Freight Forwarding

Learn about freight brokers and forwarding freight

A freight forwarder organizes shipping, and sometimes distribution, for other companies that are typically goods producers or manufacturers. Freight forwarding companies may or may not also be freight carriers themselves; in most cases, the freight forwarder is not involved in the shipping process, but rather acts as a liaison between the producer/manufacturer and the shipping company, working to get the best possible rate for the manufacturer so that their product might reach the market with the lowest overhead costs possible. Thus, a freight forwarding company concerns itself with finding out which type of transportation—or combination of transportation, including road, rail, air and ocean transport—is most efficient for a producer, and which carriers offer the best deals. Companies forwarding freight are very often involved in international shipping.

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Ensuring a Shipment's Safe Arrival

Sometimes called freight logistics brokers or just freight brokers, freight forwarders are a critical part of the shipping industry. Because not all producers and manufacturers employ personnel who are experts in the process of moving goods from one part of the world to another, it's often important to consult freight agents to ensure that the necessary documentation is properly processed prior to deadlines, and that communication between the producer, shipper, broker and recipient remains fluid and open.

Freight forwarders are often responsible for reviewing a commercial invoice, bill of lading (BOL), export declaration form and other documents associated with the shipping process. As mobile technology expands, many progressive freight forwarding services have successfully eliminated much of the need for paper in these transactions, opting for electronic documentation, shipping software and other paperless record keeping, which makes the process more efficient and environmentally sound.

Freight Forwarding Guidelines

Often, international freight forwarders are licensed by large regulating bodies. In the United States, ocean shipping is overseen by the Federal Maritime Commission, while air freight is handled by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The rules are slightly different in the United Kingdom, where freight forwarders don't need licenses, but many do become members of the British International Freight Association (BIFA) to enhance their legitimacy with customers and competitors. Freight forwarding policies vary from country to country, and all potential shippers should consult an expert to find a prospective logistics broker and/or shipping company.