The Freight Forwarder manages the movement of freight from one location to another on behalf of a customer. They generally do this on a commercial basis and within a strong legal and financial framework. The modes of transport may include road, rail, air or sea, or a combination of these. The Freight Forwarder requires specific expertise to ensure that all necessary documentation conforms to the requirements of customs, insurance and the law (IATA Conventions, Maritime Law, ICC Codes and any international regulations governing international transportation).
This work role may be part of a large or small logistics organization with the main purpose of moving freight on behalf of other organizations and individuals. It may also be situated within a national or international supply chain.
The work environment for the Freight Forwarder is normally an office equipped with ITC services. The scope of the role will be determined by the size of the organization; generally, the larger the organization the more specialized the role will be. Specialist functions may also be outsourced or subcontracted to agents. However broad or narrow the role, its core is the preparation of quotations, the processing of orders and the calculation of costs and price. The Freight Forwarder deals with written and telephone correspondence, sometimes using two or more languages, normally including English. They also prepare delivery notes and deal with complaints. In smaller, less compartmentalized organizations the Freight Forwarder may also need to coordinate transport and warehousing. Increasingly this role operates in a paperless environment.
Although the Freight Forwarder is individually responsible for the quality of their own work, since the movement of freight is a 24-hour operation, they have a mutual dependency on both other Freight Forwarders and also the broader quality of the organization’s procedures and systems. The Freight Forwarder is the customer-facing part of the organization, whose transactions lead to contracts which must be robust, cost-effective and encourage repeat business. The quality of the Freight Forwarder’s communication with the customer from initial enquiry through to safe delivery is vital. This is especially the case with customer complaints, which require a close knowledge of each stage of the agreed service and efficient problem solving within the given procedures.
The Freight Forwarder is dependent on each stage of the freight moving process working as intended. Therefore, their work will be affected by many human and non-human factors. Locally and nationally there are seasonal factors, including weather and major festivals and holidays, and also infrastructural factors. For international freight, the factors multiply, one of the greater complexities being customs. Depending on the place of the organization within the market for logistics and supply, some freight may require exceptional care, or urgency, or priority treatment. So although the Freight Forwarder works within tight procedures, they must also be highly responsive to the large and small issues that impact on their role daily or occasionally.
Freight forwarding and supply is a growing sector; this is a long-term trend associated with globalization. Therefore, it is a very attractive area for employment. At the same time, the sector is very vulnerable to the disruptive impact of technology on a large and rapid scale as networks are integrated and robotics advance. A Freight Forwarder who has the capacity to be both exact and responsive as required will be in a strong position to take advantage of this volatility and growth for the benefit of both commerce and society