When you transport your goods overseas, your trust over your freight forwarder is key to ensure your goods arrive to their final destination. Yet, trust is not something you develop from one day to another. Therefore, you should ask freight forwarders a few questions to analyze whether they are reliable enough to organize the transport of your goods. In many occasions, these companies do not even see your cargo, since they hire other 3PL (third logistics parties) to take charge of all the parts of, sometimes, complicated shipping processes.
For these reasons, we provide you with the following questions for you to ask freight forwarders when you talk to them for the first time. Analyze their replies, and make further research to confirm their statements.
Do they have the experience you need?
Ask them about the average volumes of LCL (Less-container-load), FCL (Full-container-load) and air shipments they handle on a monthly and yearly basis. Make specific questions about all the types of incoterms they handle, and discuss one or two scenarios for which you need to understand your responsibilities and liabilities according to the incoterm. This provided, you will notice how much knowledge they have about the operations and their ability to provide you with advices.
Do they belong to a recognized logistics network?
They should. At least, they must have a license from the FMC (Federal Maritime Commission), and a membership with IATA (International Air Transport Association). Some forwarders might not be with IATA, but the membership ensures that they follow certain quality procedures that IATA determines as important.
A good network also means having agents across the world, who provide the service anywhere your import or export needs.
Do they have certifications or specific experience for special cargo?
Dangerous goods, for example, require trained staff for its handling. Not every operations employee from a forward can handle dangerous goods. Reliable forwarders make sure they have at least one person in their team who is capable of taking care of this kind of shipments whenever it’s needed. The same applies to perishable goods, even if no certification is needed, since theses goods usually require refrigerated transport equipment – which not every forwarder has access to.
Can they handle multiple types of shipments?
The basic shipping modes are LCL, FCL, airfreight and ground transport. Your vendor should be able to supply with all of those services. Therefore, they should also have agreements or contracts with several shipping lines, airlines and trucking companies in order
Do they have credit terms with their vendors?
Just like you ask for credit terms from your forwarder, they also ask for these from their transport suppliers. Therefore, feel free to inquire about their terms with the shipping companies that will be involved in transporting your goods. The availability of these terms imply that you will never experience delivery delays due to lack of payment from the forwarder.
The last question to ask freight forwarders: Do they have a TMS (Transport Management System) that provides accurate information?
Online access to shipment monitoring should be provided without costs. Reliability goes together with visibility; therefore, all the good forwarders are nowadays providing with tracking tools available to you 24/7.
The above six questions will help you realize how good a forwarder can be. If you take them all in consideration, and if you do a bit of extra online research about the companies’ histories, you will feel more positive about your forwarder’s selection.