10 Questions to ask a Freight Forwarder

Identifying the right freight forwarding partner for your business is a crucial decision to get right. A reliable and efficient logistics department (both in terms of cost and hitting delivery deadlines) is key to your success.

In this post, we look at 10 questions to ask a freight forwarder when in the process of recruiting the right partner for your business. We hope the below pointers prove to be helpful and you find the best fit global logistics partner for your business.


1.      Who’s responsible for insuring my goods?

Your cargo will travel hundreds to thousands of miles, so there’s always the possibility that something could go wrong, including loss or damage. Having the right insurance cover is essential. Most freight forwarders offer marine insurance as an additional service or you might include marine insurance as part of your business insurance. Either way, make sure that you do put insurance in place for transport and/or storage of your goods with third parties.

2.  How credible and experienced is the freight forwarder?

As logistics is a key pillar of many businesses, it’s crucial that you find a credible and reliable UK freight forwarder. It’s no good entrusting your valuable cargo to a freight forwarder who isn’t fit for purpose and it’s always good to avoid a pitfall if possible.

Think about the following:

  • How long have they been established?
  • What accreditations and assurances do they hold?
  • What specific services do they offer and are they predominant in any of them?
  • Are they experienced in the specific trade lanes that you operate in?
  • Do they offer customer testimonials and case studies on their website?

Here are some examples of the key assurances that you should be looking out for. A freight forwarder holding the below assurance examples will help to give you confidence that they are competent.

3.      Do they specialise in or handle similar cargo to mine?

Some freight forwarders focus on specific types of cargo like, hazardous, foodstuffs or work with many companies within an industry such as automotive. If you need a specialist logistics partner for your goods, then do focus on relevant areas for the best service. However, most freight forwarders handle general ‘freight of all kinds’ and may specialise in some areas too. Finding out what a freight forwarder offers and specialises in is key to helping you to find the right fit.

4.      How extensive is their network?

A freight forwarder is only as good as its network. You should be looking for a company with well-established international relationships and whose global partners are accredited and credible in their own right. Feel free to ask for more information regarding the origin or destination partner of your potential new freight forwarder, so that you can be assured your cargo will be in good hands.

5. Do they manage customs clearance?

Most freight forwarders handle customs clearance. But some may just strictly be forwarders, meaning they handle only the transportation and logistics of your shipment. In such a case, you’ll need to find a separate broker to handle customs clearance for your shipment.

Whether you use a freight forwarder or customs broker is totally up to you. However, you will receive a more comprehensive service from a freight forwarder. A freight forwarder will arrange for your goods to be transported from one country to another and can often provide a customs clearance service directly. Customs agents and brokers may only be responsible for the clearance of your goods through customs en route to the final destination or delivery point.

If a freight forwarder does not have their own in-house customs clearance capabilities, then they will employ a customs broker to manage their customer’s clearances for them. Also, a customs broker will act independently between a freight forwarder and the shipper or consignee. 

6. How can I track my cargo?

Having an online tracking system for shipments is, in this day and age, an absolute fundamental service for any credible freight forwarder. If you’re interviewing a freight forwarder that does not offer this service, it might be wise to discount them.

Having access to a facility that enables you to track your cargo is invaluable. It allows any delays to be communicated to your business and then to any relevant customers or contacts as soon as possible. Most innovative online tracking systems will allow you to check on the status of your consignment at any time and can also provide automated updates to your inbox.

7. How quickly can I get a quote?

Timing to provide rates will vary depending on many different factors including; origin and/or destination and relevant time zones to request rates, spot rate requirements vs standard shipments using tariffs, goods ready date, departure date, carrier service and requirements, the volume of shipment and others. Asking how a freight forwarder will help you to manage this process is advisable.

8. Working to shipping deadlines?

If you have urgent cargo, let your freight forwarder know immediately so they can plan for it. Keep in mind that getting your cargo onto the first-available sailing/flight date and vessel/aircraft may sometimes mean higher prices.

Sometimes, it may be worth it to pay a little bit more to get a faster transit or a direct service for better reliability. Some shippers prefer to get their cargo to their destination as soon as possible, while others prefer a more affordable option. Make sure to let your freight forwarder know what your priorities are.

9. Can the freight forwarder scale up with your business growth?

It is sensible to suggest that the majority of companies have growth plans as a part of their business strategy. When you’re planning which freight forwarder to partner with, the ability for them to support your planned scalability could be critical. If this is essential for your business, ensure that you make this element a crucial part of your selection process.

To help discover which UK freight forwarder may have the ability to scale up with you, ask for some credible customer examples that demonstrate how they have already done this for other relevant customers.

10. Is the freight forwarder strategically located?

A top-quality freight forwarder will have an established and extensive network of partners, ensuring the best service and well-coordinated global logistics.

If you’re looking for a freight forwarder to physically handle your cargo via warehousing fulfilment services and/or export packing services for example, then their location could be a key consideration.

The major UK sea ports are located mainly in the south of the country. As an importer, the cost of national distribution and haulage from seaports to your distribution centre and from your distribution centre to your nationally based customers is a key component in maximising your efficiencies. 

Choosing a freight forwarder with a more central location such as the Midlands can help balance your service and cost options, in turn helping you to manage your costs and keep your customers happy. You’ll also want to consider locations near major UK airports.

Contact Pinnacle today and speak to one of our global logistics experts for information, pricing and advice for your unique requirements. 

UK +44 (0)845 6216 111 / enquiry@pif.co.uk 

10 Questions to ask a Freight Forwarder

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