Freight forwarders handle the shipment of freight across several carriers and modes of transport. A freight forwarder will arrange carriage—from origin to destination—contracting with carriers that will handle the freight as well as processing any necessary paperwork. Typically, freight forwarders are hired to handle international freight shipments.

What to Expect from a Freight Forwarder

When you first contact a freight forwarding company, they should provide a quote for international shipping, including carrier charges, duties, insurance, and their forwarding fee. A freight forwarder should explain timelines, transfers, and transportation options. Versed in import, export, and customs laws, freight forwarders can advise you on the specific regulations regarding your shipment.

Once you hire a freight forwarder, they will arrange for space with carriers, verify insurance coverage, complete documentation, and help with packaging.

Freight Forwarding Costs

A freight forwarder charges a flat fee for their services. In addition, they handle payment for document processing, carrier costs, and other miscellaneous expenses. All charges should be included in your freight quote, so make sure your freight forwarder itemizes your invoice.

Things to ask before hiring a freight forwarder:
  • Is my freight traveling by ocean? If so, is my freight forwarder authorized by the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) to transport freight by ocean? (Note: US ocean freight forwarders must be registered with the FMC)


  • Is my freight traveling by air? If so, is my freight forwarder authorized by the International Air Transport Association? (Note: While this is not legally required of air freight forwarders, it does indicate the company operates with high standards.)
  • Does my freight forwarder have a good reputation with freight carriers as well as previous customers?
  • Does my freight forwarder have a large network of carriers, both domestic and international?
  • How do they stay in touch with carriers (online, by phone, etc.)?
  • Does my freight forwarder have the resources and services that I require?
  • Does my freight forwarder provide ample cargo insurance as well as “errors and omissions insurance”?
  • Is my freight forwarder professional, friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful?

    airliner with a globe and autoloader with boxes in a container