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How long does it take freight forwarders to give me a quote?

A question any shippers would ask – regardless of their sizes, goods, or locations, is how much time it takes freight forwarders to quote on their shipment. With younger entrepreneurs starting new businesses all the time, expectations are changing. We want quotes, and we want them now – a lightning speed turnaround is just one of the many parts of the “on demand” culture that has infiltrated every part of our lives. Whether it’s normal business hours, or midnight when you finally have a spare moment to search for a freight forwarder, small business owners tend to think that freight forwarders will respond to their quote request instantly and they will receive quotes back within few hours.

The truth is, many business owners find themselves disappointed when they don’t get a response instantly. The time it takes to receive quotes isn’t always going to be exact, and it usually won’t be instant – however, responses to your quest will arrive. So, how long does it take for freight forwarders to give me a quote? Sometimes it only takes a few hours, other times it can take a few days.

There are several factors that affect how much time it takes freight forwarders to quote on your shipment. Depending on the nature of the shipment, it may take freight forwarders more or less time to get back with quotes as they calculate the actual expense to the company:

  1. Door-to-door

    Because of the complex nature of door-to-door services, it will take providers a bit longer to calculate a quote for you. This is because these freight forwarders will need to coordinate with different agencies. The coordination can be widespread throughout the globe, in order to figure out the exact fees. For example, if you have a shipment from China to the US and the shipment’s incoterms are Ex-Works (EXW), the delivery from your supplier’s warehouse to the freight forwarder’s facilities is a fee that is never standard. It will depend on specifics such as your shipment’s size. You can imagine all the back and forth dialog between a freight forwarder and suppliers and other agencies. If they’re in different time zones, it could take hours, or even days, until the final numbers are calculated.

  2. Value-added-services (VAS)

    As with door-to-door services, VAS fees are usually something that must be calculated on a case by case basis. Some fees, such as customs clearance, are standard, but this is a rare example. Freight forwarders buy services from a third-party-logistics (3PL) provider, adding another layer to the process of calculating your quote. The freight forwarder will have to query the 3PL, wait for a response, and then figure out how much to charge the shipper.

  3. Less popular trade lanes

    With less popular trade lanes, it can take more time to calculate a quote because the rates for these trade lanes aren’t standardized. Unlike the bigger trade lanes, if rate changes have occurred in these lanes the forwarder will have to look them up, because they aren’t automatically updated. That means that the forwarder will have to request the rates from the carrier, which means more time before finalizing a quote. You’ll also have to remember that the less popular trade lanes aren’t as attractive to freight forwarders and carriers, because usually their sales goals are focused on the popular trade lanes. This could mean that your email will be a lower priority, and might not be answered the day you send it.

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  4. Dangerous goods

    If you are shipping dangerous goods, such as pressurized containers or explosives, it can take longer for a company to calculate your rate. Dangerous cargo has specific needs and different rates than a regular shipment, which may need to be researched by the freight forwarder.

  5. Overweighed or oversized cargo

    If your shipment is too heavy or too big, your freight forwarder cannot use standard rates. They’ll have to query the carrier, and in some cases find a carrier who is willing to take your shipment, and that adds more time to the quoting process.

  6. General Rate Increase (GRI) and Peak Season Surcharges (PSS)

    Although carriers notify freight forwarders about the GRI and PSS changes ahead of time, sometimes you’ll request a quote while the rates are still in flux. Companies will know a rate change is coming, just not the specifics. This uncertainty can linger for a couple of days, or a couple of weeks. It depends on the carrier and specific circumstances of the season. However, GRIs and PSS are usually known ahead of time, and should not be the main cause of a delay in quote.

The duration of a quoting process is based mainly on the location of the origin and destination freight forwarding agencies. If your origin is in the East, it will usually take at least one day for a response. Quotes for shipments within your same time zone usually take less time but it will still depend on the factors mentioned above.

Freight forwarding is about organizing the services provided by carriers and other 3PLs into one full service for you. Providing all the necessary information about your shipment at the beginning of the process is vital, and will speed things along. If you’re really worried about a quick quote, you can always add “how much time will the quote take?” in the hopes of reaching someone quickly.

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