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what is a freight forwarder

Freight Forwarder

Chart a course to success with our freight forwarder service! From complex logistics to seamless solutions, we navigate the shipping world for you. Explore our dynamic services and embark on a journey of efficiency and growth today!

What is a Freight Forwarder?

Freight forwarders work with logistics companies to determine the most cost-effective and efficient transportation routes for their shipments. In choosing the most efficient modes of transportation, forwarders consider factors such as the products, weather, destination, time constraints, and budget. Forwarders arrange the transportation and storage of freight for shippers. Unlike a freight broker, a freight forwarder takes a hands-on approach by accepting the responsibility of their customer’s cargo in their stead, making them responsible for the potential damage—or worse, loss—of the shipment. They have their own Bill of Lading and occasionally have warehouses to store goods. 

Freight forwarders utilize their relationships to negotiate the best prices for cargo shipping. These moves occur along the most effective routes through a bidding /contract process. Ultimately, the goal is to find a carrier that provides the best cost, speed, and reliability balance. Forwarders also handle the logistics required for shipping goods internationally. This is a complex burden for most clients that is best left to the help of professionals. Forwarders are incredibly important to the logistics and supply chain sector. They provide customer support, answer questions, provide guidance and updates, and provide a point of contact for shippers throughout the process.


Value Added Services Include:

  • Negotiating freight charges
  • Preparing shipment documents
  • Freight transportation & consolidation
  • Taking care of freight space
  • Tracking shipments
  • Warehousing & Storage Services
  • Freight Insurance & Customs Compliance
  • Filing freight insurance
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What our customers are saying

We provide competitive freight shipping prices and an all-inclusive, easy-to-use shipping experience for our customers. Exceeding our customers’ expectations results in thousands of satisfied customer reviews and repeat business. We believe in the power of our customer relationships. Check out FreightCenter reviews from real customers, and learn what they have to say about their freight shipping experience!

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Awards and Endorsements

  • 2021 Food Logistics’ Top Green Providers
  • 2021, 2017 & 2016 Food Logistics’ Top Green Providers
  • 2021 & 2018 Supply & Demand Chain Executives’ Pros to Know: Matthew Brosious
  • 2020 & 2019 Top Food Logistics’ 3PL & Cold Storage Provider Award
  • 2020 & 2019 Business Observer’s Top 500 Companies on the Gulf Coast
  • 2020 & 2017 SmartWay® Transport Partner
  • 2020 & 2017 Food Logistics’ Champions: Rock Stars of the Supply Chain
  • 2020 Best of Palm Harbor Awards for Local Businesses
  • 2017 Green Supply Chain Award from Supply & Demand Chain Executive
  • 2017 Tampa Bay Business Journal Heroes at Work
  • 2016, 2015, & 2012 Food Logistics Top 100 Software and Technology Providers
  • 2013 Top 100 Great Supply Chain Partners by SupplyChainBrain
  • 2012 TIA Samaritan Award Honorable Mention
  • 2012, 2011 & 2010 TBBJ Fast 50 Recipient
  • 2013, 2011, & 2010 Diversity Business Top Businesses
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Why Choose FreightCenter?

When you choose to work with us, you are choosing to make your shipping process seamless. Here are just some of the benefits partnering with FreightCenter will have on your shipping experience:

  • When you partner with FreightCenter, a premier 3PL (Third Party Logistics) company with over twenty-four years of experience within the logistics industry, you are choosing the path of success. Over twenty-five years, our team has dealt with nearly every shipment imaginable. We are ready and qualified to help you with any and every shipment!
  • FreightCenter employs a knowledgeable staff that is always willing to learn and grow with industry changes and advancements. Our freight experts stay ahead of the curve and are always informed of the latest logistics transitions and developments. Our team is prepared to answer any questions you have throughout your shipping experience!
  • As the middleman between you and your carrier, our freight agents relieve you from the worry of playing phone tag with your trucker. Your agent will act as the freight liaison, communicating directly between you and the carrier and providing updates and clarity in the logistics process.  
  • At FreightCenter, we secure the best carrier and routes for you at the best price! Forget spending hours figuring out the logistics or searching for a worthwhile deal. Our freight experts handle the logistics, make insurance easy, and help you find the best insurance providers for full or partial shipments. The benefits continue; we also arrange pickups and drop-offs and provide tracking numbers, keeping you updated every step of the way. 


