First forwarders appeared in Europe in the 16th century and managed horse-drawn transport. Later, as maritime trade developed, they expanded their activities and started to organize and supervise transport. However, the strongest development of a forwarder’s position took place in the 19th century when rail gained much recognition. Together with further progress and development of transport methods, the will of forwarders evolved and their scope of duties extended. What their work is like today and what functions do the land transport forwarders perform?

Freight forwarding

To explain in detail the role of a forwarder we need to start with a short definition of a term “freight forwarding”. It is an economic activity consisting in the organization of carriage of goods at the commission of legal entities or natural persons. Such activities take place with the use of properly selected means of transport and transport infrastructure. Freight forwarding is closely related to a number of additional activities necessary due to the nature of transport orders. Thus, freight forwarding is the management of the whole transport logistics.

There are many companies operating on Polish and foreign markets that provide forwarding services and have their own fleet, warehouse facilities and handling terminals.

In Europe, ca. 50-60% of loads are transported by road vehicles. In Poland, the number of loads transported by road vehicles amounts to as many as 83%. Consequently, freight forwarding usually deals with domestic and international road transport. Enterprises engaged in freight forwarding and road transport activities normally serve more than one route. However, they specialize in individual areas, e.g., Scandinavian, Western European or Asian countries or conduct their activities only within Poland.

Who is a forwarder?

In simple words, today a forwarder is the organizer of the whole transport process. As a result of significant changes that occurred on forwarding services market over the last few years, both the role and functions of a forwarder have been evolving and expanding. Domestic and international road transport processes are becoming more advanced and complex. A growing number of new coordination systems and legal requirements drive a forwarder to continual self-improvement and active development of their expertise.

Who can be a forwarder?

A road transport forwarder may be anyone who has basic knowledge in the area. Such a person does not need experience, however, they should be willing to undergo several months of training and be aware that necessary skills and efficiency in the field come after a year or so of practice. Knowledge of foreign languages such as English or German constitutes an important asset of a person applying for the position of a forwarder. If a company transports goods to Eastern Europe, then command of Russian will certainly be an advantage. A forwarder must have well-developed spatial imagination, perceptiveness, quick orientation, associating abilities and multitasking skills. Surely, such traits as accuracy, self-control and high sense of responsibility for entrusted tasks will be necessary in their everyday work. He or she may be called a road transport manager so the organizational skills and ability to make quick decisions are also very important.

A person starting to work as a forwarder must be prepared to work with many people, often under time pressure. Such work requires building long-term relations with clients and dealing with lots of stress. Sometimes, a forwarder must be available 24 hours a day. Nevertheless, although a forwarder must work at full capacity, the job brings a considerable amount of positive emotions. Timely completion of tasks and successful fulfillment of road transport orders give a lot of satisfaction and encourage them to meet new challenges.

Forwarder’s functions

Duties of road transport forwarders include advisory and documentation functions. This means that before concluding and during drawing up of a contract for a service provision, a forwarder cooperates with an ordering party and prepares necessary contracts and documents. Additionally, a forwarder’s tasks comprise the organization of road carriage if it becomes necessary to outsource such a service. Whereas, if an enterprise has its own carriers, a forwarder performs activities associated with transport of loads in a direct manner. They are not a driver of a commercial vehicle but they organize and supervise the whole process. A forwarder fulfilling a given order must also settle the costs of all transactions.

It must be noted that a forwarder is not a direct carrier. He or she is the organizer of a carriage process, therefore they act as an intermediary between an ordering party (a natural person or a business entity) and carriers responsible for carrying goods. Demand for forwarders’ services has been steadily growing. This is mainly due to the fact that most European territories were integrated into one economic “organism” and due to dynamic development of economy. The economic globalization sets and will continue to set new requirements for forwarders. In order to become a forwarder, it is not required to have long-term experience. All one needs to start working as a forwarder are eagerness and readiness to learn and take up new challenges.