Described as the ‘true architects’ of transport, traditional freight forwarders have rapidly evolved in recent years. Global pressures, common operational issues, and potential opportunities force freight forwarders to adopt new methods to stay relevant and compete in the market.
Every year, we witness new trends that make this industry more exciting and efficient run. From automated vehicles to environmental efforts, we will take a look at some of the freight forwarding trends to look out for in the upcoming future.
Digitalization Trends in Freight Forwarding
As we’ve mentioned previously, going digital is the most efficient way to keep up with growing trends, take advantage of new opportunities, and meet customer needs and expectations. There are several ways in which freight forwarders can integrate digitalization into their organization.
As digitalization continues to grow, so does the number of online threats such as theft and fraud. It is crucial for freight forwarders to protect any personal data belonging to clients and ensure the safety and security of goods during shipments.
Freight forwarders can use an anti-theft GPS that will allow for real-time locations for entire shipments. Not only is this method cost-effective for companies’ to protect data but it adds security protocols that will deter losses and potential threats.
Internet of Things (IoT)
Simply put, this allows users on a private internet connection, such as in the workplace, to connect with one another. This is a simple solution to get parcels and containers to send important information autonomously to the cloud, allowing freight forwarders to track shipments through the supply chain 24/7.
Radio–frequency identification (RFID) is a form of wireless communication that uses radio waves to identify people or objects. This technology can be used by the freight industry to effectively track shipments through the supply chain 24/7.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
As people we are prone to making errors, it’s simply human nature. AI solves this problem through more accurate predictions for customer trends, detecting potential opportunities, and predictive insights. AI is a useful tool for freight forwarders, creating efficient delivery routes that help save money on transportation costs.
Many freight forwarders have introduced software interfaces such as ChatBots to interact with clients, take orders, answer questions, or solve problems. Implementing methods like this increase productivity by aiding employees, through improving operations and reducing job tasks, while providing the utmost service to customers.
While the idea of large trucks driving themselves on highways or busy areas may raise concerns, progress is being made towards realizing the benefits of autonomous vehicles. Developers are taking baby steps to ensure the correct safety technology is in place. Using autonomous vehicles would improve operational efficiencies, reduce freight costs, improve truck utilization, improve fuel efficiency, and reduce delivery times.
While 5G is still in the early stages of deployment, transportation is one of the first industries to test it for autonomous vehicles. While it may take several years to widely and successfully implement across transport we will eventually see this trend appear more frequently in the future.
Blockchains are already making their mark on the digital world, and have already revolutionized the logistics industry. They track and trace products throughout their entire shipment which is readily available and accessible for both customers and shippers. This is a cost-effective way to improve existing processes.
Maersk’s TradeLens technology is an example of a blockchain solution used by more than 90 companies involved in global shipping activities to streamline and secure the exchange of information. Additionally, the TEU token system by 300Cubits fixes the common issue of cargo no-shows at ports by having the shipper and the carrier deposit tokens during the booking transaction. If the delivery arrives at the port as agreed then both parties will receive their deposit back.
Sustainability in Freight Forwarding
Demand for organizations to show sustainable efforts is pivotal nowadays, and it is crucial for companies to spend time and money planning on how to implement such procedures into their business model. Freight forwarders are no exception to this rule, with many introducing the following sustainable features to meet consumer expectations.
Electric transport helps industries lower their carbon footprint and the logistics industry is at the forefront of this. Electric vehicles emit less greenhouse gases and air pollutants making them an increasingly popular alternative.
Last year, Mercedes-Benz unveiled the first fully electric truck and has already begun to test their innovative model with customers. The growing popularity of electric vehicles means we can predict freight forwarders will follow this trend.
Hydrogen fuel cell technology is an environmentally friendly substitute to regular fossil fuels. Not only is switching to hydrogen fuel more sustainable but it also has more energy than batteries, meaning that fuel cell-powered vehicles can travel further than regular vehicles.
The International Maritime Organization 2020 (IMO) has recently ruled new emission regulations stating that marine sector emissions in international waters be reduced significantly. The marine sector has to decrease sulfur emissions by over 80% by switching to low sulfur fuels. With new laws such as this passing, it is highly likely that we will see new regulations that result in a widespread adoption of hydrogen fuel in the future.
Simply utilizing more space during shipments can be very beneficial and is something freight forwarders should take full advantage of. Increasing the amount of freight per load means fewer loads overall. This decreases carbon dioxide emissions and fossil fuel consumption. Not only is this more environmentally friendly but companies can save money by using fewer carriers.
Freight forwarders may use Uber-like transportation sharing platforms to utilize more space during deliveries. This creates more business opportunities and capitalizes on an important issue.
Effects of International Trade on Freight Forwarders
Shifts in international trade are already apparent with more shipments in place towards emerging economies than ever before. However, the rules and regulations regarding trade differ from country to country which can cause complexities and potential conflicts. This is something that must be considered by freight forwarders as they can cause issues for the company.
The China-US Trade War is an ongoing conflict that has caused a lot of turmoil and issues for companies. Shipping regulations and prices can fluctuate with very little notice straining relations between the two largest economies. This not only causes problems for manufacturers and consumers in China and the US but has created a ripple effect across other countries.
Meanwhile, Brexit has created a lot of uncertainty for the UK. This separation could result in more expensive tariffs, long delays, capacity shortages, or increased shipping rates between companies in the UK and the EU.
These are just some of the real-life examples that freight forwarders must consider. Companies must continuously create solutions to navigate new issues brought upon by shipping internationally. We will continue to see more freight forwarders implement new strategies to deal with the challenges that come with international trade, such as free trade agreements, loosening or tightening of barriers, globalization, and development of infrastructure and transportation.
It is absolutely essential for freight forwarders to recognize the latest trends to meet market demands. Competition is rising and consumer needs are changing, increasing pressures on companies. With these emerging trends, we expect to see an upsurge in strategies implemented by freight forwarding companies to better handle their operations, processes, and shipments.