you choose a good one?
Unfortunately, we can’t give you a list of names (although we know a good one), but we can offer a few suggestions as to what to look for. Without further ado, here’s what to look for when doing your homework:
Find Out How Big Their Network Is
Freight forwarders rely on a network of agents at each location to ensure everything goes smoothly at a destination. This is extra important in case of delays or hiccups. So, does your freight forwarder have multiple service contracts and a robust network at your shipping destinations?
Learn About Their Industry Expertise
Your freight is unique, and it probably has a few specific requirements. Maybe that’s cold storage, or perhaps it needs to be handled in a particular way. But just like all freight is different, forwarders will have distinct areas of expertise. Please do yourself a favor, and make sure theirs matches your needs.
Look For Association Memberships
Trade associations are sort of like members-only clubs. A freight forwarder has to prove a certain level of competence and care to make it onto the roster. So if you’re in discussions with a forwarder, and they mention a membership, that raises the odds that you’re in good hands.
Do They Have Insurance?
In your research, you may encounter a forwarder who says they have carrier liability. That’s not good enough. Often, it covers less than the value of the cargo! Look, if it’s your job to move items over an ocean or across a country, you need a sturdy insurance policy that covers theft, loss, or damage.
Look For Market Awareness
Freight forwarders shouldn’t just look at what’s immediately in front of them. A reputable one is familiar with market trends and cycles and keeps an eye on the news to know how it might impact shipping. And if they regularly share or communicate that information (say, by keeping a blog or a newsletter), you’re golden.
How’s Their Customer Service?
We’re saving the best for last here. A freight forwarder can have a lot going for them, but if all they give you is a general inquiry line, you should find somebody else. What you want to look for is a business partner who is easy to reach at any time and reaches out to you proactively. Ideally, a forwarder will provide you with plenty of updates, automated notifications, and maybe even some visibility software.
And that, friends, is how you spot a good freight forwarder! In all seriousness, we know that choosing to work with a provider is not one to take lightly. If you have any questions about the process or if you are looking for a forwarder who specializes in the cold chain in 75 countries, give us a call today.