10 essential questions to ask your freight forwarder

10 essential questions to ask your freight forwarder


6 minute read | By Detype Studio

Last updated: January 16, 2024 | Published: April 19, 2017


Choosing the right freight forwarder to trust with the movement of your goods is key to streamlined importing and exporting. And if you’re a business or company, it could mean the difference between success and failure. Make sure you get it right by asking these ten essential questions before putting your cargo in someone else’s hands.

#1 Who’s responsible for insuring my goods?

When a consignment has thousands of miles to travel, there’s always the possibility that something could go wrong, so having the right insurance cover is essential. It’s important to know who is responsible for this, and whether it’s included in the upfront cost, available as an add-on service or if it’s something you need to arrange yourself. Some freight forwarders offer freight insurance as an additional service, giving customers a convenient and flexible insurance option.

#2 Are you accredited?

Accreditations are a benchmark of high standards and professionalism, so ask your freight forwarder what accreditations they currently hold. At John Good, we’re proud to partner with the British International Freight Association (BIFA), the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) and the United Kingdom Warehousing Association (UKWA). We’re also a licensed International Air Transport Association (IATA) cargo agent and an Authorised Economic Operator (AEO), which allows a quicker and simpler route through UK Customs. While all these accreditations aren’t essential to become a freight forwarder, they’re a sure sign that a freight forwarder takes their responsibilities seriously.

#3 How much experience do you have?

In theory, anyone can set up as a freight forwarder, with no formal qualification or certification required. This means that there’s a constant influx of new freight forwarding businesses to choose from. Ask yourself if you’d be happy to trust your cargo, and potentially the smooth running and reputation of your business, to a freight forwarder who has little or no experience. As well as checking how long your chosen freight forwarder has been in business, it’s also worth checking how much experience they have that’s relevant to what you wish to ship. Which leads on to the next important question…

#4 Do you specialise in my type of cargo?

You’ll find that some freight forwarders are ‘jacks of all trades, while others focus on specific types of cargo like food shipment next to cargo. Obviously, finding a freight forwarder that specialises in what you would like to ship is a smart move. While most good freight forwarders will be capable of managing shipments of any kind, they will probably have teams of specialists in place to deal with clients in particular sectors such as the automotive, food and drink, furniture, packaging, retail and eCommerce industries.

#5 How extensive is your network?

A freight forwarder is only as good as its network, so you’re looking for a company with well-established international links to help move your cargo around the world smoothly and offer you the best freight forwarder quotes. Don’t forget to ask specifically about the contacts it has in the countries you want to ship between. Check their global reach so can rest assured that they can easily facilitate most shipping requirements.

#6 What shipping load services do you offer?

The three main types of shipping load services for sea freight include Full Container Load (FCL), Less than Container Load (LCL) and Roll-on, Roll-off (RORO), and you obviously need to check that your freight forwarder offers the right one for you. If you know that you won’t be shipping enough cargo to fill a sea freight container, then a freight forwarder that doesn’t offer the option to share container space will mean higher costs and a slower shipping process. Likewise, if you need to transport wheeled cargo then the RORO shipping option is the safest, fastest and most cost-efficient choice. Check if they can ship by any other methods such as shipping by air and road haulage services too, to ensure the right shipping solution for you.

#7 Who is responsible for organising the relevant documentation?

One of the main purposes of using a freight forwarder is to reduce the stress and hassle involved in importing and exporting goods, so it’s important to confirm they will take care of all the relevant documentation on your behalf. Experienced freight forwarders are well-practiced in the completion of export and import formalities at all main UK ports, and can also facilitate fast-track Customs clearance if they’re an AEO (Authorised Economic Operator).

#8 Can I track my cargo?

Having a reliable facility that enables you to track your cargo is invaluable, not only for peace of mind and convenience but also to allow any delays to be communicated to the 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 of day or night.

#9 What extra services do you offer?

One of the key reasons you’re likely to use a freight forwarder is to simplify the complicated process of moving goods internationally, so if you can get your every need met by one company then so much the better. Check if your freight forwarder can offer a full ‘wrap-around’ service, with options to take care of your cargo from product sourcing to storage and distribution.

#10 What’s included in the cost?

Of course, you want to know what the bottom line is in terms of cost. But rather than simply asking ‘how much?’, also ask your freight forwarder ‘what’s included?’. A freight forwarder with a strong network will be able to offer the most cost effective solutions, and benefits such as specialised storage facilities, bonded warehouses (meaning accelerated removal and release of cargo), online tracking and quicker Customs clearance which can all add value.

No reputable freight forwarder will have any issues with answering these questions honestly, so ask away to make sure you’re putting your cargo into safe, secure and reliable hands.

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