Between 2008 and 2018, employment of freight and cargo agents is expected to grow by 24 percent its 2008 national numbers of 85,900, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As part of this occupational growth, freight forwarders coordinate international multimodal transportation related to logistics, pricing, insurance, warehousing, trade customs, certain export trade regulations, and transport documentation. Freight forwarders use their knowledge of international freight cargo to ensure that exporters’ shipments are delivered economically, safely and in compliance with applicable laws.

Step 1

Learn about the international transportation process. A freight forwarding degree does not exist. Freight forwarding firms generally provide informal on-the-job training to employees new to the profession. Vocational schools, professional associations and transportation companies offer courses, seminars and workshops to assist freight forwarders to stay abreast of the ever changing developments that occur within the freight transportation industry. Also, fine tune your communication and administrative skills. International shipping for export trade involves parties that have significant financial investments in these global transactions. Freight forwarders must be skilled communicators, administrators and overall taskmasters when coordinating third-party services and monitoring transportation schedules.

Step 2

Study the documentation generated in international transportation transactions and the applicable regulations. Global transport is document-intensive, involving paperwork such as bills of lading, letters of credit and a wide assortment of customs documents. Freight forwarders handle pro forma invoicing, which are quotations for shipping rates. Freight forwarders are expected to have knowledge of U.S. export regulations because, in part, they might be called on by clients to determine whether shipping certain goods or products to a particular country is allowed and, if so, under what restrictions. Freight forwarders also require trade customs knowledge, such as about the Commodity Classification Automated Tracking System, which determines customs transportation pricing.

Step 3

Secure proper licensing, accreditation and certifications if you will operate individually or operate a freight forwarding firm. Ocean Transportation Intermediaries, which includes ocean freight forwarders and non-vessel operating common carriers, are subject to licensing, bonding and regulations established by the Federal Maritime Commission. Accreditation with the International Air Transport Association might also be required for freight forwarders that handle international air freight as a cargo agent. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has general jurisdiction over surface freight forwarder services. Depending on the scope of services you provide, other certifications, licensing and accreditation may apply.

Step 4

Develop a specialization. Some freight forwarders specialize in handling specific modes of transportation. Options include air, rail, ocean and in-land waterways. Join professional associations for freight forwarders, such as the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America, or NCBFAA, to access publications and resources, as well as to participate in educational seminars and workshops to gain specialized knowledge. For example, the NCBFAA provides detailed information about operating as an Ocean Transportation Intermediary, a specialty area for freight forwarders specifically coordinating ocean transport services.

  • Some freight forwarding companies handle freight packing, loading and warehousing.

Thanks to Vanessa Cross, Demand Media