This chapter covers how to go about requesting a freight quote (RFQ) and then selecting which quote to accept.
Prepare Before You Request A Freight Quote
The right time to start requesting quotes is about two weeks before the shipment is ready for pickup. You will want to be able to compare several quotes, but also make an allowance for some forwarders not getting back to you with a freight quote.
Get your supplier to email you copies of the commercial invoice and packing list. While you’re at it, if applicable, get them to send the certificate of origin, MSDS, and fumigation certificate. They’ll be needed soon after you accept a quote. That said, some forwarders will chase these documents up for you. All of these documents are covered in the Shipping Basics chapter.
Forwarders should all be requiring the same basic information, starting with your and your supplier’s contact details, and the pickup and delivery contact details.
If the shipment is door to door, you’ll need both end’s address details. Zip codes are sometimes sufficient at this stage, but the more detail you give, the better. If the origin or destination address is a port, you could quickly check their code with this airport code locator or seaport code locator.
Here’s what else you should prepare before quoting. You can also use this as a checklist when you are requesting quotes:
|Shipment Weight||This is recorded on the packing list. If you get freight quotes back for a different weight, read up on dimensional weight in the Shipping Basics chapter.|
|Shipment Volume||This is also on the packing list. If the quote request form has a total volume field, use a cubic meter calculator that converts from inches (if required) to calculate the “CBM”.|
|Shipment Ready Date||Once you supplier confirms this, you can determine when you should start requesting quotes.|
|Mode||Freight quote forms expect you to know whether you want an air freight or ocean freight quote, and if you want LCL or FCL. The Mode Selection chapter covers this in detail.|
|Official Product Description||This is recorded on the commercial invoice.|
|Shipment Value||Forwarders need this if you are taking out cargo insurance with them.|
|HS Code||The Importer & Customs Responsibilities chapter explains why this code is relevant. Your product’s HS code should also be recorded on the commercial invoice.|
|Cargo Insurance||You should request cargo insurance when you request a quote. This is covered in more detail in the Cargo Insurance chapter.|
|Incoterm||This is the freight term, for instance, “EXW” or “FOB Nanjing”, recorded on your purchase order or purchase agreement.|
|Shipment Delivery Date||This helps forwarders filter out options that will take too long.|
Use the form’s comments field to let them know that you are looking for a competitive price or a speedy shipment. Let them know if you have a hard deadline for delivery.
Forwarders act as agents for providing cargo insurance. They also act as agents for customs brokers (or provide the service in-house). Their forms should ask whether you want them to arrange both services. The Freight Forwarders chapter goes into forwarding and customs broking in more detail.
Request A Freight Quote
It’s hard to find forwarder reviews online. That means, if you are looking for a forwarder, you should ask around. Ask other smaller businesses you know of who make international shipments whether they would recommend their forwarder on price and on service.
- Online Form. Check out your shortlisted forwarder’s website for an RFQ form, or failing that a basic contact form. Mark your checklist as you go through completing their form. If there’s anything still left on the checklist, add it to their comments field.
- Email. If they don’t have an online form, there’ll be a contact email address somewhere on their corporate site. If instead, you phone them to request a quote, you should still follow up by email. Simply copy and paste quote your prep list (above) straight onto the email. Finish by asking them to confirm receipt of your email, so you’re not left waiting.
Expert TipInstant online freight marketplaces are a new way to request a quote once but receive responses from multiple forwarders. Better still, you don’t have to wait for a response because the forwarders rates are already loaded into the system and they are all in the same format. Some marketplaces have features that make it simple to choose the best quote, by price, transit time or forwarder rating.
Select The Right Quote
As each quote comes in, carefully check that they got your details right. Freight quotes can take a bit of getting used to because each forwarder has a different quote layout, some charges go by different names, and charges are rolled up differently.
Check that the transit time is for the entire shipment and not just the main transit leg. Work out whether the transit time adequately fits your schedule. You should build a bigger buffer for delays for ocean freight than with air.
If you want to understand the line items on your quotes, use this guide on common freight charges.
Confirm The Booking
Once you accept a quote with the forwarder, they will book a space, or “slot”, on a ship or plane. Your forwarder will need you to have completed the shipper’s letter of instruction document, although, in practice, forwarders often complete this for you. This is where those other documents mentioned at the beginning of this chapter comes in. The Shipping Basics chapter covers the shipper’s letter of instruction and those other documents.
The forwarder will also need you to sign their forwarder contract (“T&Cs”) so that they can start work on the shipment, and a power of attorney (POA) form so that they can represent Customs on your behalf.
Your supplier should do this, but also, as a courtesy, let your supplier know.
- Request the commercial invoice, packing list, and potentially other documents, from your supplier and make a quote prep list before requesting freight quotes.
- Approach several forwarders for quotes so that you can compare quotes. Allow for some forwarders not responding to your request.
- Ask around for recommended forwarders, then request quotes from each forwarder’s online form or by email. Alternatively, use an online freight marketplace.
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