When choosing a freight forwarder to take care of your shipments, it’s wise to get several quotes for comparison. However, it’s important to realise that not all freight forwarder quotes are equal. Some freight forwarders will include various services in their quote, while others may charge extra for them or possibly not offer them at all. And even if two freight forwarders include the same services in their quote, the quality could differ significantly when it comes to the standard of service they provide.
Here’s how to ensure that you’re comparing like for like with your freight forwarding quotes, and can make the best-informed choice for your business.
To get an accurate quote for freight forwarding, you’ll need to be as specific as possible when conveying your requirements. For example, when do you want the shipment to leave/arrive, what are you shipping, where are you shipping to, the size and weight of the cargo, how you want it shipped, on what terms and how quickly. Providing detailed information about your requirements will leave no room for ambiguity when the freight forwarder provides a quote.
Ask About Specialisations
Not all freight forwarders are ‘all-rounders’. Some concentrate on niche areas like particular types of cargo or modes of transportation. If this niche matches your requirements, that’s great, but you might expect to pay more for a specialist service.
A freight forwarder is only as good as its network of carriers, and some have bigger networks than others. However, bigger isn’t always best. Make sure that you’re looking at freight forwarders with comparable networks in the area that applies to you. For example, if you ship perishable goods, you’ll need a freight forwarder who has this specialist expertise.
Live Load or Drop & Pickup?
There are two standard options for loading goods into a shipping container. Live load means that your container is loaded at an agreed place and within an agreed timeframe (usually 2 to 3 hours), while the driver waits. Drop, and pickup means that the container will be left at your loading location for an agreed period, usually 2 to 3 days. Drop, and pickup is the more expensive of the two, so check what method your freight forwarder has set as default.
Look at Benchmarks of Quality
As with any service, you’ll find good freight forwarders, average freight forwarders and bad freight forwarders. However, freight forwarding is an unregulated industry in the UK, which means anyone can set up as a freight forwarder without qualification or experience, so you need to be especially vigilant when selecting a supplier. Accreditations can be a good benchmark of quality standards, so check which, if any, each forwarder holds.
Consider Ease of Use
The idea of freight forwarding is that it takes the stress and hassle out of shipping, so a service that’s easy to use is essential. When comparing your quotes, look at what tools the forwarder offers to make the process easier. Online tracking and documentation-checking tools are useful, but you’ll want to check that they’re free to use as standard.
Get a Breakdown
As not all freight forwarders include or even offer, the same services, asking for a clear breakdown of costs is the best way to compare quotes accurately. Not only will this allow you to see exactly what you get for your money, but it will also enable you to calculate the administration fee each freight forwarder is charging, once the various essential costs and charges have been accounted for.
Information is your friend when comparing freight forwarders, and the easiest way to get that information is simply to ask. A professional freight forwarder will be happy to answer any questions you might have, and how they deal with you at this early stage could be a useful indicator of the service level you should expect going forward. Ask questions that align with your business priorities. For example, what is the average turnaround time for completion of documentation, or what percentage of shipments arrive on time and in full?
What’s NOT Included?
Sometimes the best way to get to the crux of the value offered is to ask what’s not included in the given quote. For example, a freight forwarder may offer insurance as an optional add-on, which is fine, as long as you’re comparing apples to apples. You might prefer to shop around for certain services – in which case; the fact that they’re not automatically rolled into the upfront cost will suit you better. Understanding what is and what isn’t included in each quote is key to determining value.
There are many variables in freight forwarding that can influence the cost. The price of fuel or the exchange rate can fluctuate, or carrier charges can increase with demand. Clarify with your forwarders how long the quote is valid for, to ensure that you’re comparing quotes that will still be applicable when you want to ship.