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Choosing a freight forwarder or logistics provider is a serious matter which you need to weigh up the pros and cons of what's important to your business.

Which Freight Forwarder or Logistics Company to use?

Which freight forwarder and / or logistics company should you use? There’re a huge number of competing companies who all say they are number one.

BIFABritish International Freight Association – is an independent body advising and supporting its members for a very long time.  They offer support by giving guidance on subjects such as terms and conditions, training and best practices.  They have over 1500 members listed, although they are all of different sizes.

Which Freight Forwarder or Logistics Company to use?

Preparations before you contact a forwarder:

Before you approach any freight forwarder or business operational unit you need to have done some research and know your stuff.  You’ll need to have expectations on:

  1. Service timeframes for all modes of transport you wish to employ.  Quick research on the internet should give you a baseline.  For ocean freight you’ll need to get an idea on sailing schedules – this is important when you are doing your own planning.
  2. Service quality – ensuring if you need to upgrade the speed of transport there is an agreed mechanism to do that – it should be a matter of advising the operations team.
  3. Dedicated account manager in operations.  You should expect to deal with as few people within each team handling each mode of transport.  If the freight forwarder does not seem to agree to that then you should reconsider them.
  4. SOP!  You should agree to a Standard Operational Procedure and this should be signed off by you and the forwarder.
  5. Know any specific regulations on your goods beforehand.  Check if the forwarder is able to manage this to be confident once your goods are received and in the country or region of final delivery point.
  6. Cost control – As you are likely a relatively small operation to start with your buying power with them will be a bit limited.  They will know that there are many forwarders out there but you’ll often pay more for someone who has the better infrastructure and connections.  As with a lot of things, if you pay cheap you pay twice.

See also my section on EORI numbers as this is something you need to be aware of as well.

How big a forwarder should I deal with?

Large forwarders (for example DHL) have these sort of advantages:

  1. Own offices worldwide
  2. Standardised pricing structure – you know what you can expect
  3. Good flexibility between service options
  4. Well established and respected

Disadvantages:

  1. You won’t get a very personalised service.
  2. They may be slower than other forwarders in their responses or actions.
  3. Their accuracy is sometimes questionable.
  4. Not very reactive if something goes wrong.

Medium sized to small have these advantages:

  1. The forwarder may have their own offices or they have established partner networks.
  2. May offer potentially flexible rates
  3. Will be able to react to changes in schedules / requirements quicker.
  4. May create a more tailored service.

Disadvantages:

  1. May have less agreed carrier options.
  2. Their buying power is lower.
  3. If working through an agent network they may not be able to guarantee quality of service.
  4.  They might not necessarily have the experience you need.