Staying Informed Can Help You Pick The Best Logistics Service

10 questions to ask freight forwarder

Cargo shipping and transport is a valuable service, utilized by countless industries worldwide. However, not everyone knows exactly what they need or how to facilitate the import or export of goods. That’s where a 3PL comes in, also known as a third-party logistics company.

Freight forwarding companies can help you coordinate shipments both domestic and international. Ideally, you can find a company that offers full-scale services to help you with every aspect of the process. Finding the right one can take some time, therefore ask questions so that you can be sure they can take care of your shipping needs. Here’s a list of vital questions you should ask and know their answers before moving forward with a freight forwarding company.

Before Hiring, Be Sure to Ask

1. Are You Licensed?

Before you go anywhere in the hiring process, be sure to find out if a valid licensing agency has certified the freight forwarder you are interviewing. This will validate that they have been adequately screened and that they met all the necessary licensing requirements. Our company, for example, has the following credentials:

  • Licensed by the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) as a Freight Forwarder and as a Non-Vessel Operating Common Carrier (NVOCC)
  • Our Customs Brokers are licensed by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
  • Certified as an Indirect Air Carrier (IAC) by the Transportation Security Agency (TSA)
  • In-Bond Export Consolidation (IBEC) and Container Freight Station (CFS) credentials, licensed by the CBP
  • Certified by CBP under their security program, Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (CTPAT)
  • Certified by the Department of Transportation (DOT) to handle dangerous goods

2. Do You Provide Cargo Insurance?

In many cases, importers and exporters make the mistake of assuming that the carrier automatically provides insurance that will cover the cargo. Unfortunately, however, this is false. Unless the company issues you an insurance certificate your shipment is uninsured by the carrier, and it will be under your responsibility. We highly recommend that you ask your potential Freight Forwarder if they offer cargo insurance and their rates.

3. Can You Help Me Clear My Shipment Through Customs?

Unless you are working with a freight company that is also a Licensed US Customs Broker, your logistics company will leave clearing shipments and submitting paperwork to the US Customs and Border Protection agency entirely up to you. The trouble is, this is an essential service in the supply chain and it can disrupt the process of getting your cargo to its final destination within the designated time frame.

Additionally, if your freight forwarder does not offer customs brokerage, you’ll have to find a separate company to handle the clearance of your import shipment. Promptus is Licensed by the US Customs and Border Protection agency to offer Customs Brokerage services in any port or airport in the United States.

4. What Does Your Rate Include?

As with any service you hire, you deserve to know exactly what you are paying for. Some freight forwarders may choose to present their rates as a lump sum or a totaled amount, which can work well if they detail their services in the quote. If the services are not transparent, be sure to ask. There are many fees involved in a simple transaction that companies might present in their own way. Here’s an example. Let’s say you need an LCL import shipment, your logistics bill might include the freight from origin to port of destination, but you might incur additional fees with the handling and storing charges of the deconsolidation warehouse at the arrival point.

5. What Are the Costs at the Destination (When Exporting)?

Here’s one you might not always think to ask. There will be costs at the destination, but these will vary depending on the carrier, the port, and the country of destination, etc. In many cases, the forwarder arranging the shipment can help give you an estimate of these costs, which you or the consignee of the shipment will have to pay at destination.

6. Are There Any Requirements to Be Aware of When Shipping to The Country of Destination?

Before arranging a shipment to any country, you should first find out if there are any specific regulations or requirements you need to be aware of to export your goods. Your logistics team or any freight forwarder you are considering should be able to inform you. Typically, the requirements are related to the type of cargo you are shipping.

For example, certain food products require a phytosanitary certificate, which must be issued by the US Department of Agriculture. Some countries will not accept your cargo unless the appropriate document has been issued by the proper entity in the country of origin. In cases like this, our team will guide you through the process.

7. Do You Have a Tracking System?

Tracking is an essential tool in today’s logistics world. For safety and security reasons, more and more customers are requesting real-time information and increased visibility on their cargo. Having this information gives customers peace of mind. Promptus uses a powerful transportation management system (TMS) that gives clients instant information for any shipments that we are assisting with. Our company provides access to documents, packing lists, commercial invoices, and will even provide pictures of your cargo if we receive it in our warehouse.

8. Do You Operate Your Warehouse?

While you might think this a given for a logistics company, with the ever-changing technologies in today’s virtual world, some freight forwarder can outsource their services. Be wary in these cases, as these companies might operate under the guise that their warehouse or services are under their direct supervision and control, even though this is untrue. While outsourced logistics certainly have their place, you have a right to know exactly who is handling your cargo. A freight forwarder that operates their own warehouse can be beneficial for you, as it allows you more control and flexibility over what happens with your goods.

9. How Quickly Can You Provide A Quote?

At Promptus, we believe that it shouldn’t take longer than 24-48 hours to deliver a quote, though some cases may require more time than others. The response time for a freight forwarding quote can vary based on the type of equipment, the country of origin, the kind of cargo, and other factors. At Promptus we will always tell the customer upfront the estimated time when they will receive our rates proposals.

10. What Options Do You Offer For Assisting With Import and Export Compliance?

As an importer or exporter, you are expected to comply with specific regulations and responsibilities. This is a crucial part of executing a successful transaction. Promptus takes pride in their experience and knowledge in the area of import and export compliance. Our goal is to guide you and simplify the process. We will also advise you of any responsibilities you should be aware of, such as declaring the cargo correctly, having the proper import permits or export licenses, paying any necessary duties and taxes to CBP, and more. Our team of experts has over 15 years of experience and is fully prepared to help you every step of the way.

Don’t Hesitate To Ask the Experts

Do you have more questions you’d like to ask to determine exactly what type of freight forwarding assistance you need? Promptus is happy to help! We specialize in a number of services, including ocean shipping, Customs Brokerage, and warehousing & distribution. We own our own facility, which is licensed as a Container Freight Station & IBEC to consolidate and deconsolidating import cargo, as well as to handle cargo in transit. Contact us today! We’d be happy to answer any additional questions and provide you with a Free Quote for your global logistics needs.