Get better freight service with these ten tips from professionals
By John Edmonds
There’s lots online about selecting a forwarder, less on how to get a better freight service.
Instead of relying on blind faith, check out these ten tips on how to get a better freight service.
1. Challenge Surprise Freight Surcharges
There are so many fees involved with importing and exporting that sometimes fees slip in that may not be absolutely critical for your shipment. This even happens with the big guys.
If you are unsure about any charges, look them up on the internet. If you can’t find this type of freight charge, don’t be shy to question your forwarder. You may well find that in the interests of good business, they will be happy to waive these charges.
2. Find Good Cargo Insurance
Life is unfair. Many things can go wrong with freight. And, for the most part, forwarder and carrier liability is protected by their standard terms and conditions. If something does so wrong, the blame game will only destroy your forwarder relationship. Insurance is your responsibility.
That said, even comprehensive cargo insurance has its limits. So also make sure that any contract of sale is well-drafted. Read this cautionary tale, if still not convinced.
3. Work Together For Better Compliance
Be serious with customs and advance cargo reporting (e.g. statistics bureaus, national security) requirements. Data automation has given regulators better visibility, penalties can be stiff, and it is usually the shipper that is liable.
Don’t outsource freight compliance to your forwarder. And don’t assume full responsibility. Instead, let your forwarder manage the process, with you controlling data accuracy. Larger forwarders are usually reluctant to email completed forms to smaller shippers prior to submitting, but ensure that they forward you a copy when submitting. Promptly check for accuracy and timeliness.
4. Set Communications Expectations
Freight Forwarders aren’t always proactive updating on a shipment, but it’s a shipper’s business to stay on top of the supply chain. In fact, international trade is a fraught with convoluted processes, which seldom run smooth. It’s easy to doubt whether your forwarder is giving good service (and trust us, forwarders feel the same about their customers).
So, if you haven’t already, set out what you expect from each other. Write it up, and share. Your forwarder should reciprocate. Then stick to your agreement.
5. Share Your Business Information
Keeping your forwarder astride of how your business is going, helps them help you, and helps builds your relationship. Short-term changes to sales projections, long term sales projections, new markets, changes to product design – all can impact your freight movements.
Similarly, include your forwarder in risk mitigation planning, and not just for covering shipments. They are a strategic partner, and should be included with business continuity planning.
6. Check Communication And Freight Documents
A common cry from shippers is not getting a copy of their shipping records. Make a communication checklist of required documents, from both you and your forwarder. Start with this list of key freight documents. This should cut down the emails going back and forth.
Then check all documents once they come in. Check for data accuracy. And for compliance forms in particular, also check that they were submitted by the required date.
7. Get The Shipper’s Letter Of Instruction Right First Time
Forwarders rely on data in the Shipper’s Letter of Instruction for many purposes. Inaccurate and incomplete information inevitably results in errors further down the line. These errors will eventually come back to frustrate your forwarder and to torment you.
So take the time to ensure that you complete the letter of instruction fully and accurately and that you communicate clearly.
8. Make The Final Leg Work For You
With export shipments, many local forwarders are reticent to manage the final leg. But persevere. Even though the final cost will reflect the additional difficulty, it’s money well spent.
Conversely, for some import shipments a local forwarder may not even be required. This is the case for the DDP incoterm; and also for DAP – if you are prepared to manage the duty payment yourself.
9. Pay Customs Yourself
Even if your forwarder arranges customs clearance, you should still develop your own account relationship with customs authorities.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but having you pay directly is in both of your interest. In fact, most forwarders recommend this. The reason being, is that there is often only a short period of time in the clearance process to conduct transactions. Paying directly with ACH or wire transfer is the best bet for the payment being timely and hassle-free.
10. Stand Up For A Better Freight Service
Are you getting good service? Does it seem like your freight forwarder really understands and cares about your product and shipping requirements? Does he provide status updates, quickly alert you of any problem, just as quickly work to resolve them? Is he good with documentation? If not, then it’s time to re-set communication expectations.
Maybe, instead it’s time to look elsewhere. If you are with a large forwarder, chances are your primary point of contact is a 1-800 number. Local forwarders are more expensive, but generally provide a much better service.
The common thread in these tips, is that you will get a better freight service when each side has a greater understanding of the other’s needs and responsibilities. Then you can both play to your strengths. Your forwarder needs you to provide information in full, accurately and promptly. You need your forwarder to be responsive and transparent.
Freightos understands responsiveness and transparency. The Freightos Marketplace, currently in beta, gives importers and exporters instant transparent access to the best global freight services.
John Edmonds is an online freight evangelist at Freightos, the online freight marketplace where importers instantly compare, book and manage freight shipments online. A career spanning phones, electricity and gas has seasoned him for finding the fascination in freight...but he always makes time for cricket. Check out ship.to for more of John's global shipping tips.
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