In life, it’s so easy to shoot the messenger when the fault lies elsewhere.
In our industry, how often is it that the conscientious freight forwarder is made the scapegoat for events which may be way beyond his control?
Of course, we’d be the first to recognise that it’s easy to pass the blame when things get heated – especially when deadlines are tight and there’s pressure to move a precious consignment speedily to the other side of the world.
After all, we work in a high pressure environment and if you don’t like the heat…..
Nevertheless, even the best laid plans can go pear-shaped – especially when ‘Mr Sod’ and ‘Mr Law’ start getting involved.
Heard of the saying, “failing to plan, means planning to fail”? Those succinct few words could have been written with the freight forwarding business in mind.
After decades of industry experience, we’ve encountered pretty much all the trials and tribulations associated with freighting - relating to transport, customs, insurance, local red tape and regulation and more besides. And that’s before we mention the weather and other external factors that can conspire to derail a perfectly planned operation.
So let’s start at the beginning, the point where the freight forwarder can potentially find himself in the firing line – the quotation stage.
First and foremost – and our regular clients will understand this – at Efficient Freight we will do our utmost to provide an accurate quote. But this will largely be governed by the accuracy of the information provided.
If the information we work from turns out to be wrong - however unintentionally – then this won’t just have a bearing on the overall price of the job – it could mean the difference between your cargo arriving on time at its destination and/or missing the boat altogether.
Why would this be the case?
For instance, if the weight is wrong, this could easily delay the shipment, because all shipments are check weighed in accordance with numerous safety regulations. And if they bust the scales, then the consignment won’t be loaded.
Similarly, if the expected size turns out to be wrong, this can also hold up departure. For instance, if the cargo is taller than advised, then it might not fit on the intended aircraft or in the container. Back to square one.
So you can understand that if the actual cost of the job turns out to be more than we quoted, then we’ll be upset. Worse still, if we attempt to expedite things and find a solution so that the shipment can proceed, but the customer refuses to pay the shortfall, then that’s another reason why we would get upset. It does happen.
It could be more than money that’s at stake, however.
For instance, if it is found that a consignment includes some undeclared cargo classified as hazardous, this won’t just delay the shipment, it could result in a hefty fine and even a prison sentence for the client in question.
Likewise, if the paperwork contains false values, this too could prevent freight leaving or being impounded - and also result in the client spending time behind bars.
Taking criminality out of the equation – there are many other reasons why freight doesn’t arrive when it should, for which we often take the blame.
On occasions where there is too much cargo en route to a particular destination – and this can happen a lot - then carriers stop accepting bookings. They simply place an embargo on that route. So a word of advice - always, always, always, book as far in advance as possible. It’s not always easy to do so, but please do so, if you can.
And then there are those age old factors that can derail even the most detailed planning.
Have you heard about the weather? If it’s windy at Felixstowe, then the docks close. If it’s snowing, deliveries are indefinitely delayed!
Have you heard about the M25? Sometimes (often!) it comes to a standstill – which can have a huge knock-on effect in delaying freight.
Despite this hi-tech age of instant communication, sadly none of the above scenarios can be fixed by pressing a key on a computer. They can only be remedied by a human being – and preferably one with plenty of experience in dealing under pressure. Where time is money, prompt reaction is imperative. Not hollering and screaming, but working calmly to achieve a satisfactory outcome.
Problem solving – firefighting if you will – is all in a day’s work for your friendly, fraught, freight-forwarder. Trying saying that after a few drinks!
These are typical situations we are faced with sorting out. In the vast majority of cases, none will actually be our fault but, hey, what can you do? Who will fix the problem, if not the man in the middle?
So to ensure your consignment travels on time, arrives on time and all the paperwork is present and correct, we strongly advise you do everything you can to ensure the accuracy of the information you provide.
Of course, there are some things that no one can predict – and if a back-up plan is available to skirt round the problem, then all well and good. We’ve been known to have a few of those up our sleeve!
Above all, good communication is the route to effective freight forwarding. Talk to us, keep us in the loop. If there are last minute changes or circumstances that we aren’t aware of, please let us know.
We are all human, we are all fallible. We aren’t computers, but we will always do our utmost to ensure your freight arrives safely and punctually.
So, please, no shooting………