How to Choose the Right Dangerous Goods Freight Forwarder

Posted on 5/11/2018 by Roseanne Bottone

A freight forwarder is a company that can assist you with the import and export of your goods. It provides a wide variety of services, including document preparation, booking cargo space, and negotiating freight charges on your behalf. For dangerous goods shippers, choosing the right freight forwarder is critical to ensure compliance and safe delivery of your cargo.

The freight forwarder acts as an intermediary between you (the shipper/offeror) and the carrier (e.g., the airline, rail carrier, vessel company, or trucking company). Freight forwarders also facilitate movement between modes of transportation (e.g., unloading a freight container from a truck and moving it onto a ship).

As a shipper, the responsibility for hazardous materials compliance ultimately rests with you. To protect your reputation (and avoid hazmat penalties now up to nearly $80K per day, per violation), you must carefully select potential partners who may impact the safety of your shipments.

Before You Choose a Freight Forwarder, Ask Yourself…

Before starting the selection process to find a freight forwarder, be prepared to answer specific questions:
  1. Do you need door-to-door or port-to-port (air or sea) service?

  2. What is the value, weight, and dimensions of your cargo? What type of packages will you ship—palletized drums, totes, ISO tanks?

  3. What special services will you need? These can include customs clearance (import and export compliance) and payment of duty; licenses, certificates, and authorizations; cargo consolidation; warehousing; and creation of shipping documents.  

  4. Will you ship by air using the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations or by vessel using the IMDG Code? Does the freight forwarder you are considering have experience with one or the other, or both?

  5. How will you communicate with your freight forwarder? Will the company provide you with a dedicated contact? Will you have a phone number to call or text, or will you use e-mail?

  6. What shipping providers does the freight forwarder use (i.e., airlines, vessel carriers, and ground transporters)?

Find a Hazmat Freight Forwarder Who Knows Your Business

Your freight forwarder will be an integral part of your logistics chain. For the company to serve you effectively, you must fully communicate your needs.

Several online sites (including and can help you compare freight-forwarding companies based on options, shipping mode, and price.

Price is important, but it should certainly not be your only consideration. Does the freight forwarder have expertise in, and is the company knowledgeable about, your industry and the countries you do business with? Is it well-versed in the 49 CFR Hazardous Materials Regulations as well as the IATA DGR and IMDG Code?

Are representatives available to answer your questions? Good customer service is essential. How will the freight forwarder handle crisis management? Will its employees be proactive in solving problems and keeping you in the loop?

Bonds and Financial Assurance for Freight Forwarders

Financial assurances should be part of your assessment criteria, too. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires freight broker bonds (BMC-84) for US transportation brokers. The bond will guarantee payment to carriers and shippers if a broker defaults on contracts and agreements.
To see if your freight forwarded is bonded, check FMCSA’s public Licensing and Insurance database here.
The International Trade Administration’s “Basic Guide to Exporting” at states,
“…be sure to familiarize yourself with INCOTERMS, a set of internationally accepted terms spelling out which parties are responsible for various costs and details throughout the shipping process such as freight, insurance, duties, customs clearance and documentation. Your local U.S. Commercial Service office is also available to assist.”

You’ll find a directory to all freight-forwarding services for air freight, shipping, rail freight, trucking, specialized transportation, logistics management, customs brokers, international trade, export documentation and licensing, and letters of credit at

Narrow Down Your Freight Forwarder Search

Once you have several candidates, the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America (representing 1,000 members) will provide information about its 1,000 members if you contact the NCBFAA at:

1200 18th Street, NW,
Suite 901
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: (202) 466-0222
The effort you put into selecting the best freight forwarder can pay big dividends. If you still have questions, the US government has an excellent search engine at

DOT and IATA DGR Training for Shippers - In the Classroom or Via Live Webinar

Meet DOT and IATA training mandates in cities nationwide in 2018. Be confident your shipments are in full compliance with the latest 49 CFR and DGR requirements for ground or air transport. Or join a Lion instructor live for the IATA Air Shipper Certification Webinar. 
Learn the keys to compliance with IATA’s DGR for hazmat/dangerous goods air shipments. This expert-led training is designed to help satisfy the training requirement for DG air shippers at IATA DGR 1.5 and builds on your DOT (49 CFR) hazmat knowledge.  
Need DOT (49 CFR) hazmat training for highway shipments? Check out the Hazmat Ground Shipper workshop or online course here

Tags: 49CFR, dangerous goods, DOT, hazmat shipping, shipping chemicals

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