Your Total Freight Solution

We offer significant volume discounts from today’s top U.S. trucking companies. Our services are a total freight solution for all your transport needs, whether in the first or last mile. Our dedicated freight agents will handle your booking, paperwork, and scheduling, recommend the best-fit carriers, and provide online tracking for every shipment. Get a free online quote today, or contact one of our expert agents at 800.716.7608. Now, what are you waiting for? Call FreightCenter today to set up your account and discuss your shipment options! Our team is ready to answer your questions and provide finely-tailored solutions! We look forward to partnering with you! Start the process by getting a free online quote, and call us at 800.716.7068!

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FreightCenter by the numbers
25 Years In Business
1.5m+ LTL Shipments Delivered
93% On-time Performance
99.1% Damage Free LTL Shipments

Freight Forwarder Essential Responsibilities

As you can tell, freight forwarders have many essential responsibilities. Some typical tasks and responsibilities include shipment planning and coordination, transportation selection, booking, consolidation and deconsolidation, customs, tracking, and reporting duties. They also handle extensive documentation, which includes bills of lading, commercial invoices, customs documentation, certificates of origin, and much more. Regarding the booking side of the logistics operation, forwarders negotiate rates, arrange bookings, optimize cargo loading, and help with customs clearance. They ensure goods comply with import/export regulations, customs duties, and taxes are paid, and any necessary inspections are taken care of.

Risk management is a massive part of a freight forwarder’s day-to-day responsibilities. They help customers obtain insurance to protect against loss and damage and advise on the best types of insurance and coverage for your shipments. Real-time tracking and reporting services provided by forwarders allow greater visibility into your supply chain. S me forwarders also offer warehousing and distribution services such as storage and order fulfillment. Due to their experience and expertise, freight forwarders are adept at handling risk management.

Regarding the logistics of international cargo shipping, there are many details to consider. I porting and exporting goods is essential for many large and small businesses. While shipping internationally provides substantial business opportunities, it may seem daunting. Working with a freight forwarder can ease the stress of booking an international shipment alone. 

While forwarders handle these shipments, getting a handle on what they don’t do is vital. That said, there is one golden rule to consider regarding the forwarders. In most cases, they do not move the cargo but act as intermediaries. Forwarders are the step between shipping customers and the transportation services carrying the cargo. This applies to ocean freight, land transportation, air freight, rail services, etc. Forwarders will use their bill of ladings or waybills. Destination agents, the forwarders on the consignee’s freight forwarders overseas, step in. These agents provide delivery of documents, deconsolidation, and collection or delivery. In layman’s terms, they are an entity that arranges the import and export of cargo.

Freight Forwarders vs Freight Brokers

Freight brokers and forwarders both play an integral role within the freight industry. Both sectors coordinate freight movement for a third party, connect shippers and carriers, negotiate freight rates, provide tracking, and ensure delivery. The choice between which service to use, broker vs. forwarder, will depend on the shipper’s specific needs and preferences. 

The broker’s focus on negotiation and coordination distinguishes freight forwarders from freight brokers. A freight broker coordinates the connection between shippers and carriers but does not handle freight directly. A freight forwarder takes possession of the cargo and often stores, packs, and ships it. Forwarders are logistics experts who manage the entire shipping process and offer a broader range of logistics services than freight brokers, often offering additional value-added services beyond transportation coordination. 

Finely-tailored freight solutions

To create value for our customers by delivering customized shipping solutions that meet their unique needs and to fulfill shipping demands from simple to complex with expertise, guidance and ingenuity.

LTL Shipping

Rely on FreightCenter's professionals for competitive LTL freight rates and a wide range of shipping options.

Full Truckload

We offer customized solutions for full and partial truckloads, including dry van, flatbed, and refrigerated freight. Trust us to fulfill all your full truckload shipping needs.

Expedited Service

Our Nationwide Expedited Trucking services ensure the secure and swift movement of your freight, whether it's a single large box or a full truckload. Our freight shipping experts are equipped to deliver your shipment quickly.

Specialized Freight Shipping

Access reliable rates for specialized freight services from top carriers with just a few simple steps. Whether you require white glove service or international shipping, we've got you covered.

Flatbed Trucking:

Flatbed trucks offer versatility for secure transport of oversized or uniquely shaped cargo.

Intermodal Transportation:

Enhance your shipping strategy by incorporating multiple modes of transportation, such as trucking and rail, to improve efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Rail Freight:

For long distances or multiple packages, use rail transport for shipping.

Ocean Freight:

Transport goods in containers aboard cargo ships for international shipping.

Air Freight:

If you need to make a time-sensitive delivery, it is recommended to choose air transportation.

Cross-Border Trucking:

Transporting packages across international borders has never been easier! With our reliable and efficient trucking services, you can rest assured that your packages will arrive at their destination safely and on time.

Heavy Haul Trucking:

Engage specialized heavy haul trucking services for oversized or cumbersome shipments.

