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Learn MORE ABOUT Freight Forwarding

How to Choose a Freight Forwarder?

In this guide, you will learn about freight forwarders, understanding who they are and what they do. Additionally, we will provide tips on how to select a good one for your shipping needs.

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How Freight Forwarders Can Help Your Business?

Freight Forwarders are individuals or companies specialising in organising and facilitating the transportation of goods. They are responsible for dispatching shipments by various modes of transport such as air, sea, road, or rail.

  • They utilise a range of transportation methods, including waterborne vessels (ships), aeroplanes, trucks, and railways, depending on the requirements of the shipment.
  • Their services predominantly focus on cargo movement to international destinations. This can involve complex logistics, such as road transport within Europe or sea and air freight to other global destinations.
  • Freight forwarders take on the primary responsibility for the entire transport operation as specified in each contract. They charge a fee which covers the total operation and, in turn, pay the actual carriers for the transport services provided.
  • International freight forwarders possess extensive expertise in preparing and processing documentation necessary for international shipments. 
  • Some of the typical information reviewed by a freight forwarder is the commercial invoice, shipper’s export declaration, and other documents required by the carrier or country of export, import, or trans-shipment. Much of this information is now processed in a paperless environment.

To simplify their role, freight forwarders are often likened to travel agents, but for freight, orchestrating the movement of goods across countries and continents efficiently and effectively.

How To Choose A Freight Forwarder: Top 10 Essential Considerations

When selecting a freight forwarder, it’s important to consider several key criteria to ensure you find the right fit for your shipping needs. Below, we’ve outlined ten essential factors, ranging from the quality of customer service to the company’s global network and experience. Read on to understand what to look for in a freight forwarder and how these criteria can guide your decision

01. Friendly service

People work with people they like. Freight forwarding is a service industry and as such, the freight forwarder you chose should be pleasant to deal with, knowledgeable and a good communicator. Depending on the complexity of the regulations in the country you are trading, you will be relying on your international freight forwarding company for a lot of information. So choosing someone who is easy to speak to will make the experience a lot more pleasurable.

02. Worldwide network of overseas partners

A good freight forwarder will have a carefully chosen network of similarly minded freight forwarders they work with as a partner or on an agency basis. This allows your freight forwarder the expertise and the best local knowledge to help you through the maze of customs formalities in foreign countries. You or your overseas customer may be able to obtain relief from import duties if the correct forms are completed and submitted to the local customs office and a good freight forwarding company will know this.

03. Value for money

When we say “value for money” we do not mean the cheapest. Like most things in life with an international freight forwarding firm you get what you pay for – the cheapest is not necessarily the best! With sea and air freight shipping, there are a lot of elements that make up the final quote. A good freight forwarder will advise you of ALL costs. You should question any quotation you might receive that is substantially cheaper as there may be limited availability or elements of the costs may have been omitted. With most shipments, the price normally indicates the speed of service, the quicker you require the goods the more expensive the freight cost will be.

04. Responsive

There is not much point in a freight forwarder being friendly and having the potential to give good quotes if they take ages to reply or worse still do not reply. Often shipments are urgent or quick decisions are needed to avoid the waiting time and/or demurrage so the freight forwarder you chose should have a positive “can-do” attitude and an appreciation for urgency. Too much emphasis is put on email communication nowadays, unfortunately, emails can get lost, deleted and misinterpreted. A good freight forwarder will use the telephone as much as email and will be able to recognize their customers by the sound of their voice as opposed to them being just a name on a screen.

05. Status

The UK freight industry in the UK is unregulated which means that it is open to infiltration by “cowboy” freight forwarders. A good guide to the status of a shipping forwarder is whether they are a Limited company. (this can be checked at Companies House for free) There are other things that could give away rogue traders such as operating from a PO Box address, having no website and operating from free email addresses such as Hotmail or Yahoo. A committed professional freight forwarder will be working from a business address and be happy to visit you or have you visit them at their offices.

