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Shipping: How to ensure your goods are handled properly

SAFE AND SOUND: A vehicle being loaded on a container before shipment

AS WE move into the last quarter of the year and the shipping season intensifies, the question as to which shipping firm to go with is centred largely on which freight forwarder will be used to make sure your goods arrive safely at the other end. Choosing the right forwarding partner can be a daunting task.

Freight forwarders are providing crucial services in the transportation industry. As they are in charge of storing and shipping your goods, often your business’ success is tightly linked to the quality of their work and their reliability.

So, how do you choose a good freight forwarder which is legitimate and trustworthy? Here are seven tips to guide you in your selection of a freight forwarder, so you can be sure you’re making a good move:

1. BE CLEAR ON WHAT YOUR STORAGE AND SHIPPING NEEDS ARE

The first step in selecting the best forwarding service for your business is to define what your needs are. Determine the types of services you would like to have, the modes of transportation and the average volume of shipments. This basic information is crucial for your selection and for the forwarder’s ability to judge if they can do the job for you.

2. SEE IF THE FORWARDER MEETS YOUR REQUIREMENTS

Once you clarify internally the specificities of your forwarding needs, it’s time to do your homework. You have to research a few viable forwarding services in detail, checking whether they offer the type of services at the needed quality that you require. It’s important to get acquainted with the terms and conditions, industry terms and legal framework.

3. ASSESS THE FORWARDER'S EXPERIENCE AND CREDENTIALS

When you identify a good forwarding service that meets your basic requirements, you need to check if it can truly deliver what it promises. Has it worked with your type of cargo before? Do you trust it to know how to handle your goods and to prevent problems? If it has enough experience, it would be able to tackle unforeseen difficulties, such as strikes and shutdowns, rerouting cargo or customs problems. You need to be sure that it has the knowhow, so requiring references is a good idea.

4. CHECK IF YOUR PARTNER IS PROPERLY BONDED

Besides practical experience, it’s important that your freight forwarder is financially stable. Forwarders are required to obtain a freight broker bond get their operating authority. The bond is issued only after a complete assessment of financial status. Plus, it guarantees you compensation in case they do run into trouble.

5. INQUIRE ABOUT THE FORWARDER'S NETWORK

The company handling your cargo may be great, but if it is not well-connected with other forwarders and transportation companies it might still not be able to deliver the services you need. Make sure that the forwarder you choose has a wide network of agents and partners from where you are shipping and in the country where the goods will arrive. Check out their carrier contracts—the more diverse and numerous they are, the safer its operations are.

6. MAKE SURE YOUR FORWARDER IS A MEMBER OF PROFESSIONAL ORGANISATIONS

Reputable freight forwarders would also be part of professional networks. Before you start using their services, inquire as to whether they are a part of a trade association, freight forwarding circle or other network. Typically, membership in such organisations requires proving professionalism, legitimacy, efficiency and financial solidity. Naturally, you’d like your forwarder of choice to have all of these qualities.

7. TEST THE QUALITY OF THE CUSTOMER SERVICE

Last, but not least, you need to make sure your freight forwarding company knows how to communicate well with its customers. Even before you start using its services, you can judge its customer service quality. For example, if you have to speak to a few people to handle one question, or you have to wait for a long time on the phone line, these signs are definitely troubling. The level of service you receive is crucial, especially if there is a problem with your shipments, so don’t settle for an inferior choice.

Vic Lance is the founder and president of Lance Surety Bond Associates based in Michigan, US. He is a surety bond expert who helps freight brokers get licensed and bonded.

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