Third-Party Logistics (3PL) Provider

A third-party logistics provider is a company that offers enhanced and cost-efficient supply chain and logistics solutions to other businesses.

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History Of Freight Forwarding

Freight forwarding has existed in one form or another for thousands of years. The history of what eventually paved the way for modern logistics began in ancient regions and civilizations such as the Sumerians, Egyptians, and Phoenicians, who engaged in long-distance trade. Over time, the need for safe and efficient transportation jumpstarted various evolutions in shipping methods and trade routes.

The earliest civilizations used caravans, pack animals, and boats to ship their freight. They eventually developed waterways and extensive roadways in the Roman Empire and used great ships during the Middle Ages. The Age of Exploration led to new trade routes and established maritime trade networks. Later on, the Industrial Revolution led to the development of railways and steamships.

One of the earliest modern-day freight forwarders was Thomas Meadows of Company Limited in London, England, established in 1835. The creation of reliable freight transportation and steamships in the era led to the demand for a freight forwarding industry. Trade was burgeoning between Europe and North America, which only increased demand. Freight forwarding, which best represents freight forwarding today, began with innkeepers in London. These workers held and re-forwarded the personal belongings of their hotel guests. 

Innkeepers would arrange for carriages by contracting with various carriers. Some original forwarding responsibilities included documentation advice and customs requirements in the destination country. The overseas corresponding agent would look after the forwarder’s customers’ goods while keeping him informed about matters affecting the movement of goods.

 In the 19th century, the telegraph would even begin playing a role in improved communication and efficiency. Another massive development in freight forwarding was containerization, which made it much easier for forwarders to handle, transport, and track products. The development of air freight expedited the speed of international trade. Meanwhile, the era of globalization and advanced tech advancements occurred in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Using the Internet, streamlined communication, and tracking helped catapult logistics into today’s modern era. 

In modern times, the freight forwarder accepts the same responsibilities. It operates as a domestic carrier with a corresponding overseas agent or branch office. In a single transaction, the forwarder may act as a freight carrier (principal), freight agent, or both. Today, freight forwarding involves utilizing a network of logistics providers, carriers, and advanced logistics and tracking technologies. Many logistics and freight forwarding companies offer comprehensive services from warehousing to customs clearance. 



Q. How do freight forwarders charge for their services?


Weight and volume of cargo directly contribute to the charges accrued and the handling fees for logistics and shipment documentation. Additional customs clearance, cargo insurance, warehousing, and distribution fees may apply. 

Q. Do freight forwarders specialize in specific industries or goods?


Many forwarders specialize in specific goods and industries, allowing them to cater to requirements and regulations easily. Forwarders specialize in pharmaceuticals, perishable goods, oversized cargo, and hazardous materials. Specialization allows for logistical compliance and greater expertise.

Q. Can freight forwarders handle the disposal or returns of unsold or defective products?


Some freight forwarders offer disposal or return services for defective or unsold products. Speak to your chosen forwarder to ensure they provide the services you need. 

Q. Can freight forwarders assist with navigating complex free trade agreements (FTAs) and preferential trade programs?


Freight forwarders have expertise and experience navigating these often complex agreements. They can provide requirement insights, documentation, and information on various benefits associated with different trade agreements. 

Q. Can freight forwarders assist in resolving disputes or claims related to lost and damaged cargo during transit?


Yes, forwarders play a role in resolving disputes and claims over lost or damaged cargo during transit. Forwarders are involved in the documentation, communication, negotiation, and settlement of claims. They can also guide on prevention and insurance to help mitigate potential loss. Forwarders can help leverage trade agreements to reduce tariffs and trade barriers, ensure compliance, and optimize supply chain efficiency. 

Q. Do freight forwarders provide insights into potential geopolitical risks impacting freight movement?


Yes, freight forwarders stay on top of political events and developments, trade tensions, and any regulatory changes across the globe. Forwarders assess geopolitical factors and potential risks and can recommend alternative shipping routes. Through proactive communication and careful risk assessment, forwarders help shippers avoid loss, damage, and delays. 

Q. What is a document transfer fee?


Document transfer fees are charges related to transferring or exchanging shipping-related documents between transaction parties, whether that involves the shipper, forwarders, carriers, or customs authorities. The fee can cover admin costs and other transportation and customs clearance fees. 

Q. What is a document handover fee?


This charge is associated with the physical and electronic handover of logistics documents from one party to another within the supply chain. It covers the costs of transferring essential documentation and can be applied when documents change hands between entities. Specific handover fees are usually outlined in the contractual agreements or terms of service between the parties involved in the transfer of documents.