06. Direct control

You should not expect a freight forwarding company to use their own ships or aeroplanes and the majority of UK haulage will be sub-contracted. However, sometimes shipments can be sub-contracted 3-5 times before you would reach the person in control of the delivery or vehicle. Check that your freight forwarder is in direct control of your shipments, this avoids lengthy lines of communication if there is a problem or a query on a shipment.

07. Experience

There is no substitute for experience. A good freight forwarder will have at least five years of experience in the industry. This experience will help the customer avoid any potential pitfalls with regard to customs clearance and documentation. A good freight forwarder will have a general knowledge of all forms of transport and will be able to draw from personal experience as opposed to just relaying information.

08. Reviews

A good freight forwarder will obviously have a portfolio of happy regular clients who would provide testimonials. Ask your freight forwarder to supply you with the names and telephone numbers of some customers who use their services and give them a call. There is nothing more powerful than a positive recommendation.

09. Size of company

As a general rule, small to medium-sized freight companies give good all-round service. They have lower overheads and therefore require lower profit margins. Smaller companies are also more flexible and do not suffer from big company politics. At larger companies, the staff can be less motivated and you may have to talk to a multitude of people about one shipment.

10. Professionalism

There are many factors that can affect all types of shipping like weather, Government bodies (like Port Health & HM Customs), human error, language and technical problems. A good freight forwarder will have systems in place to track shipments and will inform the customer of any delays or problems. It is impossible to guarantee all transit times but the difference between a good international freight forwarding company and a bad one can make an existing problem much worse. We can all take bad news as long as we are informed of the situation and offered the next best solution. A good freight forwarder will keep their customers informed at all times including at weekends and evenings. If handled correctly the way a freight forwarder deals with a potentially disastrous situation can cement the forwarder/client relationship.

Ultimately, choosing a freight forwarder is about finding a partner that aligns with your specific logistical needs and business objectives. 

If you need assistance in finding a suitable freight forwarder or require specific information, don’t hesitate to contact Barrington Freight. With over 35 years of experience in the industry, we are well-equipped to provide the guidance and support you need to make an informed decision: contact us today!

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We are friendly, easy to work with, honest and we do not charge the earth.
Joe Archer
Joe Archer
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Excellent service all round!
David Smith
David Smith
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Needed Help getting an odd piece of machinery from the EU and got all the help I needed.
Kay Sherry
Kay Sherry
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Simon Pool from Barrington freight was very helpful and door to door service to S.Korea was excellent, pick up and delivery services on time. I highly recommend Barrington Freight for air cargo services. Thank you Simon and the team! Kay
Daniel Gardner
Daniel Gardner
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The team at Barrington where incredible at delivering our goods on-time despite the new Brexit regulations on goods being imported. We even didn't pay tax on the returning shipment coming back to German.
Drewit Studio
Drewit Studio
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Brilliant service. Extremely helpful, and they supported us all the way through the process of transporting goods to mainland Europe, which for anyone who hasn't done that before can seem quite daunting. Would definitely recommend using this company.
Jason Scott
Jason Scott
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Working with Barrington was brilliant. They really looked out for us, tackling our tough shipping/freight requirements keeping us informed at every stage of the process. Thank you
James Ayre
James Ayre
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kept up to date with all progress, i know they had a particularly troubling time with import customs messing up paperwork but sorted all that out for me. highly reccomend will use again
Peter Seal
Peter Seal
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Excellent company, very efficient and great communication. Competitive , quick quotes!
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We are very satisfied, we would like to thank the team for this with an awesome rating! They handled the delivery of a very sensitive, valuable, gigantic pallet for us at a fair price and without any problems. I mean, out of 4 companies, only they were able to undertake it. Nothing is damaged! We recommend the company to everyone :)
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Barrington Freight Ltd,
Bowden House,
Luckyn Lane, Basildon,
Essex SS14 3AX